5 nutrition experts answer your common questions
We put some of the most common nutrition-related questions to the experts.
How much should I weigh?
“This is highly individual and your weight does not define you as a person,” says Registered Nutritional Therapist Christelle Page mBANT, CNHC. “The weight you should be is the one you are feeling confident and objectively healthy at (i.e. where it does not affect your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, energy levels, sleep or general well-being).
“Try not to be too hung up with being a certain number on the scales and be realistic with your weight goals. BMI is not very helpful for weight assessment as it does not take into account body composition (i.e. fat/muscle density), which is actually a much more helpful measure than BMI. Similarly, the waist-to-hip ratio (defining apple or pear shapes) can also be used to assess potential health risks associated with weight distribution.”
Why does my weight fluctuate?
“Weight fluctuations are common, especially in women during the run-up to their menstrual cycle due to hormonally driven water retention. The water weight quickly fades away after the menstrual cycle,” says Dora Walsh, Transformational Nutritionist for High Performers.
“Food intolerances can also lead to weight fluctuations because the body mounts an immune response to the food it doesn’t like, which can lead to inflammation and associated water retention and water weight gain. High insulin levels can also lead to weight gain. High insulin levels can be triggered by eating too frequently, too much, and by snacking on too many high-sugar foods.
“Constant snackers are in a state of constant high insulin. Insulin is the hormone that tells the body to lay down fat because insulin is also the main fat storage hormone in the body. It tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being broken down. Your weight can also fluctuate when you build muscle, although you might look slimmer and fit into your clothes more easily. Muscle weighs more than fat and is more metabolically active, however, your weight will be higher on the scales.
“Other causes of weight fluctuations include having too much salt in the diet, dehydration, as well as other hormonal imbalances such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), perimenopause, and menopause,” explains Dora. “There are, of course, many other reasons for constant hunger as well as weight fluctuation, so it’s best to get this checked out so you know how to balance hunger so it no longer controls you.
“Understanding the root cause of the constant hunger and weight fluctuations, and knowing how to eat correctly to address the problem can effectively eradicate the constant hunger and weight fluctuations so you are in control of your eating and settle at your optimum weight without struggling or starving.”
Why am I hungry all the time?
“There are many possible reasons for the feeling of constant hunger, and it may depend on an individual’s personal circumstances and health status,” explains Dora. “One of the most obvious is not eating on time, which can lead to excessive hunger because meals are missed or spaced out too far apart.
“You also need to consider whether you are eating the correct proportions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats at each meal, and particularly if your meal composition is too low in good fats and lean protein, but too high in refined carbohydrates and sugar leading to sugar dips and constant hunger.
“In some clients, I’ve seen imbalances in the gut microbiome and an overgrowth of bacteria or Candida (fungal overgrowth), which can sometimes be at the root of constant hunger and particularly cravings for sugar, yeasted bread, and alcohol.”
Dora continues, “Hunger is hormonally based. Consider whether your constant hunger is caused by a high level of stress because the stress hormone cortisol can lead to excessive and constant hunger. The hunger hormone ghrelin (which stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage) is higher when you don’t sleep or when your food doesn’t fill you up sufficiently.
“This brings me back to one of my original points on the necessity of balancing meal times, as well as understanding how to combine the correct proportions of lean proteins, good fats, and complex carbohydrates for your body type, activity levels, and goals.”
How can I stop emotional eating?
“There are many reasons why you might experience emotional eating,” explains Nutritional Therapist Jo Rowkins DipNT MBANT. “It may go back to childhood; being given sweets as a reward, or when sad. Certain foods themselves can reinforce emotional eating by upsetting blood sugar balance, keeping you reaching for more.
“Nutrient deficiencies may play a role, as what you eat affects how you feel. Self-care practices, mindfulness, quality sleep and a nutrient-dense diet are important, as well as addressing stress levels and hormonal balance.
“Habits around food run deep and are not the same for everyone. Stopping emotional eating, therefore, involves looking at the bigger picture. A practitioner may be needed to help you with this.”
Is fruit sugar bad for you?
“Sugars contained in fruits are naturally occurring sugars as opposed to added sugars found in processed foods (e.g. cookies). Eating a whole piece of fresh fruit is a better choice than drinking fruit juices or smoothies as the fibre in the skin and flesh slows down the release of sugar in the bloodstream,” explains Christelle.
“To steady your blood sugar levels even further (important to prevent those energy, mood and cravings peaks and throughs), you may want to choose fruits naturally lower in sugar (e.g. apples, pears, plums, berries) and combine them with a small piece of protein on the side (e.g. nuts, cheese). Even with whole fresh fruits, portion size matters and I would recommend eating no more than 1-3 portions (1 portion = 80g) of fruits a day.”
Can I boost my immune system through food?
“The immune system has a variety of nutrient requirements, so eating a varied whole food diet including an assortment of different coloured vegetables and fruit, as well as healthy fats and good quality protein is key to it running smoothly,” explains Autoimmune Disease Expert, VJ Hamilton BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT.
“However, there are specific nutrients that studies have shown play an essential role in enhancing immunity, including beta-glucans, phytonutrients, and foods that promote a healthy digestive system such as prebiotics and probiotics.
“Recent research shows that the microbiome in your gut plays a role in a well-functioning immune system, as 70% of immune cells are in the digestive system. Eating foods such as prebiotics including Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, and asparagus helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Nourishing your digestive system with bone broth, stewed apples, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir is also worthwhile.”
Read the full article Can I boost my immune system through food?
How much protein do I need?
“On average, to maintain our body’s daily requirements we need 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day,” says Nutritional Therapist Lucy Sparkes BA(Hons) Dip CNM mBant CNHC. “So, in real terms, that means for someone who weighs 60kg and wants to maintain their weight, that would equate to 48g of protein per day, or 16g per meal.
“However, our bodily demands change depending on our health, life stage and goals. Increased protein demand comes in a time of repair and recovery from illness, desire to build muscle, ageing, pregnancy and growth.
“Using 1g to 1kg of desired body weight is a good rule to go by. Using your goal weight is important if you are looking to substantially lose weight, or gain weight.”
How can I increase my protein intake?
Lucy says, “Even though we have just discussed how much protein your body needs, it is really important to evaluate the quality of this protein and choose from a diverse range of foods and consider your health goals.
“It is likely you will be already smashing your dinner protein content, but breakfast is likely to be underscoring due to our love of toast and cereals on the go. By adding good quality protein to our breakfast, we can easily meet our protein needs. Good sources include eggs, tofu, avocado, nuts and nut butters, seeds particularly chia, pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, oats and yoghurt.”
“The easiest way to combine these is with a smoothie to suit your tastes. Other options include protein shakes, pre-made chia pots and boiled eggs to take with you when in a hurry, or even leftover chicken curry from dinner.”
When it comes to diet and what’s right for you, the best thing is to consult a professional. All of us are different and because of that, our bodies will have different needs.
So, if you’re looking to make a lifestyle change, or you’re looking to explore dietary options following recommendations from your doctor, start the journey by browsing our database of nutrition experts. Whatever you’re looking for, they’re ready to help.