Winter is well and truly upon us, and with it comes the barrage of comforting soup recipes, immune-boosting remedies and winter ‘fitspo’. Bone broth appears to tick all three of these boxes. What’s more, those on the bandwagon claim that it’s a cure-all for a multitude of common ailments such as poor gut health, joint pain and skin ageing. This article will therefore explore whether the hype around bone broth is based on science or science fiction.
What is Bone Broth?
Many of us are led to believe that we can use broth, stock and bone broth interchangeably. However, the preparation methods of each differ slightly and as such so does their nutritional value. Understandably, not knowing this makes it all too easy to fall prey to all the noise and hype surrounding certain foods.
Bone broth is essentially a fusion of broth and stock, glamourised for the health and wellness industry. Stock is typically prepared by simmering animal bones with herbs, spices and mirepoix (a vegetable flavour base of carrots, celery and onions) for 12-24 hours. The resulting liquid is relatively neutral in taste and has a thick mouthfeel, owing to the gelatine, minerals and collagen released from the simmered bones. These qualities make stock an ideal flavour base for dishes such as soups, casseroles and stews. Broth, on the other hand, is traditionally prepared by simmering meat with various herbs and spices for 8-12 hours. This lends the liquid a rich, flavourful profile that makes it easy to consume on its own. The bone broth marketed by the wellness industry, however, is stock simmered with some meat. The resulting liquid is therefore rich in flavour and thick in texture, enabling it to be touted as a hearty meal alternative.
In terms of nutrition, the main difference between stock, broth and bone broth is their total calorie contribution. Broth typically contains half the calories of stock per serving. This is because stock contains almost twice as much fat, protein and carbohydrates per serving due to the use of mineral and fat-dense bones. This increases with the addition of meat, as in bone broth.
Why the Hype?
Bone broth was popularised by Dr Kellyann, pioneer of the ’21 Day Bone Broth Diet’. This involves consuming paleo-based meals for 5 days of the week. Bone broth is then consumed as snacks within these meals, and as meal replacements on the 2 remaining ‘fasting’ days of the week. Dieters inherently refrain from dairy, grains, refined sugar, alcohol, gluten, soy and processed foods. Dr Kellyann and other proponents claim that consuming high levels of collagen via the bone broth diet will aid weight loss, fight the physical effects of ageing, assist with regulating blood glucose levels, improve gut health, assist with post-workout recovery, reduce joint pain and improve energy levels. The apparent whole-body, global effects of this diet sound revolutionary, so it’s no wonder people are keen to try it out for themselves!
What Does the Science Say?
Bone broth is endorsed as a superfood because of its supposed collagen content. Collagen is one of the most abundant sources of protein in our body, being the main structural component of connective tissue. Several studies have provided definitive evidence that hydrolysed collagen supplements (i.e. collagen broken down into its constitutive amino acids) may alleviate joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. However, the jury is still out on whether collagen supplementation holds true to other wellness claims. Moreover, there is limited evidence to suggest bone broth can replace therapeutic collagen supplementation, even in such cases as reducing joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Bone broth typically contains whole collagen, leached straight from the animal bones used during its preparation. Collagen is primarily made up of the amino acids hydroxyproline, proline and glycine. These amino acids are the functional constituents of collagen. Enzymes such as collagenase must break down any whole collagen we’ve consumed into these amino acids before it can be absorbed into our bloodstream and utilised by the body. Now here’s the catch – although you may be consuming bone broth to assist with anti-ageing, the homeostatic mechanisms of the body inherently prioritises where protein is needed most. If you were recovering from a surgical wound, for instance, the majority of collagen consumed from bone broth would inevitably be broken down into its constituent amino acids and used at that site rather than for firming the skin on your face.
Studies have also demonstrated that bone broth contains minimal amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is essential for skeletal muscle repair. As such, bone broth isn’t necessarily the ultimate post-workout recovery drink; you’re better off having a naturally higher protein source such as lean beef or chicken.
A recent study also found that the mineral and collagen content of bone broths could differ significantly across standardised and non-standardised preparations. So relying on the drink for meeting calcium and protein requirements would be quite a gamble. Although some dairy is leached out of the bones used in bone broth, it is approximately 10 mg or less per cup, and as such is insignificant in terms of our RDIs. This makes it all too easy to have an inadequate intake of calcium each day. Similarly, more than 80% of Australian adults do not meet their fibre requirements. The lack of wholegrains on the bone broth diet would undoubtedly compound this. Wholegrains are an beneficial component of a healthy diet and their beneficial effects extend far beyond keeping our bowels regular.
Lastly, it is worthwhile to note that many of the advertised benefits of the bone broth diet don’t necessarily come from drinking bone broth itself. A lot of the benefits come from the reduction of certain contributors to the diet. For example it can look like gut-health has improved since certain foods that were triggering symptoms such as bloating have no been minimised, or weight loss can occur due to an overall reduction in energy intake.
The Bottom Line
The hype for bone broth appears to be ahead of the evidence. While it’s a delicious base for winter meals, it’s hardly a nutritious meal replacement, nor the answer to numerous common ailments. If your aim is to replenish your body after a workout or increase collagen synthesis for anti-ageing benefits, aim to meet your protein requirements for the day first. If you’ve been advised by a health practitioner to consume collagen supplements for joint pain, it’s best you follow their advice rather than drinking copious amounts of bone broth. Similarly, address any concerns for a particular ailment with the relevant practitioner. If you are otherwise healthy, aim to eat a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains and protein sources.
Fatigue is a common ailment that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. In fact, it has been reported that each year, approximately 1.5 million Australians present to their doctors with fatigue. This isn’t surprising considering how busy, high-stress and emotionally demanding many of our lifestyles have become.
Fatigue generally describes a feeling of unrelenting tiredness, lethargy and/or lack of motivation that lasts for several weeks. Daily, low-grade fatigue is a symptom of an underlying issue, condition or disease. It can be caused by a myriad of interacting physical, psychological or medical factors such as insufficient sleep, increased stress or catching the influenza virus. Fatigue can hence be remediated by addressing poor lifestyle habits or the underlying medical issue. In this article, we will explore some simple ways you can combat fatigue with your diet and eating habits. An overwhelming, sudden-onset of fatigue or fatigue that persists for longer than 6 months may be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as myalgic encephalomyelitis, and as such is not the focus of this article.
When You Eat
Before we dive into precisely what you could eat to combat fatigue, it would be a good idea to assess your daily eating patterns.
Firstly, do you skip breakfast? An extra 30 minutes of sleep may feel like a good compromise in the early hours of the morning, but having breakfast is critical for refuelling your glycogen stores and stabilising your blood glucose levels throughout the day. In turn, this assists with maintaining steady energy levels. It might also be tempting to reach for a cup of coffee as your energy levels dip throughout the day. However, this potentially sets you up for a viscous cycle of poor sleep, fatigue and consuming excessive caffeine. As caffeine sensitivity and sleep need differs between individuals, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how much caffeine you can consume and when you should stop taking it. Nonetheless, increased caffeine consumption has been linked to reduced sleep quality. With this in mind, aim to stop consuming high-caffeine foods such as energy drinks, black tea or coffee around lunch time. Additionally, avoid drinking alcohol when you want to stay alert as alcohol can have sedative effects.
What You Eat
A quick google search reveals countless foods that may fight fatigue. However, it is critical to understand that it isn’t necessarily particular foods that help combat fatigue, but it’s the nutrients they contain that benefit you. This is especially true if you are deficient in a certain nutrient. Menstruating women, for instance, are at a higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia. A tell-tale sign of iron-deficiency and associated anaemia is fatigue. Foods high in iron include lean beef, oysters, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and fortified cereals or breads. One Australian study focusing on this cohort of women found that feelings of overall vitality and energy were positively associated with serum ferritin (a biomarker for iron storage in the blood). This was magnified in women whose iron intake was increased via diet, rather than supplementation, despite serum ferritin levels being higher in women who took supplements. This is likely due to the synergistic effects of nutrients, as absorption rarely occurs in isolation.
Similarly, hypomagnesemia (i.e. magnesium deficiency) has also been associated with fatigue; among other symptoms such as nausea, lack of appetite and muscle weakness, as well as a whole range of medical conditions- from psychiatric disorders to metabolic disorders. This is because magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our body. Although severe magnesium deficiency is rare in developed countries, sub-optimal Western-style diets increase the likelihood of developing hypomagnesemia and subsequently experiencing low-grade fatigue. However, this can be combatted by consuming foods high in magnesium such as halibut fish, nuts, cooked soybeans, cooked spinach and fortified cereals.
Additionally, ensuring you have an adequate intake of B-vitamins through a varied diet will help you fight fatigue. Although we only need small amounts of B-vitamins every day, they are present in several foods such as vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish and lean meat. As such, it is relatively easy to meet your RDIs for each B-vitamin without supplementation.
You may have noticed sports nutrition stores and social media fitness influencers touting Co-Q10 (also known as coenzyme Q10 or Vitamin Q10) as the ultimate energy-boosting supplement. But does Co-Q10 really live up to their claims? Let’s start with what it really is– a ubiquitous lipid antioxidant endogenously made by the body. This basically means that Co-Q10 is present in every cell of our body and is also synthesised by our body. It is essential for shuttling redox (i.e. oxygen and hydrogen) molecules through the electron transport chain of our cells’ mitochondria (i.e. the energy powerhouse of our cells), ultimately affecting the production of ATP and subsequently energy. So theoretically, a deficiency in Co-Q10 will undoubtedly affect our energy levels. However, deficiencies only occur in disease states characterised by high reactive-oxygen species (ROS) production such as Parkinson’s Disease, cancer and HIV. Even in such states, there is limited evidence to suggest that Co-Q10 supplementation is therapeutic. There are currently no dietary guidelines on Co-Q10 consumption, however red meat, poultry and fish are good sources of the antioxidant.
In addition to micronutrient deficiencies, the type of meal you consume may also induce fatigue. One cross-over, feeding RCT found that when individuals were on diets characterised by a low-glycaemic load (LGL), they reported significantly better mood and energy levels than when they were on a high-glycaemic load (HGL) diet. These reports were pronounced in individuals within the healthy BMI range, as opposed to those with a BMI greater than 28. This study therefore also highlighted the potential relationship BMI may have on fatigue. Low-GI diets typically consist of complex carbohydrates, whole fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Conversely, high-GI diets typically consist of refined carbohydrates and processed foods. So if you’re struggling with fatigue, refrain from carbohydrates such as white bread or rice. Steer clear from discretionary foods such as chips, ice-cream, lollies and carb-loaded café dishes (e.g. loaded fries, triple-stack burgers etc.) or drinks.
The Importance of Hydration
Last but not least, adequate hydration will also help you fight fatigue. One placebo-controlled study of young women mimicked common daily dehydration to test this claim. It found that after only a 1.36% reduction in body mass due to dehydration, participants experienced lowered mood, an increased perception of task difficulty and lowered concentration. Although this was a highly-specific cohort study, we all know that adequate hydration is vital for normal bodily processes. As such, it could be this simple change that helps you get your energy levels back. Try keeping your water bottle on your desk to remind you to drink more water. If you need something a little more flavourful, you could also opt to infuse some mint, citrus fruit, strawberries or cucumber into your water.
The Bottom Line
Fatigue can be a subjective feeling, and as such what works for one individual may not work for the next. This is because diet and eating patterns are only a couple of several aspects that may contribute to experiencing fatigue. However, it is worthwhile to take stock of your eating patterns, micronutrient deficiencies and water intake. If you are otherwise healthy, eating a varied diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, dairy, fish and quality lean meats will ensure your diet bases are covered. Combined with exercise, adequate sleep and adequate rest, you’ll be able to stave off fatigue.
I am a Brisbane-based Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) and Nutritionist and founder of The Naked Truth Australia (www.thenakedtruthaustralia.com) – a nutrition consulting and communications business devoted to ‘baring’ the truth on all thing’s food and nutrition.
I founded my business after recognising the need for a trustworthy source of food and nutrition information in the health and wellness industry. My business is quite diverse, so I find myself working in a number of different roles. I see clients privately for one-on-one dietetic consultations online via Skype, I am involved in a number of projects where I act as a nutrition consultant, and I also engage in various opportunities through my Instagram account @thenakedtruth.au such as recipe development, writing educational blog posts and brand collaborations. I can wear many different ‘dietetic hats’ in any one day but that is why I love what I do.
It usually surprises people when I tell them that I am a new-graduate dietitian. I graduated from a Masters in Dietetics from The University of Queensland in July 2018, and then started working for myself a few months later. I decided late in my degree that traditional dietetic work just wasn’t for me. I am a creative at heart and felt that I would be more successful and fulfilled working in a role that combined both the creative and science worlds (I actually studied fashion and textile design at university in Sydney before making the switch to dietetics). There are many pros and cons to the path I have chosen for myself and I certainly have a lot to learn professionally, but I am excited for where the future will take me.
I am incredibly passionate about being an active presence in the online health space and aspire to correct nutrition misinformation and transform the way people think about food by sharing food and nutrition information in a fun and relatable way through my social channels and blog.
Do you think there is a role for dietitians in the weight loss space?
Absolutely. It cannot be denied that Australia has a rising obesity problem which of course brings with it an increased prevalence of chronic disease. So, I think it is important for dietitians to be active in this space…we are the nutrition experts after all!
With this being said, I think it is important to highlight that there is no one ‘healthy’ body size. Some people thrive in larger bodies, whilst others thrive in smaller ones. It is very much individualised. So, when we are talking about weight loss, it is important to recognise the difference between clients needing to lose weight for health purposes and clients wanting to lose weight to conform to the ‘thin’ ideal body image society is constantly highlighting. How we manage these clients would be different, and there is certainly evidence behind the psychology of eating, weight and body image that could be applied to the later. I think the weight-loss space is quite a complex one, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Do you think people should be focusing on consuming portion sizes that are appropriate for goals/needs, or instead basing it on their appetite?
I think this depends entirely on the person and their individual goals. I quite like the principles of intuitive eating which teaches people to become attune to their body’s hunger and fullness cues but I recognise that this isn’t for everyone. A focus on portion sizes can be useful when working with clients who have a history of restricted eating patterns and lack the food knowledge and general understanding of how much they should be eating in a sitting. Portion sizes would also be important for people such as athletes or those with body recomposition goals where macronutrient targets are involved.
Are there any snacks that you find yourself consistently recommending to clients?
Whole fruit, nuts and seeds, Chobani or YoPro yogurt, Carman’s high protein muesli bars, Rice Cakes/Vitaweats/Ryvitas with toppings such as cottage cheese or avocado and tomato, hommus with vegetable sticks or brown rice crackers and edamame beans.
Do you have any nutrition advice that you feel is underrated?
Never start a way of eating that you can’t maintain for the rest of your life. I often see clients who are looking for a quick fix but unfortunately that doesn’t exist. Focusing on the quality of the diet someone is eating produces better results than a restrictive diet or meal plan in the long run.
Is there anything you feel you do better than most other dietitians that helps clients to get results?
I can’t really comment on this because I work by myself. I also don’t like the reference to being ‘better’ than my colleagues. I feel that everyone, regardless of their experience level, can learn from others to enhance their skills and knowledge. In terms of my strengths though, I feel that I have a strong ability to translate complex science into messages that can be easily understood by the lay person. This is why I enjoy working in the online health space. I also like to think that I am able to build effective relationships with my clients and online audience.
Any helpful strategies for people who struggle with eating enough vegetables?
If you are a smoothie drinker then I recommend freezing some veggies and adding them to your smoothies. Zucchini, spinach and avocado make great additions! If you’re not into smoothies then you could try grating some vegetables and adding them to your main meals. Suggestions include spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie and burger patties.
Is there anything else you would like to add to wrap it up?
Understanding nutrition research is like trying to hit a pinata blind-folded- but with no pinata in the room. Even the savviest can fall in the trap of cherry picking unmeaningful studies to support a preconceived idea. Understanding a studies place among the hierarchy of evidence is an important skill to your nutrition toolkit.
Despite not being a researcher myself, this blog will investigate the limitations and strengths of extrapolating nutrition research from animals to practical human recommendations.
Animal Studies are Important for Research
These types of studies are key to the development of nutrition research. Performing studies on humans require strict compliance with ethical parameters. This excludes many of the new or unsafe trials to cell-based and animal studies. These studies are not subject to the same level of ethical requirements and generally are cheaper to perform than human trials. Additionally, they can be more effectively controlled and therefore more sensitive to any potential changes.
Once a concept becomes clear, researchers can then use this information to determine if it is worth testing in human trials.
Animal outcomes ≠ Human outcomes
As mentioned previously, animal studies tend to be a lot more controlled than human trials. When looking for an affect, researchers will often use super-doses of a substrate. Any change from these studies can easily be miss-interpreted and cause food alarmism.
For example… There is a notion that artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome. Much of this came from a study by Suez and colleagues. These researchers compiled animal data looking at the affect of high doses of saccharin on the intestinal microbiome.
Ultimately, they concluded that these doses negatively affected the microbiome of animals which lead to glucose intolerance.
This study is perfect for those already biased towards artificial sweeteners to support their worries. However, the available research does not support this claim when looked at in humans.
Additionally, understanding how this fit’s in the context of an entire diet is important. To match the dose Suez and colleagues found to be high in humans, an individual would have to consume 12 sugarine sweetener tablets per day.
Same Same, But Different
Some animals have very similar physiology to humans. Although, if it’s not obvious by looking, animals and humans are still different.
One of the key differences in commonly studied animals, such as rats, are basal metabolic rate and ability to maintain homeostasis under stress. This is referred to as metabolic stability which describes a cells ability to maintain homeostasis under stress.
When adjusted for weight, the metabolic rate of rats is seven times faster than human. They also have a weak capacity to maintain cellular homeostasis when their system is stressed. Due to this, their response in a studies treatment may be significantly more pronounced or unique to rats.
Human’s have a low metabolic rate (adjusted for weight) and high capacity to maintain homeostasis. As such, any outcome that has been seen in rats, particularly in disease and longevity, may not be present in humans due to our adaptive capabilities.
Don’t Fall for the Cheese
The differences in metabolic pathways is also apparent across humans and rats. The belief that sugar, particularly fructose, consumption inherently leads to fat-gain partly stems from extrapolated rat-based research.
Ultimately, this allows rats to convert carbohydrates to fat, at much lower doses than what can occur in humans. This knowledge demonstrates the little merit that anti-sugar claims have that use animal studies for the bases of their argument.
Wrapping it Up
Animal studies are still a fundamental component of research. However, understanding the limitations of these studies in nutrition and disease research is key to providing objective evidence-based knowledge. Basically, don’t play cat and mouse with the evidence.
power of social media in today’s world has presented us with strikingly
different trends in health, wellness and consumerism. Freak-shakes, loaded
fries and triple-decker burgers claim glory on the internet at the same time as
clean-eating, Ayurvedic medicine and HIIT workouts. So although we’re
encouraged to ‘go all out’ on our indulgences, we’re also often guilt-tripped into
having to remediate it through healthy, natural and low-tox lifestyles. One
such example of this remediation is the widespread notion that ‘fresh is always
best’ when it comes to fruits and vegetables. According to this concept, we
should steer clear of any processed forms of fruits and vegetables, and if we
want optimal nutrition, we must buy local. Considering only 5%
of Aussies over the age of 18 are consuming the recommended daily intake of
fruit and vegetables, could such expectations for optimal health be causing
many of us to give up on meeting our requirements? Moreover, is it only
worthwhile to eat fruit and veg if they’re fresh? Well, let’s explore this
below. To do so, we’ll look at an overview of the journey that different forms
of fruit and vegetables go through before finally reaching our plates.
The Beginnings- Harvesting, Transport and Storage
Fruit and vegetables are harvested at different timepoints depending on their intended sale. Produce intended to be frozen are picked at their peak ripeness, briefly blanched, and then ‘snap-frozen’ to preserve their nutritional and chemical integrity. Fruits and vegetables destined to be canned are harvested at the same time, but often blanched for longer to preserve their integrity in canned liquid. Fresh produce, however, can be harvested either vine-ripened or just shy of ripening.
have consistently demonstrated that vine-ripened produce harvested at peak
ripeness hold the most nutrients. However, most of us don’t consume our fruit
and veg straight off the plant. A lot of our ‘fresh’ produce undergo lengthy
transport and storage times before they finally make it to the supermarket,
much less our plates (think cold-storage apples or unripened bananas for
instance). Fortunately, there is little evidence that
nutrients within fresh produce differ significantly across storage conditions.
harvesting, frozen or canned produce must undergo some preservation processing
before making it to the supermarket shelves. Canned produce are often preserved
in syrups, oils or water. They are likely to contain added sugars, salt, flavours
or colours to maximise palatability after thermal processing and soaking. Thermal processing
is a type of blanching method utilised to kill microbes and deactivate enzymes that
may promote degradation of the produce. Before sealing the can, the produce is
immersed in their preservation liquid. This is the point where fruit and
vegetables lose some of their nutritional value. Produce containing the
water-soluble vitamins B and C (e.g. mushrooms, edamame and paw paw) leach a
significant amount of these vitamins into the liquid they are preserved in. Moreover,
the additives in canned produce diminish the nutritional quality of the fruit
or vegetable. However, opting for low-sugar or low-sodium varieties can preserve
their nutrition quality and ensure you still consume an assortment of fruit and
Produce destined to be frozen are heat-treated in much the same way as canned fruit or veg. However, their thermal-processing time is often much shorter to maintain qualities such as crispness and brightness. So apart from seasoned or pre-cooked products, frozen fruit and vegetables are usually minimally processed and do not contain many additives. They also keep for as long as 3 months in the freezer before their nutritional quality starts to diminish. Studies have even found that the antioxidant levels of frozen produce can often be significantly higher than their fresh counterparts after 3 days of storage.
and novel study sought
to minimise confounding factors (cultivar methods, soil composition, storage
times etc.) to nutrition profiles across fresh, stored and frozen veg as such
factors have been found to affect the nutritional quality of produce. The
nutrition and chemical profiles of eight fruits and vegetables from harvest
through to processing and freezing were examined. This
produce included corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans,
strawberries, and blueberries. It was found that ascorbic acid (a
derivative of Vitamin C and highly heat-labile) did not significantly reduce in
any of the frozen produce. All eight fruits and vegetables had higher levels of
α-tocopherol (the primary form of Vitamin E used by our body) in frozen
produce, rather than fresh produce. It is suggested that the α-tocopherol
levels increased in the produce as a result of the brief blanching process they
underwent before freezing, which made the vitamin more available. This is just
one of the many
studies that have found little to no difference in nutritional quality across
frozen, fresh and ‘fresh-stored’ (refrigerated for up to 5 days) fruits and
you can see, fresh and frozen vegetables are generally nutritionally on par
with one another. However, they have both travelled a long way to get to the
supermarket shelves. Both fresh and frozen produce are likely to have undergone
some oxidation during this transit time. Fresh produce may have also been
subjected to temperature insults. Nonetheless, studies haven’t yet found any
statistically significant deteriorations to the antioxidants or nutrients across
produce that have travelled and sat in the supermarket for some time. Moreover,
they have found
that fibre doesn’t differ between fresh or frozen produce. However, if you
would like to maximise the freshness and nutrient availability of your fruits
and vegetables (and you have the means to do so), a good option is to seek out
your local grower’s markets or wholesale fruit and vegetable market.
The Final Destination- More Storage,
Preparation and Consumption
After the supermarket, your week’s purchase of fruit and vegetables are likely to sit a little further on your kitchen bench or in the refrigerator before you actually consume them. As such, they will be subjected to a little more oxidation. Fortunately, although it has been found that frozen produce may contain more antioxidants than fresh-stored produce, it doesn’t render the antioxidants in fresh-stored as negligible. What will affect the nutritional quality of any of your produce is ultimately the way you prepare your food. As mentioned earlier, water-soluble vitamins B and C will leach into any liquid you cook them in. Vegetables high in these nutrients are therefore best cooked in soups, stews or curries- recipes where you’ll be consuming that liquid. Frozen vegetables, although won’t lose nutrients, may lose their structural integrity after reheating as a result of the degeneration to their cell walls. This can be combatted by steaming them or also adding them into soups, stews or curries, where they’re expected to be consumed soft.
The Bottom Line
is little evidence to suggest that fresh produce is significantly better than
frozen produce. Although some nutrients and antioxidants are lost across
processing, transport, storage and preparation, it doesn’t make the remaining
nutrients in your produce negligible. Canned produce can still be a
nutritionally sound choice if you opt for low-sugar and low-salt varieties, and
refrain from buying those soaked in oils other than extra-virgin olive oil.
Frozen and canned produce can be a great way to incorporate more fruit and
vegetables into your diet, especially those no longer in season. They are also
very convenient and a great option to fall back on after a tiring day out of
home. If buying across the fresh, frozen and canned aisles means you’ll enjoy a
wider variety of fruits and vegetables, then go for it!
There is no need to try and keep up with the latest ‘superfood’ trends – just let colour be your guide for choosing what fruits and vegetables you eat. The more colours on your plate, the greater the diversity of beneficial natural plant compounds you’ll be eating. Those colours come from a range of pigments that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
I think that the power of real food enjoyed at the dinner table with good company is highly under-rated these days. There is so much guilt and confusion around food, with many diets involving restricting food groups and many people eating on the run – this risks missing out on valuable nutrients and an unhealthy relationship with food and eating. The power of the long game of a healthy, balanced lifestyle including a wide variety of foods and healthy eating behaviours is where the big wins will be for those wanting health for life.
Ensuring that you are hydrated is an important nutrition tips that tends to be underrated. For general population, aiming to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water is helpful. Ensuring that you are hydrated is also going to help with dietary aspects and potentially prevent fatigue.
For me, my most underrated tip is the importance of good old fashioned unsaturated fats and how we do it. I’m a big fan of making foods colourful, often looking for bang for your buck options added to boost the nutritional content of the snack. Playing around with extras like avocado, nuts or seeds are simple, quick and easy ways to not only improve satiety and slow energy release, but also makes our food look so good you just want to snap a pic then snap up that appetite.
Match food to your lifestyle, because that is what is going to make it easy and sustainable – and likely you won’t have to think about it at all. Trying to mould your life around what you eat is not going to work. All you will do is stress about it all the time, force yourself to have a strict regime, give up social occasions, and feel like you are missing out which of course eventually you’ll get jack of it. Match food to your lifestyle, not the other way around.
Michael Pollan’s quote summarises my tip. “Eat food”, not too much, mostly plants” It encompasses three great bits of food advice which effectively summarises the literature on nutrition and health. Eat food- referring to wholefood, and not supplements. This supports various literature that suggest that a food-first approach is generally best over supplements. ”Not too much”- recognising that we need to balance our food to maintain a healthy weight. “Mostly plants” – this recognises the literature that support plants are a strong theme in a healthy diet.
Strategically match your fluid intake to your appetite and goals. If you are attempting to lose weight and struggling with hunger, drink a large glass of water pre and post meals. The research shows people eat less calories accross the day if they do this. If you are trying to bulk up but struggling to eat enough, add in some liquid calories such as replacing fruit with fruit juice, or adding a glass of milk after a meal. Liquid calories are far less filling than solid calories.
I think one of the most underrated things to do is listen with genuine interest to your clients story so that you can tailor advice that is genuinely individualised, and that could mean that you need to tell them everything they are doing is correct – we don’t always have to find something to fix – we can reduce the fear of eating and help people enjoy healthy food
The year is now in full swing, with most of us back into the daily grind of work, school, university and endless lists of commitments. With these demands comes inevitable stress and its domino effect into many other aspects of our lives. Our sleep is usually one of the first to suffer, so scientific wellness companies have capitalised on this. Dietary sleeping aids such as Moon Juice’s Dream Dust, The Goodnight Co’s Supplement Powder and The Beauty Chef’s Inner Beauty Powder are being increasingly marketed to us through social media platforms and health gurus. The biggest shocker is the new range of sleep-promoting ice-creams by Nightfood, which has just launched in the US so it’s only a matter of time until something similar reaches Australia. However, our consumption of certain nutrients (or lack thereof) isn’t the only dietary choice affecting our sleep. There are a couple of other factors worth taking a note of, which we’ll explore below.
When You Eat
Sleep and alertness are influenced by your circadian rhythm, which is essentially a 24-hour biological cycle of bodily functions regulated by the hypothalamus. The steroid hormone, cortisol, regulates the sleep-wake cycle of your circadian rhythm and is highly influenced by stress and dietary patterns. Your cortisol levels are normally higher in the morning and lower in the evening, enabling you to start the day alert and slowly wind down through to the night. However, aside from acute stress, when and how often you eat can significantly alter your cortisol levels outside of the norm. This is because blood sugar responses can affect cortisol levels. If you eat a high GI meal that spikes your blood glucose, your cortisol levels may be elevated up to 5 hours postprandially- not great news for you and your sleep if you eat too close to bedtime! Similarly, skipping meals or falling close to the hypoglycaemic range (i.e. a blood sugar level <4 mmol/L) can also elevate your cortisol levels as your body deals with physiological stress. Such deviations to your cortisol levels subsequently affect your circadian rhythm and ultimately your sleep-wake cycle.
Similarly, when you eat certain foods can also affect the quality of your sleep. The main culprits for most people are alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods. Alcohol, although a sedative and a relaxing post-dinner ritual for many, has been scientifically proven to increase sleep latency (i.e. the time it takes to fall asleep) and reduce total sleep time. Caffeine is not only a ‘pick-me-up’ for many but is inherently interwoven into social norms as evidenced by global coffee culture. Energy drinks, chocolate and tea also contain caffeine. This widespread consumption combined with highly variable individual sensitivities to caffeine, makes it a challenging substance to moderate. As such, the most sensible decision for good sleep is to limit intake of high caffeine foods such as coffee and energy drinks to no later than lunch time. Spicy foods such as chilli curries, consumed too close to bedtime, can cause oesophageal reflux and other gastrointestinal symptoms which inevitably make it difficult for you to wind down and sleep. This is one of several reasons why you should aim to have dinner 2-3 hours before bed.
Your Overall Diet
Traditional dietary remedies for sleeplessness such as warm milk, turkey dinners, tart cherry juice and eating kiwi fruit are loosely based on scientific evidence. Literature reviews have conjectured that it isn’t really the specific nutrients in those remedies that aid sleeplessness, but rather a multitude of other factors such as vitamin deficiencies, the interaction between different food sources and the placebo effect just to name a few.
For instance, after a bout of insomnia you may have been advised to have a glass of warm milk. Such advice is likely to have come about from the fact that dairy contains the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is needed to synthesise the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin. Melatonin is essentially the ‘sleep hormone’ that regulates the sleep-wake cycle of your circadian rhythm. As tryptophan is an essential amino acid that can’t be synthesised by the body, it would make sense to increase your levels before bedtime, right? Well, aside from the fact that it takes about an hour for the tryptophan in a glass of milk to reach the blood-brain barrier, several studies have shown that a glass of milk doesn’t contain sufficient tryptophan to induce sleepiness. In reality, there isn’t a magic dose of amino acids for sleep, but rather a recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 0.84 g/kg of overall protein for men and 0.75 g/kg for women aged 19-70 years old. Hitting these daily targets by consuming a wide variety of protein sources will ensure you aren’t deficient in any amino acid, and subsequently will promote healthy metabolic functioning as well as repair, maintenance and growth of tissue. Moreover, increasing the bioavailability of tryptophan requires synergy with magnesium, B-vitamins and complex carbohydrates. So why does a glass of warm milk taken before bed induce sleepiness in many individuals? The answer most likely lies in the ritualistic or soothing effect that a warm beverage can have on us after a long, tiring day.
A recent literature review also found correlations between low-fat diets and the feeling of good sleep. Individuals on short-term high-fat diets experienced reduced sleep efficiency (i.e. time spent asleep), higher arousal incidences and reduced slow-wave sleep (i.e. deep sleep associated with restorative functions). While such studies demonstrated correlation rather than causation, they further solidify the basic tenets of good nutrition.
The Bottom Line
‘Good sleep’ is challenging to scientifically quantify and is highly variable between individuals. As such, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact nutrients each person needs on any given day to have sufficient restful sleep. So rather than holding your nose and downing dietary sleep concoctions, aim to eat a varied diet full of good quality proteins, fruits and veggies, carbohydrates and dairy to hit all your required micro and macronutrients. Avoid caffeinated food and drinks after lunch time and try to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime. Swap post-dinner alcoholic drinks with another relaxing ritual or aim to stop drinking 2-3 hours before you want to sleep. Finally, to get the highest chances at optimal sleep, combine good dietary choices with good sleep hygiene, stress management and an overall healthy lifestyle.
It might be your aunt, maybe a friend, or even you. We all have someone in our life on some new healthy eating endeavour.
It’s not long before the first social media post goes up. It usually features a plate without carbohydrates (because carbohydrates are the devil’s food), and heavily filled with some sort of salad and protein.
To most people this seems great, I mean, they’re healthy foods?
There is a common misconception by people who are trying to improve their diet that always eating less, and being restrictive, is good for your wellbeing and health. In some instances, this may be true, but for most, probably not.
To understand this, we must define a healthy diet. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a good place to start. Even more important to this is choosing something that is most sustainable to you.
My goal in this blog is to discourage you from choosing another unrealistic health endeavour.
Reason one – Most diets fail
Up to 80% of people fail in sticking to overly restrictive food patterns (diets), independent of the method used.
For many people, the changes that they are trying to make are too drastic. To go from eating without any restrictions, to a strict eating pattern is not a realistic goal. At the time of making the goal, motivation is at an all-time high. However, it’s worth thinking about later down the track. Are you going to be able to sustain these changes for a long period of time? What about when you aren’t so motivated?
Reason two – Most people go back to what they were eating before
Overly restrictive diets mean relapse. What would be the first thing you would do if you were unable to stick to something? Go back to what you were doing before.
Being overly restrictive and undereating doesn’t teach you much about how you should eat. Learning essential skills such as understanding your preferences and hunger cues are key to creating a sustainable healthy eating pattern. Gradually changing your eating behaviour overtime, without completely altering what you are used to, is likely going to be more effective.
Compared to large changes, The Small-Changes Approach in eating patterns has been demonstrated to be more realistic, practicable to achieve and maintain. Reducing sweetened beverage consumption, understanding portion size and moderately increasing vegetable consumption are all practical changes an individual can achieve.
Reason three – They are not actually “healthy”
As mentioned previously, sustainability is key to a healthy diet. Also, being restrictive and eating too little excludes an opportunity to eat nutritious foods. Avoiding major carbohydrates and fat-based foods may be a good way to decrease caloric intake. However, developing a fear towards these foods, and completely excluding them from your diet is not healthy. Many carbohydrate and fat-based foods are full of fibre and several essential nutrients. Additionally, contrary to what many believe, they don’t inherently make you fat either.
Setting strict food rules may impact on an individual’s relationship with food. In response, many people overindulge in those restricted foods when they feel that they have failed to follow the diet.
To make things worse, those dieting to lose weight that relapse to their previous weight may be even more susceptible to future weight-gain. As a result, individuals may go on even “stricter” diets to lose the unwanted weight and create a yo-yo dieting cycle.
What Should You Do?
If your goal is to be healthier, you should not listen to anyone that tells you that their method is the absolute best (e.g. certain Instagram gurus).
You should aim for realistic changes, eat more plants, still include not so nutritious foods (the “bad” foods), and not be devastated by any “stuff-ups”.
Reaching out to a credible health professional, such as a dietitian, will be able to provide objective guidance.
Anything that involves lifting weights and broscience are a match made in heaven. Unfortunately for powerlifters, following potential negative practices during a weight-cut can be the difference between hitting a PR and disappointment.
The weight-cut refers to the short-term loss of weight before competition, usually within 7 days. This blog contains a guide on how to safely approach a weight-cut while decreasing the negative impacts on performance.
Why a Weight Cut?
In theory, the idea of a weight-cut is to temporarily reduce body mass to achieve a certain weight-class. This can therefore replace losing potentially important muscle and fat mass that come with chronic dieting, and help an individual make a certain lift.
Short-term weight-cut practices can be very detrimental to performance if done incorrectly. Therefore, it makes sense to approach it safely and minimise losses in performance. Compromising these factors remove any benefit of competing at a lower weight-class in the first place.
Inexperienced powerlifters are advised to avoid a weight-cut. At this level, a weight-cut will not provide any meaningful benefit and likely impair performance.
We will now look at the different strategies to cut weight in priority of what is most effective at preventing losses in performances. It is advised for a powerlifter to cut no more than 5% of body mass for a two-hour weigh-in, and no more than 10% for a twenty-four-hour weigh-in in the week of competition to minimise health concerns. Refer to these tips for longer-term weight loss strategies.
A low-fibre diet is the first consideration to be taken when trying to achieve an effective weight-cut. The gut contains materials, mainly fibre, that absorb water and add bulk to your stools (poo).
For general health this is good, however during a weight-cut it provides a potential opportunity to decrease body mass. In theory, this method allows a powerlifter to keep their energy intake the same, but, change just the type of foods consumed. Fruits, vegetables and wholegrains should be avoided due to their high-fibre content.
The potential weight-loss depends on their initial fibre intake. Through this method an athlete can lose 0.5 to 1.5kg, beginning 2-3 days before weigh-in.
Example of high fibre vs low fibre foods
High Fibre Foods
Low Fibre Foods
1 Serve of
Quick Oats (40g)
1 Serve of Corn Flakes(30g)
2 Slices of
Wholemeal Bread (80g)
2 Slices of White Bread (80g)
Wholemeal Pasta (80g)
Boiled White Pasta (80g)
Greek Yoghurt (100g)
Smooth Peanut Butter (1 tbs)
Fluid Restriction/ Sodium Restriction
Fluid Restriction Fluid restriction involves drinking less overall water. An athlete may lose up to 1-2% of body mass in one day by decreasing water consumption. The amount of water to cut may vary depending on your tolerance to reducing water intake, and the amount needed to lose weight. Some powerlifters may be fine with drinking no water the day before weigh-in whereas others still need some. Choose an amount that you are comfortable with.
Sodium Restriction Sodium restriction involves simply choosing foods and beverages with lower salt content. Decreasing sodium intake in the 7 days prior to weigh-in will minimise the amount of water your body will hold onto. The amount of water lost during this will vary but has very little impact on performance.
Active sweating involves completing some sort of moderate physical activity to increase body temperature and promote sweating. This method might be a surprise to some who assume that passive sweating (sauna, hot bath etc.) is more effective as it requires less effort. However, the water lost during the passive method is harder to rehydrate due to the location of water loss. This method is best utilised during the evening before, or morning of a weigh-in to minimise body stress. Athletes should engage in physical activity that they are comfortable with, and if possible, implemented in a training session before.
Passive Sweating/Glycogen depletion
Passive Sweating As mentioned before, passive sweating involves increasing the body temperature through a hot environment such as a sauna or hot bath. This increase in body temperature activates a sweat response. This method may still be utilised when an athlete desires a quick weight-cut and is unable to achieve this through active sweating. It is not advised to practice this method without experience previously.
Glycogen Depletion Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the muscle and liver. When carbohydrate consumption is decreased, the glycogen storage is depleted which could potentially translate into approx. 2% weight loss. This method is best utilised in the seven days prior to weigh-in. It allows for an individual to maintain strength and power, however, does impact aerobic performance (physical activity > 5 mins). This may work favourably for a powerlifter but is up to individual preference regarding how they prefer their carbohydrate intake.
If an athlete has a twenty-four-hour weigh-in before a meet, this allows for appropriate recovery time to replenish carbohydrate losses.
However, if time is less than two hours, and the powerlifter prefers to have glycogen stores full, it is more appropriate to minimise glycogen losses, if possible. This will prevent impairing performance.
Practical Example for an Experienced Powerlifter Competing in the 74kg Weight-Class
Low Fibre Diet
1-2% of body weight
Carbohydrate + Sodium Restriction
1-2% of body weight
Evening before or morning of weigh-in
Varies: Approx. 1-2% of body weight
It is advised to seek a doctor or Sports Dietitian before undertaking a weight-cut for more information.