Derval O’Rourke is out to bust a few myths about food, nutrition and fitness

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This week I’m going to chat about some of my favorite common fitness and nutrition topics. Recipe wise, I have chosen a creamy tomato, lentil and basil soup as we head into the autumn months.

Nutrition is an essential part of life; the combination of nutrition knowledge and practical skills is really important to live your best life. Thanks to fad diets and food trends, people can really struggle with the basics. The truth is that the basics may not be as exciting or instagrammable as many fads but they will serve you far better.

Let’s take a look at hot topics.

Eggs

Is eating too many eggs per week bad for you?

Eating eggs is consistently associated with elevated HDL ‘good' cholesterol and eggs are also affordable, versatile, and packed with goodness.
Eating eggs is consistently associated with elevated HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and eggs are also affordable, versatile, and packed with goodness.

This belief dates back to the 1970s and is based on the theory that eggs contain cholesterol and that eating eggs raises blood cholesterol levels leading to a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. However, we now know that this is not the case. Our liver produces most of the cholesterol in our bodies and works hard to balance production with dietary cholesterol intake. In fact, consuming eggs is consistently associated with elevated HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. Not to mention the fact eggs are affordable, versatile, and packed with goodness. I’m really fortunate that we have chickens living up behind our house and we get all our eggs from them. My six-year-old adores eggs and they’re one of my favourite foods to feed her. Eggy soldiers are a regular in our house. 

Sugar

Is sugar-free much healthier?

Yes, sugar can be harmful to us if consumed in excess but, in small amounts as part of a balanced diet, it’s not a big issue. Many people talk about being ‘sugar-free’ when, in fact, that might not be accurate. Be careful when reading information about peoples ‘diet’. Fruit contains sugar but is also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is a great source of fibre which slows down the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream — meaning you don’t get the huge spikes and subsequent drops in blood sugar levels that leave you craving more sugar. Keep an eye on added sugars. Eat whole fruit instead of fruit juices; fresh fruit instead of dried; and load up on your vegetables too. For me personally, I don’t like to see people pushing ‘sugar-free’ diets as it’s really hard to achieve this and can cause issues with perception of food. Try to focus on balance and non-processed foods rather than unattainable food goals.

Soya

Is soya bad for you?

Soya beans are a complete protein source packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Soya contains isoflavones — plant compounds with a similar structure to oestrogen. However, they do not behave like oestrogen in the body. The majority of studies claiming soya has ‘bad’ side effects have been carried out on animals using very high doses of soya, meaning they are not directly applicable to humans, and use levels of consumption rarely seen in a real-life setting. Overall, the European Food Safety Authority, World Health Organization and World Cancer Research Fund conclude that soya foods are safe to include as part of a healthy balanced diet. So while you certainly don’t have to include soy in your diet, it can be an affordable, nutritious and versatile alternative for those looking for plant-based options.

Fitness trackers

Do I need a fitness tracker to become fitter?

 fitness trackers can enhance your fitness; studies have linked them to increased physical activity and long-term weight maintenance.
fitness trackers can enhance your fitness; studies have linked them to increased physical activity and long-term weight maintenance.

Personally, I really like the idea of fitness trackers and, if used for the right reasons, they can enhance your fitness. Studies have linked them to increased physical activity and long-term weight maintenance. I wear mine most days and tend to focus on my heart rate, steps walked, and sleep patterns. I recently gave my Dad a fitness tracker and while we use them for very different purposes he still finds it beneficial for his own health monitoring. I’ve owned both a Fitbit and GARMIN tracker. Make sure to do some research before you invest.

Food trackers

Should I be monitoring my food intake with an app?

I rarely do this but I have a good knowledge of the foods I consume. If you are a little lost about where you are going wrong with your food intake consider using a tracker like MyFitnessPal app for 3-5 days. For me, I prefer to write a food diary every few months for 3-5 days and this helps me stay on track.

Fitness tip

Use a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Garmin, or a step-counting app on your phone to monitor your steps during the day. Decide whether you need to improve on the number, and think of ways you can achieve that. Try walking to the shop rather than driving where possible,  etc.

Wellness tip

Write a food diary this week: Make note of everything you eat, and at what time of the day. Be completely honest with it. You might begin to notice some connections between what you eat and how you feel. I have a ‘Food & Mood Diary’ on Derval.ie that members find really useful for improving their relationship with food.

Recipe: Tomato, Lentil and Basil Soup

Tomato, lentil and basil soup is filling and hearty, and packed full of fibre.
Tomato, lentil and basil soup is filling and hearty, and packed full of fibre.

This is a filling and hearty soup that is packed full of fibre. This recipe is perfect for making in a

batch and freezing in portions for work lunches.

Serves: 8-10

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 600 grams ripe vine tomatoes, chopped and with their hard centres cut out
  • 500 grams red split lentils

Method

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat.

Add the onion and cook for 2–3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and lentils, including black pepper to taste, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Liquidise the soup until smooth and add the fresh basil.

Serve immediately or leave to cool and store in the fridge or freezer for lunches.

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