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FAQ’s with a Dietitian

Updated: Jan 23

Do carbs make you gain weight?

Losing weight is about the big picture. We can’t really place the blame on a single food or nutrient (in this case, carbs). Water is used to store carbs in our body. In fact for every 1g of carbohydrate stored by our body, around 3g of water is stored. This means that if we cut carbs, we lose water weight and we would see this reflected on the scales. Once you inevitably start eating carbs again (because it’s not realistic, enjoyable or necessary to avoid them forever) we will regain that weight back. It’s also important to note that carbohydrates are our body’s preferred source of fuel and many carbohydrate sources are incredibly important to include in our diet, particularly as a pre-workout snack. Try to opt for less processed grain foods e.g. wholegrain bread, rice, quinoa, etc. over lollies and cakes and biscuits and your body will thank you. Do I need to take vitamins? Vitamins should be seen as a supplement. This means they should supplement your diet where needed. For example, if you’re deficient in iron, that means your diet is not providing you with enough iron. Obviously, it’d be best to optimise your diet to ensure you’re including enough iron, but if that’s not enough, then there is a definite place for vitamins. Simply taking vitamins because your hairdresser or favourite influencer told you to, is a waste of time and money. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They hold on to what they need and have adequate stores as backup. If your storage levels are full, you’ll just excrete (wee out) the excess. So without a deficiency, you’re just creating expensive wee. Worryingly though, there are some instances where our body is unable to get rid of excess vitamins and in severe cases, taking these vitamins when not needed can lead to toxicity. Remember this; supplement companies have a lot to gain from us believing we need to take vitamins daily. Should I use protein powder? Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle and assists in muscular recovery post-exercise. This makes protein an important part of anyone’s diet, particularly athletes and those who are working to build their muscle mass and/or strength. Protein powder is definitely not necessary. As with all things diet-related – protein-rich foods should be your first choice, however, if you have high protein requirements, or struggle to eat enough protein, then protein powder may be useful for you. • Is dairy bad for you? The rise in popularity of dairy alternatives like soy milk, almond milk and oat milk might leave you wondering “is dairy bad for me?” Alternative health proponents will tell you that dairy causes inflammation but the research just doesn’t support this. In fact, the overwhelming majority of high-quality research (and no, this research wasn’t funded by “big dairy”) shows that dairy actually has significant anti-inflammatory properties. Obviously, if you’re lactose intolerant, have ethical issues with dairy or just simply don’t like dairy - then it’s ok to avoid, but be sure to swap out your dairy with a milk alternative that is fortified with at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL to protect your bones. But please don’t cut out dairy because some celebrity chef or wellness influencer said so. • Does soy give you cancer? Or can it give me man boobs? So apparently dairy is bad (it’s not, read the last question to find out why), so you make the switch to soy, but apparently soy gives you cancer and now you’re confused. The nutrition world can be a scary and overwhelming space so hopefully, I’m clarifying it a bit for you. Now back to soy. Can it give you cancer or man boobs? The myth is that there is a component in soy (isoflavones for those interested) that has a similar chemical structure to oestrogen, allowing it to bind to oestrogen receptors in our body. This leads people to believe that soy can give you cancer or man boobs. Now for the science: there are actually different types of oestrogen receptors in our body and isoflavones bind to different receptors than the hormone oestrogen, meaning that no, they don’t have these man-boob-causing side effects. There are many nuances with soy, so please consult a dietitian or GP for personalised advice, but as with everything moderation is key here. • Should I avoid gluten? There are very small subsets of the population who should avoid gluten. They include people who are allergic to gluten (those with coeliac disease) and people who are intolerant/sensitive to gluten (please don’t diagnose yourself with gluten intolerance. A dietitian will be able to help you). Gluten is not a harmful substance for the rest of the population. In fact, gluten-free diets tend to be less nutritious and lower in fibre. I often hear of people cutting out gluten as a way of losing weight. In practice, cutting out gluten may elicit a weight loss response, but in this case, it isn’t the avoidance of gluten that is causing the weight loss, but rather the removal of many high-calorie foods, resulting in a calorie deficit. There are much healthier (and more enjoyable) ways of losing weight. All in all, if you want to lose weight, then cutting out gluten is not the answer. If you believe gluten is the underlying cause of your symptoms, seek professional help before cutting it out of your diet. • Are fresh vegetables better than frozen? It’s important to note that around 6% of Australians eat the recommended intake of vegetables every day. That’s not a great statistic. I would encourage everyone to simply eat more vegetables, whether they be fresh, frozen or canned. If you’re interested in the nuances of fresh vs frozen, then keep reading. Many people believe that fresh is best and that because frozen vegetables undergo processing, they’re not as rich in nutrients. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Produce that is intended to be frozen, will be harvested at its peak ripeness, blanched at high temperatures for a short time to kill harmful microbes and then snap frozen. Whilst frozen, this produce maintains its nutritional quality for many months. Studies have consistently shown that there aren’t any significant differences in the nutrient density or quality of fresh and frozen vegetables. So in summary, purchase the vegetables that are available to you, fit into your budget and are enjoyable to you. • Fruit has Sugar in it. So I don’t eat it.. Not so much a question but more of a statement that is often quoted to me. I just want you to remember that there is no good or bad food. Food is food. Of course, there are foods that are more nutritious that should be eaten in abundance and foods that are less nutritious that should be eaten in small amounts some of the time, but try to move away from labelling foods as good or bad. Now when it comes to fruit and sugar, we need to remember that fruit contains more than just sugar, it also contains an abundance of nutrients and fibre which are all beneficial to our health. Everyone should aim to consume 2 servings of fruit per day (1 serve = 1 piece of fruit or 1 cup of fruit). On the flip side, when we think about foods such as lollies and chocolate, we know that these foods contain lots of added sugar and very little nutrients. The key message: yes fruit contains sugar, but it also contains lots of nutrients that are beneficial to our health. As with everything in life: too much of anything isn’t great. It’s the dose that makes the ‘poison’. A diet containing a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, protein foods and dairy/dairy alternatives with a side of less nutritious (but definitely delicious) foods, is the best approach. Go easy on the salt, drink plenty of water and understand that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to nutrition. If someone tries to tell you that carbs are bad, dairy makes calcium leech out of your bones or that gluten is inflammatory - run away (or send them a link to this post). My advice: for more information and FAQ's about nutrition, and before cutting out foods from your diet, seek advice from a certified dietitian or a trusted medical professional. Not Google, not your hairdresser and not your well-meaning friend. @kaitlinellis_dietitian

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