Basic nutrition: Protein

sources-protein-dieting

In this part of my guide to basic nutrition we’re going to take a look at protein and what role it has in our diets.

Protein is essential in our diets as we use it for growth, maintenance and the repair of body tissues. It is also a part of every living cell and some tissues, like skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and hair. The core of our bones and teeth are predominantly made from proteins. In addition to these structural roles, proteins perform an enormous variety of physiological functions inside the body. All enzymes are proteins, enzymes control both the rate and the pattern of all chemical reactions that take place in our bodies, including the digestion of food and the extraction of energy from it.

Some hormones are made up of protein too, these are chemical messengers that alter the normal physiological activity of cells within our bodies and cover a wide variety of functions, for example insulin is a hormone that controls blood glucose (sugar) levels in our blood stream. Antibodies are proteins too, they are produced by white blood cells and move directly into the blood stream to fight infections. Although not a primary source of energy, protein  is very important so you would think we would need a lot of it? But before we take a look at our protein requirements and sources of it, lets take a quick look at the structure of protein.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that routinely take part in the protein structure, eight of these are essential or primary amino acids. These amino acids must be provided in our diet, as the body is unable to manufacture them. The remaining 12 are called non-essential or secondary amino acids because if they are in short supply our bodies can easily make them. Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids all linked together and usually wrapped around each other to form a tangled ball. This long chain protein structure is broken down during digestion into amino acids. The amino acids are then transported around the body and used to build and repair body tissue, build enzymes, hormones and antibodies.

When our bodies require an amino acid for a particular job it can synthesis or make a new protein by looking around for the right amounts of each of the component amino acids. One major source is old proteins that are no longer in use. These are simply recycled to make new ones. When a non-essential amino acid is in short supply, the cell will simply make what it needs. However, when an essential amino acid is missing, the protein cannot be made until a new source is supplied from our diet. So although we need to eat protein on a daily basis to keep our cells topped up with all the amino acids, we need to pay particular attention to sources of the essential ones. The food we eat gives us complete or incomplete proteins, complete proteins come mostly from meat, but also from soy protein and quinoa (to name some veggy alternatives), and incomplete proteins come from plants. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you can easily get your protein requirements from a variety of vegetables which should be included in every diet, whether veggy, vegan or meat eater.

beans-protein

Lets now move onto sources of protein. Protein is plentiful in the British diet, whatever your diet is, you will easily be able to consume enough protein. Like the other macro nutrients, we need to eat them in moderation and make the right choices according to our lifestyles. If you eat animal products you will find protein in red meat, meat based products, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. Protein is also found in not so familiar sources including, bread, rice, barley, quinoa, whole grains, beans, lentils, legumes, tofu, soya, nuts, seeds, nut butters, hemp seeds, broccoli and avocados. It’s always good to mix up your protein sources and vary  your diet. Whatever your protein requirements are, you can easily get the right amount from a varied diet. Normal everyday people to top class athletes have all survived and thrived on animal and plant based diets.

source-of-high-protein

Which leads me to protein requirements, unless there is insufficient carbohydrate stores protein will not be used as a primary source for energy production. As we know, protein turnover in the body is continual and there usually is a large pool of amino acids available for protein synthesis, so dietary protein needs on a daily basis are actually quite small. Protein requirements per day are 0.8g per kg of body weight, this is equivalent to 10-15% of total calories. Again, this is a guideline figure for the majority of the population. As with other nutrients, this can vary with activity levels or with what your lean muscle mass is.

Research has shown that there are no health or performance benefits in taking in more protein than you actually need, our bodies only use the required amount of protein in relation to the demands put on it for growth, repair and maintenance. Surplus protein in our diets could cause any of the following:

  • May contribute to reduced bone density by increasing urinary calcium excretion (Hypercalciuria)
  • The nitrogen containing element of protein is converted to urea in the liver and excreted in the urine
  • High protein intakes have been shown to be dangerous for individuals with kidney and liver disease and may lead to problems following long term over consumption
  • A high protein intake can lead to the accumulation of ammonia in the blood which is toxic, particularly to brain cells
  • Excess protein (if it contributes to more energy than the body needs) is stored as fat and this can lead to obesity

A high intake from animal products is associated with high intakes of saturated fat and therefore, increases cholesterol and circulating LDL (low density lipoproteins) levels. In turn this may lead to the development of coronary heart disease (CHD)

If you eat meat, it’s OK if your consumption is a little higher than needed every now and again. However, if  you consistently consume considerably more than 10-15% of your calorie intake as protein, you could increase your health risks.

Deficiencies in protein or one or more of the essential amino acids are very rare in developed countries. But deficiencies will lead to a reduction of growth in children or muscle loss in adults.

Always feel free to comment and ask questions.

Basic nutrition: Water

Hydration-water-bottle1

Why is it so important for us to drink and stay hydrated?  How much water should we be drinking each day?  As we go about our daily lives things like eating and drinking can sometimes become automatic for us, how often do we step back and think about how much food and drink we actually consume?

We often talk about food and its nutritional values, but we seldom talk about water or how much we drink. Maybe it’s because its clear, tasteless and boring? But the truth is water is so vital to our health and well-being, that our water intake should be given some serious thought. Here are some examples of how our bodies use water:

  • Simply keeping us alive requires chemical reactions to take place within our bodies, water is needed for every single one to take place. The water content in each cell needs to be kept consistently between very narrow limits, so that our metabolisms and all other body functions e.g. digestion, remain efficient.
  • It plays a vital role in temperature regulation. It distributes heat around the body from places where it is produced such as an exercising muscle, to cooler places like the skin’s surface as we sweat.
  • 60-70% of our bodies are water. Water is the base fluid of blood which transports nutrients, oxygen, vitamins and minerals to where they are required. It also takes waste products away to the excretory organs.

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Hydration requirements vary from person to person and will depend on your diet and daily energy expenditure. To get an idea of how much we need to drink each day, we must first look at our water inputs and outputs.

Water Inputs

Water inputs can come from other sources other than drinking. Some of our water intake can come from the foods we eat, for example fruit and vegetables have a very high water content. Its been estimated that a well-balanced diet can provide an estimated 1-1.5 litres of water this way. To put that into perspective, it is said that a typical mixed diet in the UK is low in fruit and vegetables, and its been estimated that this particular diet will only provide 0.3 litres. Not only is that diet missing 1-2 litres of water a day, it’s also missing the nutrients, fibre, vitamins and minerals that vegetables and fruit can give.

Water Outputs

We lose water from our bodies in several ways throughout the day. Breathing, sweating and excretion of waste products are all ways we lose water.

Examples of bodily functions and estimated water losses in litres:

Urine – 1.20

Faeces – 0.75

Sweat – 0.40

Breathing – 0.15

Those outputs alone would total 2.50 litres of water. If you were to carry out any physical activities like walking or exercising the output will again go up. So you can see how difficult it can be to come to a good daily intake figure as to the amount we should drink. Unfortunately thirst cannot be used as an accurate indicator. This is because thirst is a response to dehydration, and we should try to avoid going that far. The body cannot predict what will happen to its water content in the immediate future so by the time you feel thirsty you could already be dehydrated. A good indicator of hydration levels is the colour of our urine:

Clear – Hydrated

Very pale yellow – Hydrated

Pale yellow – Hydrated

Yellow – Mild dehydration

Dark yellow – Dehydrated

Dehydration can have some very noticeable consequences.

  • A loss of 3% of body fluids results in a reduction in blood volume and blood flow, insufficient kidney function, a measurable reduction in performance and symptoms such as a dry mouth and headaches etc.
  • A 4% loss could would mean the capacity for intense physical exercise declining by 20-30%
  • A 5% loss could result in heat exhaustion, which will require medical help.
  • At 7% function becomes severely affected and you could start to hallucinate.
  • And finally a 10% fluid loss  will lead to heat stroke, circulatory collapse and death.

Can we drink too much?

Very rarely if we drink too much water too quickly a condition called Hyponatremia can be brought on. But this is very rare and usually  our bodies excrete any excess fluid.

hydration_header

Our bodies can also be forced into excreting water, this happens when we consume diuretics.

Diuretics are substances which encourage net water loss from the body. The most common examples are drinks containing caffeine  and alcohol. If you drink alcohol you may have already felt the effects of a diuretic, remember that horrible feeling a hangover gives you, a dry mouth, headaches and nausea, these symptoms are consistent with a 3% loss of bodily fluids. Tea and coffee are OK in moderation as they are usually accompanied with lots of water in your cup. Fizzy drinks and alcohol are best avoided or consumed in moderation, both are very calorie dense and consumed on a regular basis will make a major contribution to fat gain.

How much should we be drinking?

 Women should be looking at consuming around 2 litres of water per day, men should be consuming around 3 litres. I usually have a bottle of water with me throughout the day and drink small amounts at regular intervals.  Years ago I drank nothing but coke, I never realised the damage I was causing to my insides, but water seemed so bland. Once I switched to drinking water I felt better and my skin  transformed so I never looked back. Now water tastes amazing and I very rarely drink anything else. Give it a go for a few weeks and see how you feel, let me know if you feel any different, I’d be interested in your feedback.

Feel free to leave any comments or ask any questions.

COMPETION TIME

I started personal training to help people achieve their health and fitness goals, from building strength to gaining confidence.

I would like to give away 5 personal training sessions worth £160 to one lucky person. You will get the usual great service from Positive Outlook Personal Training, including personalised plan and nutritional advice, custom workouts etc.

If you would like to enter or know someone who would benefit from this offer all you have to do is:
1-Like my Positive Outlook Personal Training Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PositiveOutlookTraining
2-Share the post
3-Put *I’m ready*in the comments
4-Be local or can travel to Bury St Edmunds for training

That’s all, no catches or contacts!

The winner will be picked at random when the page gets 70 likes. Already liked my page? You can still enter, just miss out step one.

Good luck and hopefully I’ll see you soon

Thanks and good luck!

Facebook link is at the top right of page.

The history of kettlebells.

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They look like cannon balls with handles and you may have seen someone swinging them around at the gym, but where did kettlebells come from?

Kettlebells have been around for centuries, The word girya (meaning kettlebell) was first seen in the Russian dictionary in 1704. Back then kettlebells were used to measure the weight of grain and other foods. People at fairs and festivals would show off their strength by swinging and lifting them, they soon realised the health and strength building benefits of using kettlebells.

History_of_Girya

On August 10th 1885, which is considered to be the birthday of weightlifting in Russia, a weight training hall was opened. They were serious about muscular development and needed someone with a science background to devise ways to achieve this, the man behind training the athletes was called Vladislav Kraevsky. The programmes he prescribed paid close attention to skill development, loading and correct breathing techniques, with athletes training three times a week executing one and two-handed presses, the snatch, clean and presses. Traditional kettlebell training became popular with people in rural areas, the military and Olympic athletes. In addition to their training programmes, Soviet Olympic weightlifters would use kettlebells unilaterally to help develop their weaker sides. Even to this day kettlebells are still used for supplementing the training of many athletes and the armed forces.

In 1948 an all-union competition was held in Moscow, entrants were winners from republican competitions and came from all 15 soviet republics. The two kettelbell events held were snatch and jerk, and at the time pressing and push pressing were allowed in the jerk, but these are no longer allowed. Other than that there were no rules and no time limits.

Russian_stamps_no_534_—_Dumb-bell_lifting

In 1962 kettlebell sport or girevoy sport rules and weight classes were established and athletes competed in the triathlon, this consisted of the press, jerk and snatch. There were no time limits so contestants would stay on the platform for 40 minutes plus!!! A long time to be continuously lifting and I would imagine quite boring for the spectators!

1974 saw Girevoy sport officially declared the ethnic sport of Russia, and very soon after this it became part of the United all State Association of the USSR. In 1985 the committee of kettlebell sport was established along with official rules, regulations and weight catagories, also included was the prestigious master of sport award. In the same year the first kettlebell sport championships were held in Lipetsk, Russia. In 1989 the long cycle (clean and press) were introduced, and the last major rule change was put in place, the competition time on the platform was limited to 10 minutes.

Today there are three main events in Girevoy sport, the jerk, long cycle and snatch, with men using two kettlebells and women using only one. In the jerk athletes are required to clean the ketttlebell(s) to the chest once, and then jerk them overhead as many times as possible. The long cycle requires the athlete to clean the kettlebell(s) prior to each jerk performed. The snatch is the only event where both sexes use one kettlebell, it is performed by swinging the kettlebell between the legs before brining it up to the overhead position in one uninterrupted motion. Athletes in events using one kettlebell are only permitted to switch hands once in the competition time frame. The kettlebell weights used in competitions range from 8-32kg.

 MALE DIVISIONS

Amateur adults (any age) 12kg or 16kg

Pro adults (any age) 24kg or 32kg

Juniors (up to 14) 12kg

Juniors (up to 16) 12kg or 16kg

Juniors (up to 18) 12kg, 16kg or 24kg

Masters (40+) 16kg

Seniors (55+) 12kg

FEMALE DIVISIONS

Amateur adult (any age) 8kg, 12kg or 16kg

Pro adult (any age) 20kg or 24kg

Juniors (up to 14) 8kg

Jumiors (up to 16) 8kg or 12kg

Juniors (up to 18) 8kg, 12kg or 16kg

Masters (40+) 12kg

Seniors (55+) 8 kg

Today, kettlebell sport is practiced all over the world and is growing very rapidly. The sport is very technical with professional  athletes lifting a total of over 7 tonnes during  their 10 minute competition sets, this requires a certain type of special strength endurance which is quite unlike any other sport.

Here are some leading authorities in kettlebell sport:

http://www.iksfa.com

http://www.girevoysportunion.wordpress.com

http://www.worldkettlebellclub.com

http://www.egsa.eu

From starting off as a unit for measuring produce, kettlebells are now common place in many gyms around the world. Aside from the sport side of kettlebells more and more people are realising the benefits of using them in their workout programmes, and seeing results faster than they would with traditional machine or cardio type training sessions. Part of the reason why kettlebells are so effective comes from the shape of the kettlebell. When held in the hand the bells centre of mass hangs below the hand, unlike the dumbell for example, where its centre of mass hangs directly in the hand. This makes the kettlebell very unstable when in use, which in turn makes it harder to control, making your body work harder as you try to control its movements.

Some of the benefits of kettlebell training: 

  • Improve strength
  • Weight loss
  • Injury prevention
  • Mental toughness
  • Improve work capacity (strength endurance)
  • Strengthen posterior chain
  • Improve posture
  • Improve core strength
  • Enhance athleticism – flexibility, coordination, balance, etc.

The other great thing about kettlebells is that they are very portable and you don’t need a gym to use them, you can train with them at home, in the park or take them to work. You can easily put them into any existing  programme that you may have or even replace an exercise with a kettlebell move, for example you could replace a dumbbell military  press with a kettlebell press from the rack position to work the shoulder muscles from a different angle.

As with most exercises injuries can happen when bad techniques are used and kettlebells are no different. It is really important to get advice from an expert, you can find advice from the links I have included above or you can find a trainer in your area accredited with a qualification with one of the above organisations.

 I am more than happy to help with any questions that you may have about kettlebells, please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

girevoy-sport

Basic nutrition:Carbohydrates.

carbohydrates Carbohydrates, why are they so important? and how do our bodies use them?

The main function of carbohydrates are to provide us with energy. Most of the cells in our bodies can use a mixture of  fat and carbs for energy (and protein when carbs/fat supply is limited). When we have consumed carbohydrates they are converted into glucose in our digestive system where it is absorbed into our blood streams. When exercise intensity is high our bodies start to use more carbohydrates for faster muscle contraction. 

So how many carbohydrates should we consume daily? Everyone is different, take work for example, some people sit at a desk all day (low energy requirements) and some people are very active at work (higher energy requirements). For most people 50-60% of your daily calorie (food) intake should come from carbohydrates. 
          Carbohydrates come in different forms, some are good for us and some are not so good for us. The two main types of carbohydrates are simple carbs/sugars and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates are a quick release energy source for us, they don’t  keep us full for very long and soon leave us craving more food, usually simple carbs. This is why you shouldn’t go food shopping when you are feeling hungry, you are more likely to choose simple carbs, as your body is looking for a quick energy source. Foods containing Simple carbohydrates include table sugar, white bread, sweets, energy drinks, soft drinks and fruit. Yes fruit is classed as a simple carb. The thing that sets fruit apart from other simple carbs is that most fruit contains plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals, so eaten in moderation fruit is good for us.
           Complex carbohydrates are more likely to keep us feeling fuller for longer as they release energy much slower. Complex carbs are much better for us to consume, and are included in foods such as whole grain breads and pastas, oats, barley, potatoes, rice, peas, lentils and vegetables. These will be the right food choices for you whatever your goals are, from general health and fitness to becoming a serious athlete.
Complex-Carbohydrates

Even though we have different types of carbs, they provide the same amount of energy per gram which is 4kcals. They will also both convert into glucose, which is then released into our blood streams for transportation around the body. You may have heard of GI or the glycemic index? This is a ranking system that is given to foods containing carbohydrates and the effect they have on our blood sugar (glucose) levels. Simple carbs will be broken down very quickly during digestion and released into the blood stream very fast, this will make our blood sugar levels raise very high, very quickly. In the GI ranking these will be given a high GI rating. Complex carbs on the other hand have the opposite effect. When digested they will be released into the blood stream slowly, keeping blood sugar levels lower. These types of carbs are given a low GI rating.

The GI index is based on the effect that 50g’s worth of  food containing carbohydrates has on the body. Low GI food is 55 and under, medium GI foods are 55-69, and high GI foods are 70 and above.

Remember that if in doubt about which foods to buy, always go for natural foods. Generally, if it’s made by the earth eat it and if it’s made by man leave it out. Nature has given us food which is naturally low on the glycemic index, where as man-made, pre-packaged food is full of additives, flavourings and sweeteners that we don’t need. When choosing foods containing carbohydrates choose whole grain products and pulses where the grain is intact, for example – high fibre, whole grain breads, cereals, brown or wild rice. Also vary your diet with grains such as barley, quinoa and spelt as opposed to wheat based products such as white bread, white pasta and cous cous.

Nutrition is easier than you might think, always remember to look at the ingredients, if there’s lots, leave it. If it’s short, eat it! And always make small changes to your diet, you’ll be more likely to achieve a healthier diet if you take it one step at a time. 

Please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.

Basic Nutrition: Fat

Fat

In this part of my guide to basic nutrition we’re going to be taking a look at fat and it’s role in our diets. Dietary fat is still a subject of much debate, many people will have you believe that fat is very bad for you, but not all fats are bad and some are essential in our diets. Here are some reasons why we need fat:

  • Fat provides us with thermoregulation (temperature control).
  • It provides energy, 1 gram of fat will gives us 9kcals of energy.
  • Growth, development and repair of body tissues. Cell membranes surrounding our body cells consist of a double layer of fat and protein, Fats in our skin are responsible for radiant complexions and keep our hair looking sleek and glossy.
  • In women it provides the storage for, and modification of reproductive hormones particularly oestrogen. This takes place in the adipose tissue or body fat. If the percentage of body fat drops too low, reproductive function can be compromised. Oestrogen is also responsible for stimulating the activity of bone making cells. In the absence of oestrogen, rates of bone breakdown exceed rates of bone growth, which could increase risk the of osteoporosis.
  • Provides a good supply of essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega 3 and Omega 6.

So we can see that dietary fat is important, next we will take a look at the different types of fat we consume.

Saturated fat:

Mainly comes from animal sources (with the exception of palm oil and coconut oil). Examples of saturated fat include butter, lard, fat in meat and meat products.

Polyunsaturated fats:

Mainly come from non-animal sources. Examples include sunflower oil, vegetable oil and nuts.

 Mono-unsaturated fats:

These also come mainly from non-animal sources, which include olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, rapeseed and almond oil.

good fats

A diet high in saturated fat is linked to plaque formation on artery walls and increased levels of  low density lipoproteins. (LDL’s which are included in your total cholesterol level.) This could lead to cardiovascular disease.

There are certain types of polyunsaturated fats that are essential to the human body. The term ‘essential’ means that they cannot be manufactured in the body, they have to be provided in our diets. They are called EFAs or essential fatty acids. These EFAs are Omega 3 and Omega 6, or n-3 and n-6. They should make up approximately 2% of our daily fat intake.

The role of EFAs include:

  • Protection against heart disease (control of blood pressure).
  • Prevention of blood clots.
  • Beneficial effect on lipo profiles (cholesterol level).
  • Reduction of inflammation in arthritis and asthma.
  • Enhanced transport of oxygen by red blood cells.
  • Enhances immune responsiveness.
  • Maintenance of the quality of membranes and therefore may give some protection against the ageing process.

Omega 6 fats are found in a number of plant sources, such as evening primrose oil, nuts, seeds, soya bean or corn oil. Omega 3 fats are commonly found in fish oil, but this is not the only source. If you do not like  fish or follow a vegetarian/vegan diet, Omega 3 fats are also present in, flax seed, rapeseed oil, canola oil and walnut oil.

Good fats

Another type of fat worth mentioning is hydrogenated fat or trans fats, these are bad fats and should be avoided! A man-made fat, trans fats are made by adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated liquid fat which gives it the appearance and characteristics of a solid saturated fat. Hydrogenated fats are thought to be even worse than naturally occurring saturated fats in terms of health risks. Look out for this fat on food product labels, particularly margarines, baked products and many processed meals. They are used in food manufacturing because they are inexpensive compared to a more naturally occurring solid fat.

So how much fat should we be consuming in our diets? The recommendations for the average person are as follows:

Saturated fat - approximately 11% of total kcal intake.

Monounstaurated fat - approximately 13% of total kcal intake.

Polyunsaturated fat – approximately 6.5% of total kcal intake.

Approximate total fat intake should be 30% (no more than 35%)

Health risks of a diet high in fat are obesity and coronary heart disease (CHD)

There are some health risks of  having a low fat content in our diets. Some early signs of a deficiency would be that skin and hair condition would deteriorate. It is also possible that intakes of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) would be compromised. Additionally you may find hormone imbalances, impaired immunity and skin conditions. It is vitally important to have fats in our diets. Experts say that if your fat intake is below 25% permanently it would not be healthy. If your diet is low in fat try to have a week at regular intervals where you eat a few high fat snacks. Again, nutritional figures can only be approximate as everyone has different requirements, but they are a good baseline to work from.

As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave comments.

Basic nutrition:Understanding food labels.

ImageEvery second of the day our bodies require energy to operate and to keep us alive. Things that we don’t always think about like our hearts beating and breathing, they all require energy. That energy is derived from the food and drink that we consume everyday. Whether you participate in some form off physical activity or not, the food that you are consuming should be given some special attention. After all, we only get one body during our lives, and we should feed it with the best possible food/fuel that we can afford, more so if we are involved in any type of physical activity. We give a lot of time to our chosen activity/sport, which transforms our bodies and makes them more efficient inside and out. Sometimes though we forget about what we are putting inside our bodies, with a healthy balanced diet free of highly processed foods our bodies will become even more efficient. The right eating habits can not only help us perform better, but will also help lift our moods, improve skin complexion, help our brains function better and even handle stress better, the list goes on. Pair great eating habits with some form of physical activity and you can feel on top of the world, it really is that great!

In the first part of my basic nutritional advice, before I write about carbs, proteins and fats, I’d like to start with food labels. They are full of information, but do we fully understand them? At present laws concerned with food labelling are being reviewed and streamlined, but here is some basic information about the labels on our food.

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By law food labels have to contain the following:

  • Product name – the law states that the food name “shall be sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food”. In other words, when you buy a strawberry yoghurt, it is reasonable to expect it will contain strawberries. As strawberry is in the product name the yoghurt by law must contain real fruit, but the law does not state how much fruit. This means that some manufacturers can put small amounts of fruit in their yoghurt’s and fill the rest of the product up with artificial flavourings!
  • The weight of the product.
  • An indication of minimum durability, a best before date – Foods that could be a danger to heath must have a use before date e.g. milk.
  •  Place of origin - A product is required to specify it’s place of origin, especially if the name or trademark is misleading.
  • Nutritional information – Nutritional information must be given when a product states it is, for example low in fat or high in fibre, at present it is not a legal obligation to print nutritional information on a food label. If a manufacturer does provide the information, it must have one of two standard lists. Either a basic label that shows energy, protein, carbs and fat or a full list of ingredients. The nutritional breakdown should be for a 100g/100ml serving.
  • Pictures - Pictures on the label must be honest and not misleading.
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMO) – Products containing or produced using GMO technology must be identified on the label. But foods which are produced using GM enzymes and animals fed on GM animal feed do not need to be labelled!

Some food manufactures and supermarkets have adopted the food standard agencies traffic light labelling system. This gives us a quick visual representation of the proportions of nutrition in a food product. However it is important to note that foods which appear red under the traffic light system do not have to be avoided completely, a good example would be nuts. Under the traffic light system they would be labelled red as they are very high in fat, however all fats are necessary in our diet but must be eaten in moderation. I will be writing in more detail about fats in another post, as well as carbs and protein.

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You may also see things like GDA, RDI and RDA, what do these mean?

  • GDA (general daily amounts) - These are a guide as to how many calories and nutrients we can consume for a healthy, balanced diet.
  • RDA (recommended daily or dietary amounts) - This is the quantity of a particular nutrient which should be consumed daily to maintain good health.
  • RDI (recommended daily intakes) - The amount of nutrients needed by a healthy person. RDI is based on the  older RDA values.

So now you are armed with some basics about food labelling, next time you’re out shopping take a little time to read some food labels, it can be quite interesting! Remember to always read the label but don’t take it at face value. Some descriptions aren’t regulated by food labelling laws, these include light or lite, premium, pure, fresh or natural. They can be used by manufacturers without having any legal implications. Before I finish, look out for labels claiming to be “low fat” this generally means there is less than 3g of fat per 100g, but “low fat” spreads are an exception, they are governed by EU regulations. These are allowed to contain 40 per cent fat , which is more than whipping cream!

It may sound like a food minefield out there but it really is OK, if your ever in doubt about what food you’re buying always remember that generally the less ingredients there are on a label, the better that food will be. Try to avoid ingredient lists that are super long.

Please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments below.

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