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FOODS THAT FUEL: DIETITIAN SALLY POON SHARES HER DANCE NUTRITION TIPS

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Driven by the athleticism, artistry and aesthetics of dance, many dancers find themselves in a whirlwind of personal health and fitness goals. It can be mind-boggling for young dancers to figure out how to fuel their bodies. Though we each have a unique physical composition, there are a few dietary tips that every dancer should take note off. Here to share her advice on nutrition for dancers is one of Hong Kong’s leading dietitians, Sally Poon.

How can dancers keep their energy up throughout the day?

S.P.: For competition or stage performance preparation, it is important to ensure that adequate dietary intake is being achieved. Eat frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Do not skip meals. Always consume a snack to replenish your energy within 30 minutes after training.

In between training sessions and performances, dancers should give special attention to fluid and carbohydrate intake in order to maintain optimal cognition and motor skill performance. Dehydration can cause tiredness and hinder performance by reducing strength and aerobic capacity. Impaired skill level can also occur, along with mental fatigue that can impact concentration and decision making. The amount an individual sweats varies from person to person, therefore fluid needs are highly individualised. Generally, the more a person sweats, the more they will need to drink. When the body is well hydrated, the colour of urine should be pale yellow throughout the day. Water is suitable for low intensity and short duration exercise. Sports drinks can be useful in high intensity or endurance training, as they contain both carbohydrates for fuel and sodium to help the body retain fluid more effectively and stimulate thirst.

What types of dietary risks are dancers prone to?

S.P.: The risk of poor micronutrient status due to restricted energy intake may be higher for dancers. Micronutrients that warrant attention include iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Our body needs iron to make haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Low levels of iron in the body can cause iron deficiency anaemia. Symptoms include weakness, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, as well as impaired immune function and recovery. 

It is important that dancers seek dietary advice from qualified dietitians, due to the great amount of pressure to maintain a low body weight and low body fat levels, especially among ballet dancers. And this can lead to unbalanced eating habits and health issues if it is not properly supervised. Evidence suggests that disordered eating, menstrual disturbances, and low bone mineral density are the key health issues for dancers at all skill levels. Low bone mineral density is associated with clinical outcomes of osteopenia and osteoporosis. A study found that dancers had three times the risk of suffering from eating disorders.


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What are some ways that dancers can develop or maintain strong and healthy bones?

S.P.: Adequate calcium and vitamin D are crucial to maintain proper bone health. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the main food sources of calcium. Dark green vegetables, tofu, canned sardines, and calcium-fortified beverages are good sources of calcium too. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is important to keep our immunity strong. The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun. Only a few foods naturally have vitamin D, which include fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), egg yolks, mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light, as well as fortified foods and beverages (such as breakfast cereals, yogurt, milk, soy milk, and orange juice). Dietary supplements may be necessary to help achieve specific nutritional goals when dietary intake is inadequate.


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5 Fuelling Foods Packed with Nutrition

  1. Nuts are a good source of protein, healthy monounsaturated fats and dietary fibre. They also contain vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Protein can enhance muscle repair and building; vitamin E is important for the immune system; and salted nuts with fluids can enhance rehydration.
  2. Fruits are rich in carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. Carbohydrates are an important energy source during exercise. Inadequate carbohydrate intake combined with regular training can lead to tiredness, loss of muscle mass and poor recovery. Carbohydrates are also needed to provide fuel to the brain, therefore low carbohydrate diets can result in poor concentration, mood swings and depression. Vitamin C is crucial to keep the immune system strong.
  3. Milk contains protein, calcium, and phosphorus that can promote muscle function and bone health. It also includes a source of fluid and sodium to enhance rehydration.
  4. Eggs are rich in protein for growth, repair and maintenance of muscles. Eggs also contain high concentrations of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin; as well as choline which is involved in the regulation of memory, mood, and muscle control.
  5. Quinoa is classified as a whole grain and is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and iron. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own.


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A List of Energy Boosting Snack Suggestions for Dancers

  • Cereal bars
  • Nut bars
  • Energy balls
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Trail mix with dried fruits
  • Yogurt with almonds and fruits
  • Egg/ tuna/ cheese sandwich
  • Peanut butter banana sandwich
  • Apple walnut muffins
  • Banana nut bread
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers with a banana
  • Vegetables sticks and pita bread with hummus


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


What are some key foods and food groups that dancers should incorporate into their daily diet?

S.P.: Grains should be taken as the major dietary source, such as rice, noodles, pasta, bread, cereals, oatmeal, granola bars, and crackers. Eat more fruits and vegetables – make your meals as colourful as possible! Have a moderate amount of lean meat, skinless poultry, fish and seafood, beans, tofu, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Include some healthy fats with meals and snacks, such as nuts and seeds, avocado, nut butter, olive oil, salmon and tuna.

Ready to fuel up and take the stage, let’s open our pantry and keep our dance bags packed with delicious and energizing snacks! A special thank you to leading dietitian Sally Poon for sharing her expertise on nutrition for dancers!

Sally, Shi-Po Poon 潘仕寶

Registered Dietitian (UK)

Accredited Practising Dietitian (Australia)

BSc Nutrition (King’s College, London)

Master of Nutrition & Dietetics (The University of Sydney, Australia)

Sports Nutrition (HKUSPACE)

For more nutrition tips follow Sally on:

Personal Dietitian

Facebook: @sallypoondietitian

Instagram: @sallypoondietitian

This article was posted on the Hong Kong Dance Magazine website on 25 May 2020:
https://hkdancemagazine.com/stories/2020/5/23/foods-that-fuel-dietitian-sally-poon-shares-her-dance-nutrition-tips?fbclid=IwAR2M8d2w876y_TB5WUhRpgHM7k4C1L4-gsB5XSW_ylobJsI5ddkkeD5vtp4

5 ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS TO KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM STRONG

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Article by Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Lately, I have received many inquiries about food and nutrition related to the COVID-19/ Coronavirus pandemic. Put simply, there is no specific food or supplement will prevent you from catching COVID-19. Good personal hygiene practice, such as washing hands frequently and wearing surgical masks, remains one of the means of avoiding infection. In addition, the local government has urged the public to go out less and reduce social gatherings at this stage.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. This can be achieved through regular exercise, adequate rest and a balanced diet. There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system such as these:

1.Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for normal vision and immune function. It also helps the lungs and other organs function properly. Food sources of vitamin A include liver, spinach, sweet potato, squash, carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, and mangos. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so it is better absorbed when you eat it with healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a key role in immune function. Consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can help you achieve recommended amounts of vitamin C. Food sources of vitamin C include guava, kiwifruits, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes.

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and our body needs vitamin E to maintain its immune system healthy. Vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, and corn oils), nuts (like almonds and peanuts), seeds (such as sunflower seeds and sesame seeds), and avocado are excellent sources of vitamin E.

4. Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in immune function. Older people who have low levels of zinc might have a higher risk of getting pneumonia. Zinc is found in many foods and you can get recommended amounts of zinc by eating a variety of foods including oysters, crab, lobster, beef, pork, chicken, baked beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, yogurt, and cheese.

5. Iron

Iron deficiency anaemia can impair immune function and make you less able to fight off germs and infections. You can get recommended amounts of iron by eating a variety of foods including red meat, seafood, poultry, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, lentils and legumes, spinach, nuts, and raisins. Your body absorbs iron from plant-based sources better when you eat it with foods that contain vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwifruit, and tomatoes.


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5 ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS FOR PLANT-BASED DIETS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

 

If you are a vegetarian or want to cut back on meats, make sure you get all the nutrients you need through a balanced diet. If a plant-based diet is well planned and nutritionally adequate, it may provide health benefits and lowering the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. However, if the diet is not planned appropriately, you can fall short on the following nutrients easily:

 

  1. Protein

It is important to get enough dietary protein to keep our muscle, hair, skin and nails healthy. Main plant-based sources of protein include lentils, legumes, seeds, nuts, nut butter, soy milk, firm tofu, and meat substitutes. Eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt are also good sources of protein if you eat these. Grains such as quinoa, millet, oats, wheat, and rice also contain some protein. It is important to eat different kinds of protein food every day to get all the amino acids required.

 

  1. Iron

Iron is essential for making red blood cells and insufficient iron intake can result in iron deficiency anaemia. Signs and symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, headache, dizziness, cold hands and feet, and brittle nails.

Plant sources of iron include white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, dark chocolate, firm tofu, raisins, spinach, and cashew nuts. Your body absorbs plant-based iron better when you eat it with foods that contain vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwi fruits, guavas, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli.

 

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain, eye, and heart health. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as chia seed, flaxseed, soybean, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood.

Your body can only convert very small amounts of ALA into EPA and then to DHA. If you do not eat fish and seafood, you should get EPA and DHA from fortified foods such as eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soymilk. If you think you have trouble getting enough omega-3s from food, consult with a doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist regarding dietary supplements.

 

  1. Calcium

 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure and function. Dairy foods are rich in calcium but if you are not eating these make sure you obtain calcium from other sources like fortified foods (e.g. breakfast cereals, fruit juices, tofu, soymilk, almond milk), dark green vegetables (e.g. Chinese cabbage, broccoli, kale, broccoli), almonds, and sesame seeds.

In addition to following a calcium-rich diet, you also need to get some vitamin D from the sun and fortified foods to enhance calcium absorption. And don’t forget about weight-bearing exercise which is the best type of exercise for your bones. Examples include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.

 

  1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps keep the nerve and blood cells healthy in the body. It also helps make the genetic material in cells called DNA. Inadequacy can lead to megaloblastic anaemia that makes people feel tired and weak, as well as nerve damage.

Vegetarians can get vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy foods. If you are a vegan, you can get vitamin B12 from a variety of fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, soy yogurt, and beverages. If you think you have trouble getting enough vitamin B12 from food, consult with a doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist regarding dietary supplements.

 

Does “vegetarian” necessarily mean healthy?

Food products labelled with “vegetarian” or “vegan” do not necessarily mean healthy. Cookies, chips, sweetened cereals, vegetarian burgers and sausages might be vegetarian foods, but they are likely high in fats, added sugar and sodium. Therefore, eat smart by checking the food labels and look for products that carry less saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium. In addition, fortified foods vary in the formulation, so it is important to check product labels to determine which added nutrients they contain.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/essential-nutrients-plant-based-diet

5 KEY NUTRIENTS FOR HEALTHY PREGNANCY

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

Eating a healthy balanced diet is crucial to support the optimal development of your baby during pregnancy. Your body has a greater demand for nutrients which can be met by making wise food choices. Dietitian Sally Shi-po Poon explains the 5 key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

 

  1. Folic acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Taking folic acid regularly before pregnancy and during pregnancy helps prevent major birth defects of the fetal brain and spine called neural tube defects. The requirement for folic acid increases from 400 micrograms (mcg) daily for non-pregnant women to 600 mcg daily during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends all pregnant women and all women who may become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement that contains folic acid.

Major food sources of folate include spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, avocado, oranges, papaya, peanuts, and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.

 

  1. Iodine

The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones which are required for proper growth and brain development of your baby. The World Health Organisation recommends 250 mcg iodine daily during pregnancy. You should consider taking a prenatal supplement containing iodine, as it is difficult to get enough iodine from food alone when you are pregnant.

Seaweed, seafood, egg yolk, dairy products and iodised salt are main sources of iodine. Kelp, in particular, contains a very high level of iodine and eating too much can affect the thyroid function adversely. You should consume kelp in moderation and no more than once a week.

 

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is important for the visual and cognitive development of your baby. Pregnant women should aim to attain an average daily intake of at least 200 mg DHA, which can be achieved by eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish or shellfish per week.

From the food safety point of view, avoid all raw and undercooked seafood including sushi made with raw fish.

People who do not eat seafood can eat foods rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil. Our body can produce DHA out of ALA, but the conversion rate seems to be very low. You can consider taking a DHA supplement if you do not eat seafood.

 

  1. Iron

Iron ensures optimal growth and brain development and prevents anaemia. Your body needs more iron during pregnancy and the daily recommended intake of iron is 27 mg.

Iron is found in most prenatal supplements. You should also eat a variety of iron-rich foods including red meat, poultry, fish, egg yolk, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, raisins, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Iron can be absorbed better if foods are eaten with vitamin C-rich foods, such as guava, oranges, kiwi fruits, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.

 

  1. Calcium

Calcium is required to build your baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women require 1,000 mg of calcium a day. Inadequate calcium intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm labour and gestational hypertension.

Milk, cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium. Pregnant women are advised to consume two glasses of milk or calcium-fortified soy milk daily and choose calcium-rich foods such as Chinese cabbage (bok choi), kale, broccoli, sardines, and tofu made with calcium sulfate.

Vitamin D improves calcium absorption and is essential for bone health and development. Pregnant women need 600 International Units (IU) or 15 mcg of vitamin D a day. Expose to sunlight regularly and consume vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon and fortified food products can help you get enough vitamin D.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-key-nutrients-healthy-pregnancy

5 FAD DIETS: A DIETITIAN LAYS DOWN THE FACTS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

It’s summertime again! Many people would like to shed a few pounds and get tempted by a range of ‘quick fix’ diets offering the promise of rapid weight loss. Sadly, there is no magic solution for sustainable weight loss. Our dietitian Sally Shi-Po Poon reviews the top 5 fad diets as follows:

 

  1. Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan that has been used to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. The diet excludes carbohydrate foods such as grains, dairy, legumes, most fruits and starchy vegetables.

Supporters claim ketogenic diet can help burn fat and lose weight efficiently but evidence on its long-term effects is lacking currently. It may be challenging to follow this diet as it can cause side effects such as brain fog, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and constipation.

 

  1. Gluten-free diet

A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and cross-contaminated oats. You may lose weight when cutting out energy-dense gluten-containing products such as cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, and beer.

However, gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-calorie because some gluten-free products actually contain more sugar and fat than their gluten counterparts.

 

  1. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting involves short periods of fasting with either no food or very small amounts of food, and periods of unrestricted eating. A very popular intermittent fasting regime is called the “5:2 diet” – two days a week you eat less than 500 to 600 kcal, the remaining five days you eat as usual. People can achieve some weight loss if they don’t overeat on “feed” days.

However, fasting can make you feel dizzy, irritable, and tired, make it difficult to concentrate at work, and lack of energy to carry out physical activity. It is definitely not suitable for people with diabetes due to the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level).

 

  1. Raw Vegan diet

Raw vegan diet has been claimed for weight loss as well as disease prevention. From the nutrition point of view, it can be healthy if you have a nutritionally balanced vegan diet with the necessary supplements like vitamin B12, however, it is not a guarantee of weight loss as vegan foods often contain similar amounts of calories as non-vegan foods.

While some foods are good to have raw, others are more nutritious cooked – like tomatoes and asparagus – as the availability of lycopene and lutein are found to be higher. Some foods cannot be eaten raw at all such as potatoes, legumes and lentils. In addition, raw foods are not suitable for children, pregnant women, elderly people and cancer patients with weakened immunity.

 

  1. Juice Cleanse

Juice cleanse involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice for a short period of time, typically one to five days. Supporters claim it can detox our body, boost immunity, and shed some pounds quickly. However, evidence to support its recommendation is lacking. Basically, our liver and kidneys can remove waste from our body every day.

It is not recommended to do juice cleanse too often or for a long period of time because some key nutrients are lacking, for examples: protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and calcium. Potential side effects include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Inadequate protein intake can make you lose muscle mass and affect the metabolic rate. Once you resume normal eating, your weight can rebound easily.

 

 

When a diet plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always seek a qualified nutritionist or dietitian for proper advice – make small changes in eating habits and lifestyle that you will be able to sustain in the long term is key to success!

 

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/ask-the-expert-diet-trends-in-2018

 

5 FOODS TO EAT FOR HEALTHY HAIR AND NAILS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

Shiny hair and strong nails are hallmarks of beauty. The solution could be in your kitchen! Here are 5 beauty foods that dietitian Sally Poon recommends to eat for healthy hair and nails.

 

  1. Eggs

Eggs deliver all the amino acids our body needs to build protein. Protein is found throughout the body; and both hair and nails are made from a protein called keratin. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein daily plays a crucial role in healthy hair and nails. An extra-large egg contains 7 grams of protein, which can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from meat, fish and poultry. In general, adults are advised to consume 5 to 8 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, egg and alternatives daily.

Eggs also contain biotin – a key nutrient for maintaining healthy hair and nails. Eggs should be eaten cooked as avidin found in raw egg whites can interfere with biotin absorption. Cooking denatures avidin, making biotin absorbs efficiently in the gut. Other foods that contain the most biotin include beef liver, salmon, tuna, pork, sunflower seeds, almonds, and sweet potatoes.

 

  1. Pine nuts

Pine nuts are a good source of copper – one of the key nutrients involved in collagen formation. Collagen is found in our skin, hair and nails. Copper also works with iron to help the body produce red blood cells. Other dietary sources of copper include oysters, organ meats, whole grains, beans, and yeast.

 

  1. Oysters

Oysters are an excellent source of protein and zinc.  Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, cell growth, and wound healing. Zinc deficiencies have been linked with hair loss and Beau’s lines (indentations that run across the nails). Other dietary sources of zinc include beef, lamb, pork, poultry, crab, lobster, beans, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

 

  1. Seaweed

Seaweed is the best food source of iodine. Iodine helps maintain normal thyroid function and its deficiency can lead to thyroid disorders as a cause of hair loss. Other food sources of iodine include fish, seafood, dairy products, eggs and iodized salt.

 

  1. Beef

Beef is an excellent source of iron – one of the key nutrients involved in blood formation in our body. Iron deficiency anaemia has been linked with hair loss and appearance of spoon nails (soft nails that look scooped out). Other food sources of iron include lean meat, poultry, liver, oysters, salmon, tuna, dried beans, dried fruits, egg yolks, fortified cereals, wholegrains, and spinach.

Our body absorbs plant-based iron better when you eat it with meat, fish, or poultry. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as guavas, kiwifruits, oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes, also increase iron absorption.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-foods-to-eat-for-healthy-hair-and-nails

 

THINKING OF STARTING A FAMILY? READ THESE HEALTH TIPS FIRST

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of regular unprotected sex. It is said to affect 1 in every 6 couples. While couples cannot control all of the factors causing infertility, they can control their eating habits and lifestyle as these can have significant impacts on the ability to get pregnant. The following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

 

1. Maintain a healthy weight

In women, being underweight, being overweight or exercising too much may lead to infertility, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In men, obesity is also associated with infertility due to lowered sperm count and motility, according to the National Infertility Association. Therefore, couples should maintain an optimal body weight as well as waist circumference to increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Healthy Weight Ranges

Boyd Mass Index (BMI): 18.5-24.9 (Caucasian); 18.5-22.9 (Asian)
Waist Circumference: <94cm for men and <80cm for women (Caucasian); <90cm for men and <80cm for women (Asian)

Sadly, there is no magic solution to sustainable weight loss. To lose weight successfully, you need to make healthier food choices, eat a balanced diet with portion control, and be physically active. Furthermore, adherence to healthy diets favouring whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and seafood are associated with better fertility in women and better semen quality in men, according to a review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2017.

Avoid going on a fad diet where you eat a very restrictive diet for a short period of time and often lose weight quickly. Most people on this style of diet get fed-up very soon, start over-eating, make poor food choices and regain the weight they lost. Fad diets can also deplete your body of the nutrients it needs for healthy pregnancy. Consult a dietitian who can help you lose weight in a way that suits your lifestyle.

 

2. Get plenty of iron from plants

A diet rich in plant-based iron may reduce the risk of infertility, according to results from The Nurses’ Health Study II. Plant foods that are rich in iron include lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, tofu, black sesame, cashew nuts, spinach, fortified cereals, and whole grains. To absorb the most iron from the foods, avoid drinking coffee, tea or milk with meals and add vitamin C from guava, orange, kiwi, lemon, or bell peppers to your meals to enhance iron absorption.

 

3. Go low GI

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. PCOS affects between 6% and 12% of women overall, which appears to be more common among overweight women. Women with PCOS often don’t have menstrual periods, or they only have periods on occasion. Because the eggs are not released, most women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. Research shows that weight loss of 5% is associated with improvement in amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) for overweight women with PCOS.

Healthy eating tips for women with PCOS:

  • choose high-fibre, low-glycaemia index (GI) carbohydrates – at least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains such as whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, and brown rice;
  • limit added sugars and refined grains such as sugary beverages, cakes, white bread and white rice;
  • choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, and sardines; and
  • limit saturated and trans fats such as butter, lard, stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oil.

 

4. Stop drinking and smoking

Alcohol and smoking can damage the eggs and sperm, and reduce the fertility of both males and females. Therefore, if you and your partner are serious about trying to start a family, you should consider avoiding alcoholic drinks and quitting smoking to increase the chance of pregnancy.

 

5. Increase your folic acid intake

Folic acid won’t boost your fertility, but taking folic acid regularly before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects (malformations of the spine, skull, and brain) in babies. Therefore, all women who could become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from supplements. In addition, choose foods that are rich in folic acid, including asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard greens, oranges, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, liver, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

 

For more information about eating for fertility, consult a dietitian for personalized advice and diet plan.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/thinking-of-starting-a-family-health-tips

THINKING OF GOING GLUTEN-FREE? READ THIS FIRST

Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Gluten-free diet has gained considerable popularity in the general population over the past decade. Many celebrities and athletes have acclaimed it as an effective way to better health, weight control and athletic performance. There is, however, a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, there are studies suggesting that gluten avoidance in diet may not be as “healthy” as it claims.

What is gluten-free diet?

Gluten-free diet is a diet that doesn’t contain any gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and oats (unless they are labelled gluten-free). These ingredients are commonly found in bread products, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, beer and ale. There are a number of gluten-free grains and plant foods that are suitable for those on gluten-free diet. They include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, corn, flax, legumes, millet, nuts, oats labelled gluten-free, potato, quinoa, rice, sago, seeds, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and teff.

Who should follow gluten-free diet?

People who have coeliac disease should follow gluten-free diet strictly. Coeliac disease is a serious, genetic, autoimmune illness where the consumption of gluten induces damage to the small intestine and causes nutrient malabsorption. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, gas, constipation, fatigue, mouth ulcers, unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of gluten for life. If you think you have coeliac disease, do not remove gluten from your diet until your doctor makes a diagnosis. If you remove gluten from your diet too early, it will cause an inaccurate result for both blood test and gut biopsy.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity

Some people have gut symptoms when eating gluten, even if they don’t have coeliac disease. This is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to coeliac disease, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea. Most people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity agree that there is an improvement of symptoms after following gluten-free diet. The exact trigger for the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity remains controversial thus far. There are reports suggesting that fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) in wheat, rather than gluten, induce the gut symptoms. The exact cause is, however, yet to be identified.

Is gluten-free diet healthy for the general population?

Not really! Although some celebrities adopt gluten-free diet for weight loss, there is no data to support similar effectiveness among people without coeliac disease. It is important to note that gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-energy. In 2017, experts from the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition warned that gluten-free products should not be considered a healthy substitute to regular foods because they usually contain higher levels of saturated fat and lower levels of protein.

In 2017, a study published in British Medical Journal found that gluten-free diet may increase cardiovascular risk as a result of reduced consumption of hearty wholegrains. Gluten-free cakes, cookies, muffins, crackers, bread and pizza are usually made with refined carbohydrates, which are high in glycaemic index, and low in B vitamins, iron, and dietary fibre.

In addition, people on gluten-free diet were found to have significantly higher levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium than those not avoiding gluten. More research is needed to determine whether this diet poses a significant health risk in the long run. In case if gluten-free diet is needed, the best way to avoid excessive exposure to these metals is to diversify the food menu.

Does gluten-free diet improve athletic performance?

Implementation of gluten-free diet among non-coeliac athletes has become increasingly popular because of perceived ergogenic and health benefits. In 2015, a carefully designed study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that a short-term gluten-free diet had no overall effect on exercise performance, gut symptoms, perceived well-being, intestinal injury, and inflammatory responses in non-coeliac athletes. Whether avoiding gluten for a longer period of time would lead to improvements in sports performance or well-being is yet to be identified. Nevertheless, current study suggests that gluten-free diet is not a panacea. Athletes should always remember that proper nutrient intake and timing are critical components of athletic success.

Before adopting gluten-free diet…

The significance of gluten-free diet in the general population remains controversial and more research is warranted. Before adopting gluten-free diet, you should consult a dietitian to ensure that you will get all the essential nutrients from a variety of foods, including gluten-free grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and dairy.

If you are suffering from any gut symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhoea, you should consult a doctor for medical advice. Self-treatment or delay in treatment is undesirable.

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/everything-you-need-to-know-about-going-gluten-free

WHY A COLOURFUL DIET IS GOOD FOR YOU

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

We’re always hearing that we should “eat the rainbow”, but what does that mean and why is a colourful diet so highly recommended by dietitians all over the world? Not only are they appealing, the phytochemicals that give foods their colour are packed with nutritional benefits. I have grouped the foods into 5 categories according to their predominant phytochemical group: red, orange, green, purple, and white.

 

1. Red

Lycopene is the predominant pigment in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruits. It is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent prostate cancer and heart diseases. Lycopene is better absorbed when it is cooked with some oil, such as tomato sauce with olive oil.

 

Astaxanthin, which is found in the red pigment of crab, salmon and prawns, has been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Its antioxidant activity was found to be 10 times more than zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene.

 

2. Orange

Beta-carotene is a pigment found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrot, cantaloupe melon, mangoes, orange peppers, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. In the body, beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which is needed for good vision, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. Food processing and cooking help release beta-carotene from the food matrix and make it easier to absorb. Moreover, its absorption requires the presence of fat in a meal, such as canola oil, almonds, flaxseed or pumpkin seeds.

 

3. Green

Green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale are good sources of sulforaphane and glucosinolate, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These vegetables also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect eyes from sunlight damage and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are better absorbed with fats, so be sure to eat the vegetables with some avocado, cheese, walnuts, sunflower seeds or olive oil. Green vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin K and folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy, and vitamin K plays a major role in blood clotting.

 

4. Purple

Anthocyanins are pigments that appear purple or blue, which are found in eggplant (especially the skin), blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, black rice, purple sweet potato, and purple cauliflower. The darker the colour, the higher the anthocyanins concentration. Boiling vegetables can increase the loss of water-soluble nutrients such as anthocyanins and vitamin C, therefore baking and steaming are preferred as they can retain more of the nutrients, as well as the flavour and colour.

 

5. White

Anthoxanthins are the white or colourless pigments found in bananas, cauliflower, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, and turnips, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and heart-protective properties. Allicin is produced when fresh garlic is finely chopped or crushed. Garlic provides an alternative to salt in cooking, along with other herbs and spices. Eating less salt is important for preventing high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

 

Including a variety of colourful foods in your diet seems to equal better overall health.  Start planning some colourful recipes tonight and have a healthy start in 2018!

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler:  https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/why-a-colourful-diet-is-good-for-you#page-1

5 DIETITIAN-APPROVED FESTIVAL FOODS FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Eating healthily during the holiday season must be one of the most difficult challenges for many people as we’re often surrounded by lots of delicious food and drink. Although there is no reason to feel guilty about enjoying yourself on those special days of the year, it’s worth remembering that people gain about 0.4 to 0.9 kg during the festive period due to over-eating. But don’t despair — this year can be different! Here are my recommended festival foods and healthy eating tips to help you get in shape this season:

1. Turkey
Turkey is the culinary star of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a good source of lean protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Enjoy turkey baked or roasted – place turkey on a rack while cooking so fat will drain off and use a paper towel to soak up fat. Best to remove the skin before you cook as most of the fat is found in the skin and the vegetables tend to absorb the fat easily. When making gravy, try to use vegetable broth or remove the fat if using meat juices.

2. Cranberries
Cranberries are an excellent source of proanthocyanidins which helps maintain a healthy urinary tract. Cranberries are harvested and sold fresh in the fall, but they’re processed and sold year-round frozen, dried, canned, or as juice. Try turkey with cranberry stuffing or cranberry sauce. Alternatively, add cranberries to Christmas pudding or mince pies; or use unsweetened cranberry juice for making mulled wine or mocktails.

3. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and fibre. They are classified as cruciferous vegetables, which may help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, sautéed or steamed. Boiling Brussels sprouts will lead to significant loss of vitamin C so is less preferred. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or grease from meats, try using oil spray or brush to control the amount of oil added, and roast on a non-stick tray or foil.

4. Pumpkin
Pumpkin is the most popular food for Halloween and pumpkin pie is an American tradition for Thanksgiving. This colorful starchy vegetable is rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. To make a healthy version of pumpkin pie, choose low-fat milk or soymilk, and real pumpkin or unflavored canned pumpkin. Avoid serving with whipped cream or ice cream on top. The seeds of pumpkin are a good source of protein, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Enjoy a small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack over chocolates and crisps.

5. Pies (no, really)
Christmas pudding and mince pies are packed with fruits so they are rich in fibre and antioxidants. Serve Christmas pudding with low-fat custard or crème fraiche, and try lighter version of mince pies made with filo pastry. Don’t forget to control the portion too – always share the dessert with your friend to cut the calories.

 

Bonus tips to control your weight during the holiday season:

Get moving
Being active can help you burn off the extra treats you couldn’t resist. Why not dance the night away at the parties and go for a brisk walk after a meal.

Drink in moderation
Don’t forget drinks have calories too! Try alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages such as sparkling water, diet sodas or diluted unsweetened juice. Offer to drive so you can stay away from alcohol and always put a jar of water on the table at mealtimes.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to enjoy the holiday and have a wonderful time with your loved ones. Remember weight maintenance is a success, and following my tips above will help you have a good time without overindulging.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-dietitian-approved-festival-foods-for-the-holiday-season#page-5