Tag: vitamins

Information

Diet & Arthritis


Question from Jenny Watts:

I have problems with arthritis and suffer in cold damp weather, what could I eat to help ?

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints so make sure you are getting enough fish oils (omega 3s) which are anti-inflammatory. You should be having about two portions of oily fish per week such as sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna, salmon, herrings.

Additionally cutting down on saturated fats (mainly found in animal products such as meat & full-fat dairy) may help the pain as these fats can add to the inflammation. Cutting down on saturated fat is also good for another reason: sufferers of arthritis are at increased risk of other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, and cutting down on saturated fats can lower your cholesterol, reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

Eating a ‘Mediterranean Style’ diet has been shown to benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly lessening stiffness in the joints in the morning. This style diet means eating about 6 portions of fruit & veg every day; include nuts and seeds; choose fish rather than meat; eat plenty of wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread & pasta and brown rice; and use oils such as olive oil rather than butter.

Getting enough calcium is also important so make sure you have plenty of low-fat dairy dairy in your diet and taking a vitamin D supplement will help your body absorb the calcium. There is also some evidence that vitamin D works as an anti-inflammatory – so a double-whammy!

Also, making sure you are the right weight for your height will mean that your joints won’t be under any unnecessary pressure – particularly important if you get pain in your hips, knees and ankles.

You could also try moving somewhere hot & dry!

I hope this helps,

Information

Vegetarian sources of iron for your baby


Unlike the thing that stands in the laundry room next to a huge stack of washing, the iron in your blood is your friend! Iron carries oxygen around the body to the brain and other organs. Mums supply their babies with a good store of iron when pregnant, but this will start to run low at around six months old. It is important to give your baby iron-containing foods from this age so their body and brain can get on with growing into a walking, talking, little person. Your baby will need about 8mg of iron each day from when they are seven months up to a year old.

Types of Iron
There are two types of iron that come from food. Both do the same job but the way they find their way into the blood is slightly different:
The first is called haem iron and this comes from animal sources like meat and fish and eggs. This type of iron gets separated from food and is absorbed directly so can be put straight to work;
Non-haem iron comes from non-animal sources such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and pulses. This type of iron needs some odds and ends doing to it before it can be put to good use, which means it a little less efficient than it’s cousin.

Food sources
The best vegetable sources of iron are beans and pulses like lentils (6mg per 50g) and the best fruits, are dried ones such as dried apricots (3mg per 50g). Dark-green leafy vegetables are all generally pretty good too like spinach as well as kale and broccoli. Cooked spinach has just under 1mg for every 50g.

Maximize the Benefits
Another thing to know about veggies is that they tend to have a lot less iron than animal sources but never fear, there are one or two tricks to keep up your sleeve to get maximum benefit.

Some foods interfere with the absorption of iron. Phytates are found in whole grains and their products such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, nuts and seeds. Now there’s nothing wrong with these healthy and tasty tidbits and they are a great addition to your little one’s dinner plate, but to make sure she’s getting enough iron, give them at different times to iron-foods most of the time.

Calcium containing foods such as milk and cheese are also a bit pesky when it comes to iron absorption. So again, if you are worried your child might not be getting enough iron, give these foods at different mealtimes. Tea is another one so it is best to avoid giving this as a drink.
You can help baby absorb non-haem iron by giving them foods that contain vitamin C alongside. Bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruit (or orange juice diluted 1:10 with water) are all perfect for this job.

References
The Composition of Foods; McCance & Widdowson
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism 5th Ed; Wadsworth
British Nutrition Foundation: feeding your baby

Questions & answers

Eggs are good for you!


Thanks for the tweet @HangingModifier. Please find the answer below!

“@LDNnutritionist Glad to see you recommend eggs. There was a story about eggs being as bad as smoking. Junk science and/or junk journalism?”

Eggs have been in and out of favour and plagued by controversy over the last few decades. A recent article in the Daily Mail insinuated that eggs may be two thirds as bad as smoking if you are at risk of heart disease. This came from a single study that was not conclusive and not appropriate for extrapolation to the entire population in any way.

Much of the controversy about eggs is down to the level of cholesterol in their yolks. A high blood-cholesterol level is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (among many others such as age, sex, smoking, lack of exercise etc.) but this is not the same as a high cholesterol consumption. Consumption of cholesterol has less effect on blood cholesterol than total fat intake. Additionally, owing to changes in chicken feed in the UK, eggs are lower in cholesterol these days than they used to be.

So eggs are lower in cholesterol, fat, saturated fat and calories than in the 1980s and, because of their amino-acid profile, they are one of the best sources of protein for a human. They are one of the few foods to naturally contain vitamin D and they provide folate, iodine and several antioxidants. They also contain selenium, a nutrient that is limited in plant foods by the levels in the soil they grow in. It is therefore difficult to predict the content of selenium in many foods.

Because high-protein foods promote satiety, people who eat eggs for breakfast have been shown to consume fewer calories throughout the day which is helpful if you are trying to watch your weight (adding butter and cream to scrambled versions notwithstanding).

What’s bad about eggs? Almost nothing really. And, unless you have quite a rare form of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolaemia – check with your doctor), there is no reason to limit your egg intake at all: fill your cups.

So in answer to your question: junk journalism. The Daily Mail (apologies in advance for this) has eggsaggerated the study and over-egged the pudding.

References

NHS Choices Health News; Eating egg yolks as ‘bad as smoking’. available at: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/08august/Pages/Eating-egg-yolks-as-bad-as-smoking.aspx [Accessed 10/9/12]

Carrie Ruxten; Eggs with benefits. Dietetics today, September 2012

Information

Beauty and the Feast?


Can what we eat affect the way we look?

I was recently asked to provide nutrition advice for a beauty bar on Oxford Street and it made me realise that some people really are interested in how food impacts of their body (beyond being able to do up their trousers). So here’s a little bit of insider knowledge.

Most body cells don’t live very long. Not when you consider that the average human in the UK lives for about 80 years. The most longevity you can expect from any of your cells is, of course, a lifetime, and some neurons do live up to this expectation, but most have a transient existence compared to ‘us’.

Some of the most rapid cell turnover comes from the lining of our mouths and stomach; our blood; and from our skin, hair and nails. Our cells are always dying off without us ever really noticing – your body carries on helpfully replacing those that have come to the end of their road. You eat that delicious lunch, your body digests it, disassembles the components, chucks out the waste and recycles the useful bits to power our functions and make new cells. By trying not to align myself with a certain TV – and I use this in the flimsiest sense of the word – “nutritionist”, I have gone a rather roundabout way to say: you actually are what you eat.

Our skin, hair and nails are made of cells consisting of things such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates and water. Different types of cells are made in different ways and require different nutrients for the process to work. Hair and nails are largely made of a protein called keratin, which requires vitamin A for its formation. Skin contains a protein called collagen that provides strength to the structure of cells. The body cannot produce collagen unless there is sufficient vitamin C on hand, and if you have heard of scurvy, then you’ll know what the effects of long-term vitamin C depletion are. Fortunately, scurvy is not common in the UK.

Let’s have a look at a few key players:

Vitamin C:
Many face creams, shampoos, hair treatments and manicures promise you that putting a bit of this and that on your skin will make your skin/hair/nails this that and the other. It is worth noting that the dermis of your skin consists of several layers which the chosen topical ointment will need to battle through before it reaches anything that is in the business of producing new skin cells. So, although vitamin C is in a lot of cosmetics and marketed as “collagen-boosting” it is unlikely to be as effective as getting enough through your diet. It’s also worth noting that, unlike your skin (which is an organ and one of only two that can self-repair – the other is the liver), by the time your hair and nails become visible they are pretty much past it and their constituent cells are certainly beyond improvement. That is why shampoo manufacturers only say that their products will give you “healthy-looking” hair and not “healthy” hair, because dead things can’t ever be considered healthy and advertising regulations (thankfully) prohibit misleading claims.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, meaning that it helps neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are the by-products of various processes in the body and they are known to attack DNA and cell membranes. Some people believe that getting enough antioxidants can offer a bit of protection against the ageing process and preserve youthful, wrinkle-free skin, but others disagree completely so the jury is still out on that one.

Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is important in the growth of epithelial cells (a type of cell found in skin, among many other places) and for the production of keratin. One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is rough, bumpy skin around the hair follicles. A word of caution though: too much vitamin A is toxic and large intakes while pregnant can cause miscarriage.

Vitamin B complex:
Riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) have both been classified by the European Food Safety Authority as being physiologically effective in the maintenance of normal skin as has biotin on the maintenance of hair and nails.

Folate:
Folate (or folic acid as it is know in its synthetic state) is central to the process of cell division. Actively dividing cells need plenty of this stuff to divide properly – your skin cells are dividing all the time.

Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that is sometimes known for its purported aphrodisiac qualities but less often for its role, alongside vitamin C, in collagen production.

So can what we eat really affect the way we look? Well yes it can, but let’s not get carried away. The vitamins and minerals we’ve discussed here are abundant in the diets of the average person in the UK and deficiencies are rarely found here.

Should you take supplements? You probably don’t need to take supplements of these vitamins, with the exception perhaps of folic acid if you are female and of childbearing age as adequate quantities protect against neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Eating a balanced diet is usually better for the average citizen. Take a look at the list of foods below to see the best sources of these micronutrients. You should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, particularly if you are taking any medication or if you are – or are trying to become – pregnant.

Food sources
Vitamin A: Liver, whole milk, cheese, butter, fish, fortified margarine, carrots, watermelon, tomatoes
Vitamin B complex: Whole grains, fortified cereals, meat (B3) liver (biotin), egg yolk (biotin). Biotin is also produced by the body.
Vitamin C: Asparagus, papaya, citrus fruit and their juices, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers
Folate: Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, beans, legumes, oranges, liver
Zinc: Red meat, oysters, dairy products, whole grains, leafy vegetables

References
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism 5th Ed. Wadsworth
National Diet and Nutrition Survey
European Food Safety Authority
UK Office for National Statistics