lemon water health benefits

Why Your Morning Glass of Lemon Water is Complete Waste of Time

lemon water health benefit

Do you swear by a glass of hot lemon water to start your day?

If you do, chances are you’ve heard it’s got lots of health benefits. It’s said to kick start digestion and metabolism, flush out toxins that have built up overnight and provide a much needed dose of vitamin C.

But is this actually true?

Well… let’s just say that if you’ve been diligently downing lemon water every morning, I am (yet again) about to break your heart.

Why? Because a glass of hot lemon water does absolutely NOTHING for your body that a simple glass of water can’t do.

 

The detoxification myth

Let’s start with the irritating idea that lemon water detoxes the body. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no such thing as detoxing the body from mysterious toxins. The liver, kidney, skin and colon handle the removal of waste materials from your body on their own. Yes, staying well hydrated will keep these organs working efficiently, but the addition of a wedge of lemon to your glass of water won’t make them extra efficient. Sorry!

Furthermore, there’s no scientific evidence anywhere, to support the detox claim linked to lemon water.

When you think about it, that’s not surprising. Consider how much lemon juice goes into your morning water. For most, it’s a slice or two – approximately an eight of a lemon.

If you’ve ever looked into the nutritional makeup of an eight of a lemon, you’ll know there’s not a whole lot of nutrients and certainly no magical detoxing substances in it.

Specifically, an eight of a medium sized lemon (peel included) contains:

  • 2 kcals
  • 0.1g protein
  • 0g fat
  • 3.7mg of vitamin C
  • 9.7 mg of potassium
  • negligible amounts of vitamin A, B12, D, B6, magnesium, iron and calcium

As those unimpressive figures show, there really is not a lot of anything in the splash of lemon juice that goes into your detoxifying morning drink.

And even more significant is the amount (or lack) of vitamin C in it. To put that  into context, the 3.7mg of vitamin C found in a lemon wedge is just one sixteenth of the recommended daily amount of 60mg for adults.

While lemons have a reputation for being high in vitamin C, that high level refers to larger amounts of lemon (like a whole lemon) and when the flesh, peel and juice are included. In fact, if you’re drinking your morning lemon water for a hit of vitamin C, you’ll get a lot more benefit by replacing your lemon wedge with a couple of slices of kiwi or papaya (which both contain more than double the amount of vitamin C found in a lemon).

 

Dobro jutro! ???? #mctsrbija #jutro #morning #ritual #lemonwater

A photo posted by My Cup Of Tea (@mycupoftea.rs) on

The real effect of lemon water on the metabolism and digestion

Ok, so what about the common belief that drinking a glass of lemon water kick starts your metabolism and digestion?

Well, the belief that lemon juice stimulates digestion relates to the acidic nature of lemons. This, in theory, could contribute to the acidity of the stomach and therefore encourage the production of bile – the substance that your body makes to help break down fat.

However, there are two problems with applying this logic to your morning lemon water habit.

  1. There’s no scientific evidence anywhere to support this theory
  2. And that’s because the amount of lemon juice in a glass of lemon water is negligible,which means it’s unlikely to have a great deal of impact on your stomach’s acidity levels (unless you consume larger amounts of it).

But, there is a bit of good news.

Drinking a 500ml glass of water first thing in the morning really can boost the metabolism (and help you burn more calories). And this commonly cited study shows it can do so by 30%.

However, there’s a snag: the metabolism boost is due to the consumption of plain water NOT lemon water, and the water needs to be cold rather than warm. This is because your body burns the bulk of those extra calories by heating the cold water up to reach body temperature.

So, what’s the verdict?

Starting your day with a glass of hot lemon water is not a bad thing at all. In  fact, it’s a great way to rehydrate after your overnight fast. But if you drink lemon water because you think it’s doing something magical for your body’ toxin levels… it’s not.

And if you drink it to help you lose weight, you’re going about it all wrong.

Switch your hot water for a glass of ice cold water and you’re more likely to take advantage of any metabolism-boosting effect on offer. But, don’t pin all your hopes on this as the aforementioned study involved just 14 participants, which can’t really be considered as firm evidence.

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chlorophyll water benefits

Chlorophyll Water: The True Health Benefits

chlorophyll health benefit

Another day, another over-hyped health trend to contend with.

Today, it’s chlorophyll water.

I really don’t mean to be so snarky about these things, but the lack of research done by experts and publications BEFORE championing health and weight loss remedies that have zero validity behind them, is staggering… especially when you realise how many people eat this stuff up without questioning it.

If you’ve missed the chlorophyll water trend, count yourself lucky.

And if you haven’t… fingers crossed you haven’t wasted too much cash on it (a 240ml bottle of the stuff can cost around £30!).

Whichever camp you fall into, here’s everything you need to know about the legitimacy of the chlorophyll water trend

 

What is it?

Chlorophyll refers to the green pigments found primarily in plants. Their role is photosynthesis – the process by which plants use sunlight to produce energy (hello high school biology!). Chlorophyll water is basically derivatives of these pigments in… well… water (plus glycerin and preservatives).

The health claims?

  • It’s a great weight loss remedy
  • It is a strong detoxifier that ‘protects and heals’ the body
  • It boosts the number of red blood cells in the body and therefore increases energy and well-being
  • It protects against cancer

The scientific facts?

  • The array of claims are impressive, but there’s one snag. There doesn’t seem to be a single piece of research carried out on human beings that shows that any of the above claims are true. But, I have unearthed where the claims originate from.

 

  • The idea that chlorophyll increases energy and well-being by boosting red blood cell quantities in the body arises from the fact the pigment has a similar molecular structure to haemoglobin – that’s the substance that makes blood bind to and carry oxygen around the body. However, this does not make it a blood replenisher. Think about it: when you have a blood transfusion, the blood has to be directly put into your bloodstream to be effective. If you ingest it (as with natural chlorophyll water), it’s going to be destroyed by your stomach acid during the digestive process. A synthetic version of digestion-resistant chlorophyll exists, but drinking a man-made version kind of defeats the purpose of opting for a natural drink.

 

  • The cancer claims associated with chlorophyll water most likely relate to the antioxidant properties of the pigment. Cell-based research, like this, has shown that a salt gotten from chlorophyll, called chlorophyllin can protect cells against oxidative damage from free radicals – the molecules also implicated in the development of cancer. However, that’s as far as the link goes. There are no published studies that show that cancer patients given a daily dose of actual chlorophyll water reap benefits from it. And there are also no studies that show that people who supplement with chlorophyll are less likely to have cancer than those who don’t.

 

  • There are studies that show that people who eat green leafy vegetables carry a reduced risk of colon cancer, but while these vegetables do contain chlorophyll, they also contain many other beneficial antioxidants and fibre – which are known to protect against certain types of cancer. It’s therefore completely nonsensical to conclude that this is proof of the anti-cancer properties of chlorophyll water.

 

  • As for claims that the green pigment is a great weight loss aid? Well, that falls into the category of misinterpreted science, specifically, this 2014 study. It found that among a small group of 38 women, those who ate 5g of green plant membranes everyday before breakfast for 3 months lost 1.5kg more weight than those who didn’t. However, while plant membranes do contain chlorophyll, they also contain other substances, and as such, the researchers themselves are very careful with their conclusions and never attribute the weight loss observed to chlorophyll itself.

 

  • Finally, you probably know by now how I feel about the word ‘detox’. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that claims that chlorophyll water is a potent detoxifier are complete BS. Why? Because there’s NO SUCH THING AS DETOXING THE BODY. You can detoxify the body from drugs and alcohol, but the premise of pouring in some trendy health food to clean up the remnants of too much junk food, artificial ingredients and whatever else, is a marketing myth made up to sell detox products. There’s simply no evidence anyway that it’s a real phenomenon. Legitimate toxins in the body (that’s waste products from normal cell activity) are removed from the body by the liver, kidneys, colon and skin.

 

Nutritional facts 

This is the point at which I’d normally carry out a head to head analysis of chlorophyll’s nutritional content versus a close contender, but there really isn’t one to fairly compare it to.

However, the key nutrients found in chlorophyll are: vitamins A, C, E and K, beta carotene, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.

Worth the hype?

Not really.

The reason for this is simple. Yes chlorophyll does contain lots of vitamins and minerals your body needs, and this means that adding it to your diet is a good rather than bad thing. BUT chlorophyll water is a very convoluted and unnecessarily expensive way of getting a daily dose of the green stuff.

You may recall I began this piece by saying that chlorophyll is what makes plants look green, and that’s a clue to the best natural source of chlorophyll: green leafy veg. And unlike processed, bottled green water that’s been sitting on the shelf of some store hoping you’re gullible enough to buy it, green veg is fresher, unprocessed and high in fibre that’s legitimately good for weight loss and colon health.

What are your thoughts? Chlorophyll water – fad or fab? Leave a comment below!

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charcoal detox drink

The Truth About Detoxing with Activated Charcoal

charcoal detox drink

If you’ve come across little black bottles of detox drinks over the last 12 months, no you are not imagining things. Charcoal drinks really are a ‘thing’ in health circles. But, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll also know that just because something is popular with health fans doesn’t mean it actually works. Here’s the science-backed scoop on activated charcoal drinks.

Activated Charcoal

What is it?

Activated charcoal is made from coconut shells, wood or peat that have been heated to very high temperatures in the presence of certain gases. It’s a process that introduces lots of holes onto the surface of each piece of coal and this ‘activates’ it. Activated charcoal has a much larger surface area than standard charcoal and this boosts its ability to bind to certain small particles.

The health claims?

  • Activated charcoal can prevent a hangover
  • It whitens teeth
  • Activated charcoal is a great detox and cleansing remedy
  • Taking activated charcoal will boost your health

The scientific facts?

  • Despite the impressive health claims associated with activated charcoal, the only thing it is scientifically proven to do is bind to drugs like paracetamol if taken within an hour of ingesting the drug. That’s why activated charcoal is a staple treatment for paracetamol overdoses.
  • The black substance’s large surface area allows it to bind to paracetamol while it’s still in the stomach, therefore reducing the amount of the drug that gets absorbed into the blood stream and distributed around the body.
  • Activated charcoal does not bind to alcohol. Furthermore, as this study shows, alcohol is too quickly absorbed into the bloodstream for charcoal to have any effect on it. This means that taking a charcoal pill after or even during a boozy night out will NOT prevent or cure a hangover, so don’t waste your time or money.
  • Similarly, eating or drinking activated charcoal will not renew the body by removing so-called toxins because charcoal particles are too big to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal is a fibre that goes straight to the gut before being passed out of the body. It has no magical detoxifying power that allows it to draw things out from blood.
  • The idea that taking a daily dose of the black stuff optimises health is the biggest myth of them all. In fact, if taken within an hour or two of a meal, activated charcoal may bind to and reduce the absorption of some nutrients in your food. This means that the very thing you’re drinking to make you healthy could actually be stealing health-boosting vitamins and minerals from your diet.
  • Finally, we’ve found out first hand that adding a little charcoal to your toothpaste does seem to make teeth feel squeaky clean. However, dentists warn that doing this may actually wear down tooth enamel because activated charcoal is quite gritty.

Nutritional facts – Activated charcoal versus psyllium husk

Activated charcoal is really just a highly absorbent fibre, just like the natural colon cleanser psyllium husk. Here’s how both compare in terms of ‘detoxifying properties’:

  • Soluble fibre: Activated charcoal 0% v psyllium husk 55%
  • Insoluble fibre: Activated charcoal 100% v psyllium husk 45%
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous nutrients: Activated charcoal contains no minerals and psyllium husk provides modest amounts of calcium and iron.

Winner: Psyllium husk. Activated charcoal solely consists of insoluble fibre – a fibre that doesn’t dissolve in water. This type of fibre stays in the gut and helps with bulking up your bowel contents, therefore treating constipation and wind. Because it is such a strong fibre, it can cause constipation when you first start taking it. In contrast, the soluble fibre in psyllium husk not only helps with bowel movements, it has also been shown to lower cholesterol, which means that psyllium husks offer a gentle way to keep your bowels regular than activated charcoal, with the added bonus of reducing bad cholesterol. And it’s a source of calcium.

Worth the hype?

Are you crazy?! No!

Activated charcoal may actually damage your health by interfering with the absorption of prescription medication and food nutrients. To add insult to injury, many of the detox drink companies trying to convince you that you NEED their charcoal drinks in your life also slap a hefty price tag onto these drinks – they do look pretty fancy after all! Save yourself money by staying away from any charcoal-containing detox drink that promises you a new lease of life. It’s 100% BS.

 

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superfood myth

What Makes A Superfood Super?

Superfoods are another thing on my fast-growing list of healthy-eating peeves.

The second you work one into your diet, another pops up without warning.

Over the last couple of years, age-old (albeit lesser known) foods, like kale, quinoa, kefir and turmeric, have been awarded superfood status. And 2016 brought with it a new wave of headline grabbing superfoods like black pudding, teff and kohlrabi… to name a few.

This got me thinking.

What’s the deal with superfoods and who the hell decides which foods to award superfood status to?

What if I decided, say mango oil (yes apparently it’s a real thing), should be a superfood. Does it become one simply because I say so?

This may sound absurd, but I’ve been doing some investigating and it seems it may be that easy.

If you read my old blog (Health Trend Doctor), you may recall that several months ago, I wrote about a PR stunt in which a website promoting black pudding (yes the Scottish delicacy of pork blood and fat sausages) declared the artery clogging delight a superfood at the start of 2016. The scary part was that despite the absurdity of the claim, everyone bought into it and national papers ran the story without even stopping to check it out.

Two weeks later, the people behind the website in question admitted they had absolutely no scientific or nutritional evidence to support the claim.

They basically made it all up to boost black pudding sales, and it worked beautifully, with Scottish black pudding and haggis maker MacSween announcing a surge in its black pudding sales soon after.

How did they get away with it?

Simple.

There’s no official definition of a superfood. Like ‘detox’ it’s a pseudo-scientific marketing term devised to help sell stuff to health conscious people.

The general consensus (and according to the Oxford English dictionary) is that a superfood is simply a nutrient-rich edible substance thought to confer health benefits beyond those offered by average foods.

This suggests that as long as a food or drink contains notable amounts of any nutrient, ranging from vitamins and antioxidants to fibre and protein, it really can be called a superfood… which means, things we take for granted, like water, bran and chicken are also ‘superfoods’.

Crazy right?

The UK government has labelling laws to prevent food manufacturers from actually using the word ‘superfood’ on their product’s packaging without legitimacy, but there’s nothing to stop the term being bandied about in the media – and let’s face it, that’s where most health myths are born.

So, how can you tell if that new superfood all the glossy magazines are writing about really is more nutritious than other dietary staples?

For those in the know, there’s a simple way to check this. It involves a scoring system called the US Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), which ranks foods according to their nutritional density.

Take a look at the scale for yourself. You’ll spot a few reassuring things and some not so reassuring things.

For example, well-known superfoods kale and watercress rank at the top of the index. In fact, they score a maximum 1000 out of 1000. However, renowned superfood avocado has the same nutrient score as the widely demonised white potato (both score just 28 out of 1000).

Scandalous!

But the explanation is simple: ANDI rates foods for their overall nutritional content, whereas superfoods often gain their status based on exceptionally high levels of just one or two health-boosting nutrients.

So avocados, for example, are considered a superfood because they’re thought to be high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats (84% of avocado oil is unsaturated), fibre, vitamin K and E, and various minerals. But did you know that 80% of the fruit’s flesh is actually just water (this study explains further)?

That’s right. The superfruit everyone has been talking about is not as super as you think. Yes avocados contain lots of health-boosting nutrients, but you may need to eat more than you think to get a large dose of its vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

The take home message here is simple and provides more support for the highly irritating-but-true ‘everything in moderation’ saying. Superfoods contain beneficial nutrients. Fact. But they’re not the sole answer to optimal health because none contain all the nutrients your body needs and certainly not in large enough amounts per serving.

Bear that in mind the next time you read a ‘x is the new cancer-curing superfood’ headline.

Why not get more of my handy BS-free healthy eating tips by signing up below to join the fad free revolution? You’ll get my weekly newsletter packed with the inside scoop on how healthy those oh so popular health foods and trends you may be tempted to try really are.

 

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almond milk nutrition facts

Almond Milk: You Know There Are Virtually No Almonds In It

Almond milk

What is it?

A white liquid made from blending almonds with water, salt and other flavourings. The blended mixture is strained to remove the almond pulp and the remaining liquid is used as a dairy-free alternative to milk.

The health claims?

  1. Almond milk is a great milk substitute as it’s full of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and potassium
  2. It’s a high protein drink
  3. It is more slimming than cows’ milk as it is low calorie
  4. Drinking the ‘superfood’ nut milk helps keep skin healthy and glowing

The scientific facts?

  • Home-made almond milk is actually devoid of many nutrients. Why? Because it’s mainly water. The bulk of the almonds used to make the drink are discarded and never make it into the drink. Let’s do the maths: one cup of almonds (around 100g), which contains around 21g of protein, 350mg of calcium, 705mg potassium, 0mg vitamin D and 0mg vitamin A, is used to make four 250ml cups of the popular nut milk. No studies have looked into exactly how much of the calcium, potassium and protein make it into the liquid and how much stays in the almond pulp that is thrown away, but it’s estimated that less than a quarter of the almonds’ nutrients seep out into the water during blending. So, that’s a grand total of a paltry 1.25g of protein, 21mg of calcium and 44mg of potassium per 250ml glass of almond milk.
  • This lack of nutrients in the home-made version of the so-called health drink is the reason shop-bought versions of the dairy-free drink are usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D – to make it nutritionally similar to cows’ milk.
  • Shop-bought almond milk really should be called almond-flavoured water. Why? Because almonds make up just 2% of the average carton of the popular health drink (check out the label of Alpro’s version). It’s also a health myth that the nut milk is high in protein because even though whole almonds are 20% protein, almond milk contains around 0.5g of protein per 100mls.
  • Claims that the drink is great for skin health are untrue. They are based on the health benefits of actual almonds rather than the resulting milk. Yes, the nuts themselves are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and biotin, which all help keep skin looking healthy, but very little of these nutrients end up in almond milk.
  • One health claim that the nut milk does live up to is that it is lower in calories than cows’ milk. Alpro’s original almond milk comes in at just 24kcals per 100mls whereas the same volume of semi-skimmed milk has double the calories (48kcals).

Nutritional facts – Almond milk (Alpro) versus semi-skimmed cows’ milk

Trendy superfood almond milk is touted as a healthy, dairy-free alternative to milk. But is it really a better dietary choice? Let’s see how 100mls of both compare:

  • Kcals: Almond milk 24 v cows’ milk 48
  • Carbohydrate: Almond milk 3g v cows’ milk 4.6g
  • Sugar: Almond milk 3g v cows’ milk 4.6g
  • Fibre: Almond milk 0.2g v cows’ milk <0.5g
  • Protein: Almond milk 0.5g v cows’ milk 3.5g
  • Fat: Almond milk 1.1g v cows’ milk 1.8g
  • Saturated fat: Almond milk 0.1g v cows’ milk 1.1g
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous: Alpro’s version of the popular nut milk is fortified to provide 15% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, vitamin D, E, B2 and B12. Cows’ milk has a better nutrient profile as it naturally provides double the amount of vitamin B12 and B2, and the same amount of calcium as almond milk. It’s also a good source of vitamin B1 and vitamin C and a modest source of vitamins E and A.

Winner: Cow’s milk. Although almond milk is lower in calories and slightly lower in sugar and fat, cows’ milk is a natural source of more vitamins, calcium and protein. In fact, almond milk is to cows’ milk what a dissolvable multivitamin is to a fresh fruit/vegetable smoothie. One is naturally crammed with goodness, while the other artificially mimics this goodness. If eating clean is important to you, the best option is quite clearly milk.

Worth the hype?

No. If you’re a fan of the popular nut milk because you like the taste and are on a dairy-free diet for personal or medical reasons then it could be a good fit for you. But if you’re adding it to your diet based on the belief that the drink boosts health, you’re wasting your money. There are much better dairy-free milk alternatives out there that actually benefit your health without artificial fortification, like coconut milk (which is naturally high in anti-bacterial agents, metabolism-boosting fatty acids and provides modest amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamin C). If you are a fan of almond milk, why not make your own at home and keep the pulp for cooking? By doing so you’ll still benefit from the fibre and nutrients in whole almonds, while enjoying the taste of the nut milk.

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sweet potato nutrition facts

Why Sweet Potatoes Are Not As Healthy As You Think

Sweet Potato

What is it?

A starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetable – which contrary to popular belief, is actually unrelated to its well-known rival, white potato. The bright orange variety is the best known type of sweet potato in the UK, but white, yellow, red and purple-fleshed varieties also exist.

Health claims?

  1. They are lower carb than white potatoes
  2. They are a great source of vitamin A, iron and other key vitamins and minerals
  3. Eating sweet potatoes can help fight the signs of skin ageing
  4. They can boost the immune system

The scientific facts

  • Sweet potatoes are a waist-friendly alternative to white potatoes, but that’s not due to a difference in carb content. Both types of potato have similar amounts of carbohydrates and sweet potatoes actually have five-times more sugar than white potatoes (which is why they taste sweeter).  Health claims that sweet potatoes are lower carb than white potatoes are based on their lower glycaemic index (as this study suggests). The carbs in sweet potatoes are more slowly broken down to sugar in the body than white potatoes, which means that the so-called superfood doesn’t raise blood sugar as high as ordinary potatoes.
  • Brightly-coloured sweet potato varieties are indeed a great source of beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium. And beta carotene has an important role in keeping your eyes working properly and supporting the immune system. As such, health claims that sweet potato can help ward off a cold are not as far-fetched as they may seem.
  • Studies, like this have shown that purple-fleshed varieties of sweet potato are high in health-boosting antioxidants, called anthocyanins, which, like the carotenoids found in the orange varieties of the sweet spud, help to protect against the effects of ageing and can lower the risk of developing certain types of cancers.

Nutritional facts – Sweet potato versus white potato

Many popular clean-eating and sugar-free diet plans recommend swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes. But is there really that much difference? Here’s how 100g of baked (orange-fleshed) sweet and white potato compare:

  • Kcals: Sweet potato 90 v white potato 93
  • Protein: Sweet potato 2g v white potato 2.5g
  • Carbohydrates: Sweet potato 21g v white potato 21g
  • Sugar: Sweet potato 6g v white potato 1.2g
  • Fibre: Sweet potato 3.3g v white potato 2.2g
  • Fat: Sweet potato 0.2g v white potato 0.1g
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous nutrients: Sweet potato has much more beta carotene (vitamin A) and twice as much calcium and vitamin C than white potato, but that’s its only edge. It’s higher in blood-pressure-raising sodium and lower in potassium, iron and magnesium.

Winner: Sweet potato – but only because its high antioxidant levels make the root vegetable superior at protecting against disease. However, as both have almost the same nutritional make-up, it’s a tie if both spuds are judged for their weight loss potential and general nutritional benefits.

Worth the hype?

Sort of. If you have to eat potatoes then sweet potatoes are the better alternative. However there are better (less calorific) food sources of the antioxidants that sweet potatoes provide – like carrots, bell peppers and berries.

(Photo credit: Dave Lifson via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC)

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wheat free spelt flour

The Wheat Free Flour That Tastes Like Wheat

Spelt Flour

What is it?

An ancient wheat crop that’s often described as a subspecies of the common wheat plant.

The health claims?

  1. Spelt is wheat free, making it suitable for people with wheat intolerances
  2. The grain is easy to digest and causes less bloating than common wheat
  3. Spelt is high in fibre and protein
  4. Foods made from spelt flour do not affect blood sugar as dramatically as refined wheat flour

The scientific facts?

  • It’s true, spelt is a wheat crop, but it does not contain the same type of wheat that’s used in food production today. The grain’s main health benefit is that it’s lower in gluten and is easier to digest than common wheat because its gluten is more soluble. This means that if you feel bloated after eating normal wheat, you may get digestive relief from making the switch to spelt. But take note: as spelt does contain some gluten, it’s not suitable for those with coeliac disease.
  • The recently revived superfood grain is indeed higher in protein than wheat. But health claims that it’s higher in fibre are only half true. Refined white spelt is not significantly higher in fibre than refined wheat flour, but wholegrain spelt flour is definitely a great source of fibre.
  • Studies show that wholegrain spelt flour has a lower glycaemic index than wholegrain wheat flour (because it contains more protein than wheat). As such, it causes a much smaller rise in blood sugar than wheat. However, that’s not the case if white spelt flour is used.

Nutritional facts – Wholegrain spelt versus wholegrain wheat

Most spelt fans like to use it instead of wheat, but is the dietary swap worthwhile? Here’s how 100g of each compares:

  • Kcals: Spelt 300 v wheat 340
  • Carbohydrate: Spelt 63.6g v wheat 72.5g
  • Sugar: Spelt 1.3g v wheat 0.4g
  • Fibre: Spelt 8.5g v wheat 12.2g
  • Protein: Spelt 14g v wheat 12g
  • Fat (unsaturated): Spelt 2.5g v wheat 1.8g
  • Miscellaneous vitamins and minerals: Wholegrain wheat is a good source of iron, 100g provides more than a quarter of the recommended daily intake of the mineral. It’s also a modest source of calcium. However, studies comparing spelt to wheat have shown that spelt is a better source of iron, vitamin B3, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and zinc. And it also contains less phytic acid – the anti-nutrient that blocks iron absorption in the body – than wheat.

Winner: Spelt flour. It’s lower in calories and carbs than wheat, and it’s higher in protein, fat (the ‘good’ unsaturated type) and an array of minerals. The only nutritional downside of spelt is that it is lower in fibre than whole-wheat and slightly higher in sugar. A bag of wholemeal spelt flour is just as inexpensive as wheat flour – costing £1.99 for a 500g in supermarkets. But watch out for some brands that seem to be taking advantage of spelt’s current superfood status by raising the price point to around £4.00 for 500g.

Worth the hype?  Yes. Spelt has a better nutritional profile than wheat, particularly its lower carb and calorie load and higher protein content. When this is considered alongside the trendy grain’s more soluble gluten structure – which makes it easier to digest than wheat – it seems that spelt may provide an ideal way for wheat avoiders to enjoy baked goods without the side effects of wheat.

Health tip: when swapping wheat flour for spelt in recipes, use 20% less flour than stated as spelt flour is drier than wheat.

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matcha tea health benefits

Matcha Tea: The Real Health Benefits

Match green tea

What is it?

A bright green powder obtained from grinding down organic green tea leaves.

The health claims?

  1. Matcha green tea is an excellent metabolism booster and fat burner
  2. It’s great for clearing acne
  3. Matcha green tea is an excellent anti-ageing drink
  4. The green superfood powder is an immune system booster and natural energiser

The scientific facts?

    • Matcha green tea is essentially a more potent and concentrated form of green tea. It provides drinkers with the nutrients from the entire leaf rather than tea-infused water. As such, it’s an excellent source of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – the molecule that research has shown boosts body metabolism and fat-burning. Studies, like this, have found that matcha green tea contains 137 times more EGCG than green tea.
      This is pretty significant because if you read this post on the fat-burning powers of green tea, you will have noticed that studies that link green tea with weight loss suggest that you need to drink a ton of green tea to get any noticeable benefit. In fact, this study showed that women did lose noticeable weight from green tea, but only when they consumed almost 900mg of EGCG – and you’ll need to drink around 12 cups of green tea to get this amount of EGCG. And to put the study findings into context the study participants actually lost an average of 1kg from drinking this high dose of ECGC for 12 weeks. Better than nothing, but not a lot to show for 12 weeks of guzzling green tea.

 

    • As the super tea is packed with antioxidants called catechins (EGCG is a type of catechin), which help to protect the body from damage caused by free-radical molecules that play a part in skin ageing, it’s unsurprising that studies have deduced that the drink can, at least in theory, help to keep skin wrinkle free.

 

    • And if that wasn’t enough, research also suggests that super-molecule EGCG can help clear up acne by reducing sebum (the oily substance produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands, which can block skin pores) production.

 

  • Although there is little evidence to prove that matcha legitimately boosts the immune system, science definitely supports health claims that the superfood drink is a natural energiser. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, green tea does contain caffeine (usually half that of black tea). A cup of matcha green tea made with one teaspoon of powder has just under a third of the caffeine in a single espresso shot (68 vs 212mg, respectively).

 

Nutritional facts – Matcha versus loose leaf green tea

It’s pretty clear that matcha green tea is a much stronger version of green tea, but to demonstrate the difference, here’s how one cup of matcha made with 1 teaspoon of powder (5g) compares with a cup of tea made with a teaspoon of loose leaf China Green Tips tea:

  • Kcals: Matcha green tea 15 v green tea 1
  • Protein: Matcha green tea 2g v green tea 0g
  • Carbohydrate: Matcha green tea 3g v green tea 0g
  • Fibre: Matcha green tea 3g v green tea 0g
  • Fat: Matcha green tea 0g v green tea 0g
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous: Green tea contains trace vitamins and minerals, but match green tea contains a small amount (around 1% of the recommended daily allowance) of iron and vitamin A. Matcha green tea is also much higher in caffeine than green tea, with around 70mg of caffeine in once cup versus 30mg in one cup of freshly brewed green tea.

Winner: Matcha green tea. Its EGCG levels are significantly higher than that of normal green tea and it’s this molecule that holds the key to matcha and green tea’s fat-burning, anti-ageing and disease-preventing health benefits.

Worth the hype? Yes, but be warned – matcha green tea is not cheap. A 30g packet costs around £15 and will last 1-2 weeks if you have half a teaspoon once or twice a day. You’ll also have to take it religiously for at least a couple of weeks to reap any acne-clearing benefit as it takes time for sebaceous glands to start reducing the amount of sebum produced.Match

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chia seeds health benefits

Why Chia Seeds Are A Big Diet Con

Chia seeds

What are they?

Chia seeds are tiny seeds from the flowering plant Salvia Hispanica – a member of the mint family. The seed, which is native to South America, is available in grey, white and black varieties.

The health claims?

  • They are one of the healthiest superfoods in the world
  • They are low calorie but packed full of nutrients
  • Eating them makes hair glossy and skin glow
  • They cause weight loss and protect against diabetes and heart disease

The scientific facts?

  • Chia seeds may be a bland tasting superfood, but there’s a lot of good stuff in them. A 25g handful contains almost a third of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium and manganese (for healthy bone and muscle function) the average person needs in a day, as well as notable amounts of B vitamins (for energy) and zinc (healthy immune system). With that said, these tiny seeds also contain high levels of phytic acid- a substance that prevents the body from being able to absorb the very minerals that chia seeds provide. What does this mean for the overall nutritional value of chia seeds? No-one actually knows because there’s a lack of research in this area.
  • What is clear, however, is that the trendy health food is good for healthy digestion because each seed is 50% fibre and they’re a good source of anti-oxidants.
  • With 122 kcals in every 25g handful, chia seeds aren’t as low calorie as some ‘experts’ would have you believe, but health claims that these super seeds are slimming are not totally unfounded. Studies, like this, have shown that chia seeds are not fat-burning or metabolism-boosting, but their high fibre content can make you feel fuller for longer. And this, at least in theory, may help you eat less overall and lose weight.
  • But what about those glossy hair and glowing skin claims? Those are based on the seeds’ great amino acid (protein) profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of healthy hair and skin, but once again there’s no scientific proof that the plant-based protein in chia seeds improves skin health or hair growth.
  • Chia seeds are also high in omega 3 oils as this study demonstrates, which may help protect against inflammation, heart disease and diabetes. But as the heart-healthy oils in these seeds are not in a form that is easy for the body to use, they may have little impact on heart disease, just as this study shows.

Nutritional facts – Chia seeds versus flaxseeds

Chia seeds have been called the new flaxseed, here’s how 100g of the two so-called superfoods compare:

  • Kcals: Chia seeds 486 v flaxseeds 534
  • Protein: Chia seeds 17g v flaxseeds 18g
  • Fibre: Chia seeds 34g v flaxseeds 27g
  • Fat: Chia seeds 31g v flaxseed 42g – but these are ‘good fats’
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous nutrients: Chia seeds are a better source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin C than flaxseeds. However, flaxseeds are higher in heart-healthy fats and lignans (a chemical thought to have anti-cancer properties).

Winner: Chia seeds have the edge, thanks to their higher fibre, calcium and vitamin content. However flaxseeds are a close contender with a better healthy fat profile.

Worth the hype?

It’s a shaky no. Despite their great reputation, a lot of health claims surrounding chia seeds are currently exaggerated and based on hearsay rather than facts. In addition, the seed’s high levels of the anti-nutrient phytic acid means that overall it may rob the body of minerals rather than nourish it. Adding the seeds to your diet certainly won’t hurt if you have a packet to hand, but proven sources of omega 3 oils, phosphorus and magnesium (such as almonds and oily fish) are more definite ways of ensuring you actually get the nutrients you’re after.

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kale nutritional facts

Kale: The Real Nutrition Facts

Kale

What is it?

A leafy green veg from the same family (Brassica oleracea) as cabbage and broccoli.

The health claims?

  1. Kale is a ‘super’ green that’s packed with vitamins (K, A and C), minerals (iron and manganese), antioxidants and fibre
  2. It’s the most nutritious green vegetable
  3. It can help prevent cancer

The scientific facts?

  • When eaten raw, kale is indeed a nutritional powerhouse. It’s high in vitamin K (for good blood clotting), A and C (1 cup of kale boasts more vitamin C than an orange and 10 times more than a cup of spinach), and a good source of manganese (for connective tissue formation), copper and calcium.
  • It’s not as high in iron as commonly believed, providing 1.5mg of iron per 100g bag of kale; spinach is a better source of iron at 2.7mg per 100g.
  • It’s high in antioxidants like beta carotene, vitamin C, flavonoids and polyphenols, but as this study demonstrates cooking kale dramatically reduces its nutritional value.
  • According to the US’s Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (a scoring system for the nutritional density of foods) kale is the most nutrient dense food, with a score of 1000 out of 1000 – strong evidence that it is deserving of its ‘most nutritious vegetable’ title. FYI: cola comes out as the least nutrient dense food with a score of 0.6!
  • Health claims that kale can help prevent (not cure) cancer are scientifically founded. Studies, like this one have found a positive correlation between eating cruciferous veg like kale, broccoli and cabbage and reduced cancer risk. But the reason why is still unclear.

Nutritional facts – Spinach versus kale

Spinach is kale’s better known rival in the superfood stakes. Here’s how 100g of each compares:

  • Kcals (per 100g): Kale 49 v Spinach 23
  • Vitamins: Kale is higher in vitamin A, C, K and all B vitamins
  • Minerals: Kale is lower in iron, potassium and magnesium than spinach, but higher in calcium.
  • Fibre: Spinach is slightly higher in fibre than kale.
  • Antioxidants: Both are high in carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamin C, but kale has more than spinach.

Winner: Kale – it’s higher in almost all of the nutrients that spinach is renowned for.

Worth the hype?

Yes – when eaten raw (that means those kale chips that have been baked are not worth the money or hype). An added bonus is that kale is cheaper to buy than spinach and other leafy veg, at around £1 per 200g bag.

The biggest downside of kale, however, is that it doesn’t taste all that great raw, and can cause trapped wind and constipation when introduced into the diet because it’s high in insoluble fibre. But it’s worth persevering as this kind of fibre is known to help reduce the risk of bowel conditions including cancer.

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