No, dairy is not bad for you, nor does it contain pus or antibiotics. The decision of whether to include dairy produce in your diet should more appropriately be informed by your own ethical framework, not a fear mongered response to misinformation. Be careful not to conflate an objective assessment of the health effects of the food group with moral/ethical considerations for whether you would include it in your diet. There are a range of health benefits to dairy, and this can be acknowledged even in the context of choosing not to consume it based on your personal beliefs. Dairy is not inherently ‘bad’ for you, because food doesn’t have moral value, it has nutritional value. Should you choose to consume it, the nutritional value of the food group is beneficial, and healthy.
You can eat any food. You can also choose to, or not to, within the context of your own ethical framework. Taking the totality of evidence together, it might be prudent to limit the amount processed meats in your diet. The role of unprocessed red meat, on the other hand, may be dependent on the wider diet pattern as a whole (i.e., in the context of a wider diet pattern with plenty of fibre (vegetables, fruit, wholegrain), and unsaturated fats. The other consideration here is environmental, and there is a high cost to the production and global consumption of meat. Like a lot of answers in nutrition, it's nuanced.
Around 1-2% of the population have a diagnosed autoimmune condition known as Coeliac Disease, and for this subset of the population even trace amounts of gluten will cause a reaction. There is emerging evidence of a ‘Non-Coeliac Wheat Sensitivity’, but it is difficult to estimate prevalence Unless you have a diagnosis of Coeliac, or NCWS, there is no evidence-based reason to avoid gluten. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may find benefit to a dietitian-led low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP is the acronym for a group of a particular type of carbohydrates, which are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. The gas production as a byproduct, and distension of the gut as a result, may be an underlying driver of symptoms in a subset of people with IBS. As gluten and FODMAPs may be commonly found in the same foods – for example bread – people with IBS may often believe they are gluten intolerant, when in fact it is more particularly FODMAPs causing these issues. Don’t guess on any of this: if you’re having serious gut issues, see an appropriately qualified nutrition professional to work through it, and get off Dr Google.
You’re not alone, this issue has been muddied recently. However, we have a consistent body of evidence showing that where saturated fats are reduced from higher levels in the diet and replaced with unsaturated fats and wholegrain carbohydrates, heart disease risk and mortality is reduced. This is supported by evidence of overall diet patterns, which reflect this overall balance: lower total saturated fat, higher unsaturated fats, wholegrain and high fibre carbohydrates. While there is nothing wrong with any single food that contains saturated fat in the context of an overall diet pattern, the totality of evidence supports that a diet high in total energy from saturated fat increases heart disease risk. We discuss the confusion, and the evidence, extensively in the Eduction Hub.
Dietary cholesterol, i.e., the cholesterol founds in foods like eggs, of shellfish, is less of an overall concern. The concern over dietary cholesterol originated from early feeding studies looking at impacts of diet on blood cholesterol levels, however, the foods used were foods high in saturated fat or were in animal models highly responsive to dietary cholesterol. However, we now know that the cholesterol-raising effect in humans is primarily from the saturated fat content of foods. Certain foods that are high in dietary cholesterol, like eggs or shellfish, are low in saturated fat, and together with poor absorption of dietary cholesterol, do not have the same negative impact on blood cholesterol levels. Medical conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia are a different consideration, and such conditions require medical supervision.
No, it is not toxic. Nor is a 'detox' from sugar required, ever. The pertinent questions are what quantity of added sugar is in the diet, and what is being displaced in the diet from those food sources of added sugar. What do we mean by ‘added sugar’? The sugars naturally found in fruit or milk excepted from the definition of 'added' or 'free' sugars. Sugars added to foods like soda’s, candy/jellies, refined baked goods [including cereals], etc., are considered 'added sugars'. Profoundly negative impacts of high sugar diets may be seen when 20% of energy is derived from added sugars, and limits have been placed in the UK for 5% energy from added sugars, 10% in the US.
However, limits as a percentage are unhelpful, so let’s come back to diet as a whole: if foods like fruit, vegetables, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates are being displaced from the diet in favour of refined breakfast cereals, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined baked goods, then the overall diet pattern can be improved by replacing these foods with wholegrain versions, fruits, and nutrient-dense unrefined starches. If these are your main carbohydrate sources, then some sugar on top of that is not going to have any adverse effects on your health.
The pendulum swings in nutrition are extreme, and we like simple scapegoats to blame for complex issues. The emphasis on total fat content of the diet through the 1980’s has swung back to a demonization of dietary carbohydrates. There are certain clinical conditions in which one may be beneficial – androgen-dominant Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or Type-2 Diabetes [T2DM] – are two examples. But as a general rule “low” is not “zero”, as is often the case when people adopt the diet themselves, including certain amounts of non-starchy veg but in effect excluding beneficial food groups, including wholegrain carbohydrates, legumes, and fruit, and often adopting a diet high in animal produce in lieu. Low-carb diets provide gratification in short-term weight loss, but do not appear to confer additional benefit over the long term. Healthful diet patterns all include carbohydrate sources, and there is no need to exclude the entire food group for health purposes. For T2DM management, there is emerging support for a benefit to low-carb diets in diabetes management.
The evidence supports emphasis on plant-derived monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from both marine and plant sources as preferred to form the majority of fat intake in the diet. In terms of food (because you don’t eat ‘monounsaturated fat’), sources like extra-virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, different nuts, different seeds, oily fish, avocados (if you actually like them), are all good sources for unsaturated fats. Do not put butter in your coffee. And no, coconut oil is not a panacea. Generally, plant-based oils are recommended for dressings and cooking.
There is a regulatory framework in which artificial sweeteners are approved for use, governed by the European Food Standards Agency in the EU, and Food and Drug Administration in the US. In 2009, the EFSA mandated a full revaluation of all AS currently in use, including toxicology data and technical information, concluding that the body of AS currently in use are safe for human consumption having regard to levels of intake in the population. Most of the scaremongering or sensationalist headlines you see are based on cell culture studies or animal toxicology studies, in which enormous doses are used that are far beyond anything habitually consumed by humans in the food supply. The best statement we can make is this: within the current regulatory framework in which AS are approved for us, and having regard to habitual levels of intake in the population, AS are not likely to have adverse effects on health.
That depends on what you mean by ‘plant-based’, which doesn’t have a real definition, but implies a diet absent any animal produce. That is itself misleading, as really a diet inclusive of animal produce can be ‘based on plants’. There is relatively little that is incontrovertible in nutrition, but eating more plants overall, irrespective of the balance of your diet, is one such fact. From a sustainability standpoint, plant-based diets and a reduction in overall meat production and consumption are likely to play an important role in the future. Food for thought. However, increasing the ‘plant-based’ element of your diet does not by implication necessitate elimination of animal produce altogether. There is flexibility to manoeuvre within your own moral, ethical and environmental principles.
That’s bound to happen when a whole food group is vilified. Just like with dietary fats, we’re moving more to food-based recommendations rather than talking about the nutrients, so it is – and should be – with carbs. Obviously any diet pattern should maximise vegetable intake, and a diverse range of fruits. On top of that, wholegrains – oats, bulgur, buckwheat, polenta, couscous, wholegrain rice and pasta, wholegrain breads –, and legumes and pules – different beans, chickpeas, and lentils – and starches like squashes, potatoes, and other roots – are all food groups rich in fibre, micronutrients, phytochemicals, and staples of healthy diet patterns around the world. There is no legitimate scientific reason to exclude these food groups for health purposes.
An interesting area of research, but as far as practical application goes, there is no specific need for you to engage in IF beyond providing a means to control energy balance. There may be some additional underlying benefits to IF in various forms, however, much of this remains to be concretely established in humans. Time-restricted feeding is similar to IF, but TRF takes into account timing of food intake from a circadian rhythms perspective. TRF doesn’t have to be extreme, but would emphasise an earlier timing of the last meal and avoidance of late-night eating. Many people in the population may have a daily eating duration of 13-15hrs. In this sense, TRF could be useful for someone to adopt an 11hr eating window. That is much more moderate and achievable than many IF variants.
FAQ’s will be updated continually based on, well, frequently asked questions.