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Does when you eat really matter?

Health & Science - By Gloria Aradi | January 25th 2021 at 10:00:00 GMT +0300

?In your experience, what is the best weight loss diet?

There is no specific diet that is proven to give faster results than the other. Keep in mind that in weight management, a diet that causes weight loss ‘fast’ usually involves a lot of short cuts and restrictions that put the body at risk of other complications. We, therefore, encourage ‘healthy’ weight loss as opposed to ‘faster’ weight loss. A healthy weight loss plan should result in the loss of 0.5kg to 1kg per week, for more sustainable results and a complication-free process.

That said, there are diets that have been shown to yield good results and have been backed by science. These include low carbohydrate-whole carbohydrate diet, intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diets. Apart from intermittent fasting, the other three are based on the principle of consuming fewer calories from carbohydrates and increasing fibre, such that one is able to eat less food due to the satiety induced by the high fibre content. These diets have also been proven to be richer in immune-enhancing properties, thus helping an individual achieve a healthier lifestyle overall. Intermittent fasting on the other hand involves having alternating eating and fasting periods throughout the day and night.

What factors do you need to consider before starting a diet plan?

Before starting any diet one needs to understand the primary cause of the excess weight. Understanding how the diet works is also important, as well as the sustainability of the diet, such that one does not start a diet and then three weeks down the line they are not able to sustain it. One should also keep in mind any medical condition they may have.

Is it necessary to consult a doctor or nutritionist first?

Yes, it is extremely important to consult your doctor and nutritionist. The doctor will help to ascertain if there is any medical condition you might have, and if you have a pre-existing condition, they will help advise whether it is okay to start that particular diet.

The nutritionist is the one who actually plans the diet for you, explains what it entails, foods you can eat, and does the actual weight-tracking. The nutritionist will also coach you on general lifestyle health issues you might have.

Does one have to complement dieting with physical exercise?

Physical activity/exercise is encouraged as it aids in weight loss due to the burning of extra calories. It is also beneficial to prevent other conditions that are associated with excess weight like heart problems, joint pains, stress and depression.

What common dieting mistakes have you seen many make?

Most common mistakes I’ve seen in practice include skipping meals, substituting actual food for fruits (these still have sugar by the way), not planning for physical exercise, and putting themselves on restrictive diets. There are also those who engage in harmful plans while they happen to have pre-existing medical conditions, and they do this without supervision or monitoring by a qualified individual. To avoid these, consult a dietitian or nutritionist to help guide you and coach you throughout the whole process, with close follow-up, in order to achieve lasting results.

Some people skip meals to survive on less than 50 per cent of their normal energy needs as a way to lose weight fast. With this drastic change, the body is usually unable to cope, thus affecting sustainability.

We hear a lot about detoxing the body. Are there foods/teas that can actually detox the body?

Yes, there are foods that can detox the body, though the body is said to have its own detoxification mechanism. Most of the foods said to help detoxify the body are rich in antioxidants and other ingredients that help to fight toxins. Such foods include ginger, garlic, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, lemons, green tea, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Are weight loss teas effective or are they just expensive laxatives?

There is no scientific evidence to prove that weight loss teas work. However, there are some components of tea that have long term beneficial effects on the body other than weight loss. Some teas contain antioxidants that are good for immunity.

Do collagen supplements actually have a positive effect on the body and skin or are foods a better option?

There have been claims that collagen supplements are beneficial for the skin as well as for bones. Some studies have been done on this as well. However, there is still inadequate evidence to fully substantiate this. However, concentrated sources of nutrients in the form of supplements are not meant for ordinary daily use. The body needs balanced amounts of nutrients, in balanced dosages, which is what one will be able to get if they ensure balanced meals, with variety of foods. Good collagen sources include fish, chicken, egg whites, citrus fruits, berries, red and yellow vegetables.

There have been studies that show that milk/dairy is not necessary for adults and is in fact harmful. What is your opinion on this?

Milk is not harmful to people whose bodies can tolerate it well. It is a food like any other, rich in protein, energy and micronutrients. It may not be necessary, since some people either cannot tolerate it, or have opted simply not to take it, like in the case of vegans; it is however not harmful.

Is a vegan diet the way to go if one wants to improve their overall health?

Not necessarily. That said, research has shown that plant-based diets have more health benefits because of the high antioxidant content and the lack of animal products - most of which have been implicated in an increased risk of chronic illness like hypertension, diabetes and heart problems. Studies conducted in populations that practised the vegan lifestyle have shown such to have longer lives and less illness.

Nevertheless, there are eating plans that are not necessarily vegan but are healthy and well balanced. A balance of all food groups, and animal products in moderation with minimal fat and sugar are recommended as healthy eating.

Does the time of day that one eats influence anything?

It does. The food you eat is eventually converted to energy. With this in mind, it is advisable to eat heaviest when one is going to be the most active. This is usually why breakfast is termed as very important since most people are most active during the first part of the morning and activity level reduces as the day progresses. So one should eat when they know they are going to spend the energy they get from that particular meal.

Long-term usage of medicine, especially antibiotics, messes your gut health. What nutritional advice would you give for someone on antibiotics to keep their gut health in tip top condition?

Indeed, the bacteria in our gut play a very important role including promoting gut integrity, digestion, nutrient metabolism, production of Vitamin B12 as well as promoting immunity. When one takes antibiotics, these drugs end up killing all bacteria, good and bad, thus depleting the good bacteria. It is therefore advisable to replenish these good bacteria during and after an antibiotic therapy. Sources of good bacteria (probiotics) include fermented foods like yoghurt, fermented food, kefir and fermented vegetables. One also needs to eat high fibre foods for the probiotics/good bacteria to work more effectively as these provide what we call prebiotics, basically what probiotics feed on.

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