Nutrition and Hydration Awareness Week
Our Resident Dietitian Michelle Bremang answers some questions this Nutrition and Hydration Week with the aim to keep you well-nourished and well hydrated!
Am I getting my 5–a day?
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables helps ensure we get a range of nutrients that also act as powerful antioxidants and help protect the body from harmful free radicals that can cause disease.
Fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables can all count towards your 5-a-day. You can also include vegetables that you add to cooked dishes such as a stews, soups and pasta sauces.
One portion is equivalent to 80g, or roughly as much as will fit into your hand e.g. 1 small banana, 2 plums, half a large grapefruit or avocado, 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables or pulses, a small bowl of salad. 1 small glass of 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or pure fruit juice smoothies can also count towards your 5-a day.
Am I drinking enough fluid?
Drinking enough fluids is vital to maintain good health in both the short and long term e.g. for the prevention of constipation, kidney stones and kidney disease. The colour of your urine is your best indicator of hydration - if you are drinking enough, your urine should be a straw or pale yellow colour. If it is hot or if you are exercising, you will need to take extra fluids to help you stay well hydrated.
Caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee are now known to contribute towards hydration, if you do drink large amounts you will need to be mindful of your overall caffeine intake. Care should also be taken with soft drinks, which can be a source of both caffeine and sugar as well as alcohol, which can make the body pass more urine than usual and increase the risk of dehydration.
Water-based foods such as soups, stews, jelly and some fruit and vegetables such as melon and celery can be a useful source of fluid, particularly if drinking more is proving difficult for you.
Am I getting enough calcium?
Calcium is important at all ages for the maintenance of strong bones and teeth. You are more at risk of calcium deficiency if you are on a cow’s milk or lactose free diet, have coeliac disease or osteoporosis, are breastfeeding or have gone through the menopause.
Dairy foods provide the richest and best absorbed source of dietary calcium. Three portions a day will meet most calcium needs - a portion is a small pot of yoghurt, 200ml glass of milk or a small matchbox size piece of cheese. Try to choose reduced fat versions where you can such semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt and reduced fat cheese.
Aside from calcium fortified products such as breakfast cereals, orange-juice and fortified non-dairy milks, good non-dairy sources of calcium include oily fish, soya beans, tofu, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit (especially figs) and nuts and seeds (particularly almonds and sesame seeds).
Am I eating enough wholegrains?
Research suggests that the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes may be up to 30% lower in people who regularly eat wholegrains as part of a low-fat diet and healthy lifestyle.
Wholegrains may assist in controlling weight, blood cholesterol and blood glucose as they are low in fat, but high in both fibre and slow release carbohydrate, which has the added benefit of helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Wheat, oats, barley, rye and rice are the most commonly available cereals which can be eaten in wholegrain form. When choosing foods from the starchy carbohydrate group, try to replace more refined items such as white bread and rice with wholegrain varieties, such as wholemeal bread and brown rice. Millet and quinoa are gluten-free wholegrain alternatives.
When shopping, look for the word ‘whole’ before the name of the product e.g. whole-wheat pasta or whole oats and make sure it is high up on the ingredients list. Multigrain products are not the same as wholegrain as it means the product contains more than one type of grain.
Am I getting enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. From about late March/April to the end of September, most of us should be able to get all the Vitamin D we need from the action of sunlight on our skin. Outside of these months, additional supplementation may be required.
Unfortunately Vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods. These include oily fish, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as most fat spreads, fruit juice and some breakfast cereals. This makes it very difficult to obtain adequate amounts from food alone. Because of this, you should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 mcg of vitamin D unless otherwise recommended by your Doctor or Dietitian.
If you don’t get much sun exposure, have darker skin or cover your skin for other reasons, you should speak to your doctor regarding your need for Vitamin D supplementation.
Do I need to cut down on my fat and sugar intake?
We all need some fat in our diet, but we need to pay attention to the type of fat, and how much we are eating. There are two main types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol level, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Saturated fat can be found in foods such as hard cheeses, butter, lard, cream, pastry based foods and other processed items such as sausages, cakes and biscuits.
To cut down on your saturated fat intake, choose foods that contain more unsaturated fats instead such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados. When cooking, make sure you are only using small amounts of vegetable oils or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When you are having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat.
Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are usually high in calories and therefore can contribute towards weight gain if consumed too often. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.
Many processed foods and drinks contain large amounts of added sugars, which we should be cutting down on, rather than natural sugars found in things such as fruit and milk.
Am I eating too much salt?
Eating too much salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. By reducing your salt intake, it is possible to reduce your blood pressure and its health problems, so it’s well worth doing.
We should all be aiming for less than 6g (one teaspoon) of salt each day. Many everyday foods are not obviously salty, but do contain high amounts of ‘hidden salt’. Being aware of food labels, adding less salt to food and making the decision to cut down on processed foods, especially if you eat them often or in large portions, can make a big difference to your overall intake.
If you already have high blood pressure, being active, keeping a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol and regular check-ups are also important.
Our Dietitians have both the professional knowledge and skills to help translate evidence based clinical research into practical guidance, to enable you to make positive diet and lifestyle choices to help you improve your health and wellbeing and support the treatment of a range of medical conditions. If you’d like to arrange a consultation with Michelle Bremang, please call 020 8971 8026.