Theory Thursday

Myth-Busting (part 2)

Myth #5 – Gluten-free products are “healthy”

If you’ve got coeliac disease, then you MUST eat gluten-free.  So gluten-free products are healthier for you than gluten containing!  But the NHS no longer gives prescriptions for gluten-free products because it was effectively providing free biscuits – not quite the image of the NHS we want!

nasty biscuits covered in 100s & 1000s
look away!

If you haven’t got coeliac disease there is NO health benefit in avoiding gluten and replacing it with “products” designed to make the producer wealthy.  If you have IBS you may have found, through the low FODMAP diet, that avoiding wheat improves your symptoms.  But it is quite easy to eat REAL food without wheat and still get a fully balanced diet.  There are lots of websites and blogs out there to help you.

If you think gluten-free products will help with weight maintenance please be disabused of this myth now.  This is what is in one supermarket’s version of  “gluten-free bread”:


Water , Tapioca Starch , Rice Flour , Potato Starch , Sunflower Oil , Sunflower Seeds (4.0%) , Linseed (3.0%) , Yeast , Humectant (Glycerol) , Millet (2.0%) , Black Treacle , Stabiliser (Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose) , Dried Egg White , Poppy Seeds (1.0%) , Psyllium Husk Powder , Maize Flour , Salt , Maize Starch , Rice Starch , Preservative (Calcium Propionate) , Caramelised Sugar .

You will know that ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight. Which means you are mostly eating water! (I suppose that’s not unhealthy)  but the rest of it makes me feel a bit nauseated……

Myth #6 – You must have breakfast

Oh dear.  It’s come to this.  I am the world’s biggest fan of breakfast, and also second breakfast.  Bacon and scrambled eggs, smoked haddock and poached eggs, ham and mushroom omelette, blueberries and yoghurt, salmon, egg and avocado, spinach-egg-tomato, apple and nuts, even the odd quinoa-chia seed-almond milk “bircher muesli” – I love it all.  I’m never going to say you mustn’t have it.  But I am *bites lip, holds breath* going to say you don’t NEED it.

If you work very long hours, you might be having breakfast at 6 a.m. and eating your evening meal at 9 p.m. with lunch at 1 p.m. This long extended eating period is only going to encourage you to snack – by 11.30 a.m. you might be feeling peckish (although egg for breakfast might diminish that) and by 4 p.m. the biscuits in the tea room are extraordinarily appealing.

But there is a lot of evidence around intermittent fasting for weight control and one of the (many) regimes is keeping your “eating window” to an 8 hour period, with a 16 hour “fast” every day.  That means you get up, have black/green/mint tea or black coffee or water then just eat “lunch” & dinner within an 8 hour period.  If you are exercising, there may well be benefits to doing that when fasted, but caffeinated.  To manage your appetite just drink plenty of calorie-free (NON-“diet”) drinks.

You could always still have breakfast & second breakfast & then fast………

(by the way – this does NOT apply to children)

Myth #7 – You mustn’t miss meals

On the back of suddenly being “allowed” to miss breakfast, adults are also “allowed” to miss meals.  We don’t need “three square meals” a day, and if you are sedentary then three square meals a day plus snacks is probably what’s making you fat.  Every time you eat your body has to squirt out some insulin and manage the glucose your body has saved from what you’ve eaten.  Insulin is very good at driving glucose into tissues for fuel (and the excess turns into fat), but it’s equally good at SUPPRESSING fat burning.  Constant grazing means constant insulin sloshing about and eventually insulin resistance and you’re stuck.

Intermittent fasting – or “missing meals” – can help by giving your body times when there is no insulin, so it has to find other ways of fuelling.  Dr. Jason Fung is probably the expert on fasting – and he is not a snake-oil salesman but a diabetes specialist.  You can read more if it sparks your interest on his amazing website.

Even if you exercise, you can do this fasted.  But if you exercise, you might find you don’t have to! (word of caution – if you ARE diabetic and on medication you shouldn’t fast without a reliable health professional’s advice)

Myth #8 – Eat as much fruit as you like

OHHHHH *sad face* I like to eat a lot of fruit.  I like fruit for breakfast, fruit and nuts after exercise, fruit after dinner and fruit with lunch.  It’s possible I am not a hobbit, but a fruit-bat.

When “get your 5-a-day” advice came out I was a happy hobbit and when the maxim that “probably eat 8-10 pieces of fruit/veg. a day would be even better” came out I was ecstatic.  But whilst it’s nice advice the evidence is circumstantial.

You can certainly eat 10 portions of veg a day (as long as its veg, not a fruit masquerading as a veg!), but “fruit is nature’s candy“.  The main problem is fructose (“fruit sugar”)  which cannot be utilised by the body as fuel.  The liver decides the best thing to do with it is turn it into fat.

What to do!?  Well, berries aren’t too bad and check out this handy guide for your options.  It’s berries for breakfast and maybe one other piece of fruit a day and for the rest of your 5-a-day make it vegetables.

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A tiny hobbit dedicated to saving the world with a decent second breakfast. Also, available to make you feel good in triathlon when you overtake her.......

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