Top 5 Nutritional Health tips
There are so many messages in the public domain about nutrition and health it can be quite overwhelming. When asked what our top 5 nutritional health tips were, we looked at the countries public health issues and statistics to help us prioritise. Here are our top 5 pieces of advice (in no particular order) to improve the health of the nation and a little bit about why.
1) It is estimated that over 15,000 deaths could be avoided in the UK each year if the recommended 5 a day fruit and vegetable intake was met. However did you know that some countries recommend eating up to 9 portions of fruit and vegetables per day? This is not surprising considering some research has suggested that for every 1 portion of fruit/vegetable we eat (up to 8 portions) we reduce our risk of dying of heart disease by 4%. Similarly interesting findings were found in relation to some types of cancer.
Eat an abundance of fruit and vegetables by making sure “5 a day” is your minimum intake NOT maximum. Variety is essential to get the most out of all the nutrients and powerful compounds nature has to offer. Eating lots of different colours is a good way of ensuring variety.
2) A high intake of added sugar is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease (the single biggest cause of death in the UK). When we talk about added sugar we are not talking about the ones found naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy but the ones manufacturers add to processed foods.
Keep “added sugar” in your diet to a minimum. Avoid obvious foods like cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets, sugary cereals and sugary drinks. Less obvious foods are savoury processed foods such as ketchup, baked beans and pizzas etc.
Use easy labelling guidelines such as the traffic light system and GDA’s (Guidelines Daily Amounts) on the front of packages to make healthy choices about any processed foods you buy and how they contribute to your diet as a whole.
Check ingredients for sugar in disguise for example; corn sweetener , corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose syrup are all examples of sugar. Remember the higher up in the list an ingredient is, the higher its prevalence in the product.
3) Eating too many of the wrong fats can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and some cancers. They can also contribute to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and eczema. However there are different types of fats and we should not avoid all of them as some are very beneficial to our health and actually help us reduce our risk of the above mentioned health issues.
Knowing your fats is the key here. Eating good sources of the fats omega 3, 6 & 9 is associated with good heart health, as is keeping the less desirable saturated and trans-fats to a minimum.
Eating these foods regularly will help you to achieve a good intake of healthy fats; oily fish (including; salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout, fresh tuna) ground flax seeds, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Keep these foods to a minimum; fatty cuts of red meat, poultry skin, cheese, full fat milk, cream, butter, fatty snacks such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits and crisps.
4) High salt intake is associated with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and strokes. Too much salt is also associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer. Despite this, the average daily intake in the UK is over 50% more than government recommendations.
Keep your salt intake to below 6 grams per day. Processed foods are usually the worst offenders. For example a supermarket Pizza Express American Hot contains 3.7grams of salt. A can of Heinz Baked Beans contains 3 grams.
If you prepare most of the foods in your diet from scratch then don’t add salt to your cooking or at the table. Use herbs, spices and homemade marinades to add flavour and depth to your food. If you do rely on processed foods regularly it is essential you check labels for salt content to stay within the 6 gram limit. Be aware that if a label only specifies the sodium content of the food this needs to be multiplied by 2.5 to work out the salt content.
5) Despite guidelines to keep intake down, alcohol related conditions are thought to cost the NHS £2.7 billion every year. Alcohol related disease tends to be associated with alcoholics suffering liver failure after years of abuse. The truth is excess alcohol has more far reaching health consequences than this. Also the excesses do not to have to be that extreme for them to result in related conditions such as heart disease, strokes, some cancers, liver disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety.
Obviously it is important to keep within the weekly limit of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women. However it is also just as important to keep within the daily limits of no more than 4 units for men and 3 units for women.
Get to know your units. 1 drink does not always equate to 1 unit. A small 125ml glass of wine contains 1 unit whilst a pint of strong larger, bitter or cider can contain up to 3 units.
If you do drink regularly, make sure you have several alcohol-free days every week. This serves to help keep your intake down, give your liver a break and prevent the risk of developing a dependency. Remember alcohol is addictive.
The above information is generic and not tailored to any individual needs. It is aimed at healthy adults and the advice given may vary for children, the elderly, pregnant women, people on medication or with specific health conditions. The information should therefore not replace any specific medical advice you have received from your GP or any other health professional.