It has been called the ‘mother’ of all studies on diet and health. There is a new meta analysis* on diet and health based on over 300 systematic reviews** since 1950! Now don’t worry if you don’t know all the technical terms because I will make sure I make it as simple as possible and the findings are pretty interesting.
The role of diet in chronic disease is now well recognised. The change towards an increasingly processed diet has led to the well known word wide epidemics of things such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Both of these may also be related to other disease such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental illness to name a few. As they say:
“you are what you eat”
So I know this is sounding all a little bit doom and gloom, right? Fair enough, lets move on to what the authors of the study found and then we can talk about ways to practically include the findings into your diet.
Sweetened beverages | This may significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and increase weight gain. Ok, so this is not rocket science, however, it can often be the hidden sugars in drinks that people are not aware of.
Tammy’s Tips | Drink water! Sounds simple and obvious but the benefits are proven. Aim for about 8 glasses or 2 litres a day. Now this can be hard for people who are not used to it. So make sure you have a water bottle with you (I love the Camel Bak water bottles they are super easy to drink from and I find they always increase the amount of water I drink in the day). You can also flavour your water to make it more exciting: try lemon, mint or cucumber! Always read the label – look under sugars in the 100 grams column and in the ingredients list, these days sugar can be hiding anywhere. I will do another post dedicated to all things drinkable so stay tuned.
Fruits and vegetables | These may significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer and also resulted in significant weight reduction. Once again we know this right? But how many of us are actually meeting the recommended intakes?
Tammy’s Tips | Aim for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day. I know fruit is getting a bad reputation these days but even Sarah Wilson from the I Quit Sugar movement agrees that having 2 serves of fruit a day is fine (please note I am in no way affiliated with Sarah Wilson). I often find though it’s the vegetables that can be the hardest to get for my clients. What about you? 1 serve of vegetables is 1/2 a cup of cooked vegetables (such as broccoli or carrot) or 1 cup of salad vegetables (such as lettuce and cucumber). Some ways to increase your intake is to have vegetable sticks as a snack with some dip, try a stir fry for lunch or dinner or have a vegetable based smoothie with lots of spinach (try this one from Kris Carr) and when it comes to vegetables don’t forget to:
“eat the colour of the rainbow”
Whole – Grain Cereals | This may significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It was also shown to have an effect on the reduction of body fat. On the other hand refined cereals where shown to have a negative effect on health most particularly white rice when in the context of a westernised diet.
Tammy’s Tips | Choose wholegrain. This means brown grainy breads, brown rice and whole grain cereals. Not only does this have the great protective benefits discovered in the study but it also is full of fibre which means it keeps you fuller for longer and has a slower release of energy.
Legumes | The humble legume was shown to reduce cancer risk by up to 48%. It also showed a significant reduction in blood glucose levels, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and an increase in HDL.
Tammy’s Tips | Well this is music to vegetarians and vegans ears. Although this has been known for some time, it is becoming more mainstream to opt for a vegetarian or vegan option and with all the alternatives this is becoming easier. Try having one meat free meal a week. Over the next few weeks I will be doing some recipes for meat free Mondays to get you feeling inspired. For now though try my latest legume obsession from The Sprouted Kitchen’s Marrakesh carrot salad.
Nuts and seeds | May significantly reduce several cardiovascular risk factors.
Tammy’s Tips | Nuts and seeds can be an easy thing to add into your diet. They say a handful of nuts a day can be a great addition to any healthy lifestyle. Try walnuts or almonds and aim for about a handful. I use them as a snack and also sprinkle things such as sunflowers seeds and pepitas in my quinoa salad, on my yogurt or in my breakfast cereal. Yum!
Red and processed meats | Associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several cancers. Another nail in the old paleo coffin, sorry Pete!
Tammy’s Tips | So this is not the first time we have heard this. Australian’s can often overeat their share of red meat with the recommendation being 1 serve per day of about 65 grams of red meat. Again try to add some meat free meals into your weekly routine or swap red meat for fish.
Fish | Is associated with lowering the risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancers. Although it wasn’t mentioned in this study there is also great benefits from oily fish consumption to improve depressive symptoms (but thats another post for another day!).
Tammy’s Tips | Aim for 2 – 3 serves of fish per week. This can be canned if you find it easier although it is also great to have some fresh sources. In particular salmon can be a great core ingredient for a meal, have a look at this easy salmon and fennel recipe from the BBC.
So lets sum it all up |
- Plant foods are more protective than animal foods
- Grain products are more effective than fruits and vegetables
- Red and processed meats increase risk of chronic diseases
- Among beverages tea was the most protective and soft drink was associated with the most increase in risk of chronic diseases
For anyone that is interested here is the full article reference | Fardet, A., and Boirie, Y. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet – related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review pooled / meta – analyses and systematic reviews (2014). Nutrition Reviews Vol. 72 (12): 741 – 762.
* meta analysis | is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies. It is most often used to assess the clinical effectiveness of healthcare interventions and it does this by combining two or more randomised control trials.
**systematic reviews | is a literature review (often of randomised control trials) that is focused on a research question and tries to identify, appraise, select and collate all high quality research evidence in relation to that question.
If you have any questions or have a topic you would like covered feel free to email me at email@example.com and don’t forget t0 stay in touch and #theonenutrition.