Expert Advice

Hala El-Shafie
Hala El-Shafie

How fad diets and omitting whole food groups can lead to serious health implications

”The number of fad diets and omissions of whole food groups is now reaching epidemic proportions and this worrying trend can lead to serious health implications. Omitting whole food groups without fully understanding how the body works or considering your body’s needs – and what you need to put back into it – is simply the quickest way to develop nutritional deficiencies and ill-health due to an imbalanced diet. The food we eat contains energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals, which all of us need to thrive and function properly. This is why consuming a wide variety of different foods is essential in ensuring we are getting the right nutrients for good health”.

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Nic Ludlam-Raine
Nic Ludlam-Raine

How a healthy balanced diet is vital for health and well-being

“Eating a healthy and balanced diet is vital when it comes to ensuring you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs to thrive and function at its best. A varied diet rich in plant-based foods as well as lean meats and fish has the potential to have a positive impact on our mood, energy levels, mental health, fertility, heart health, concentration and immune system. Nutritious diets containing mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts and lean proteins help to reduce the risk of illness and disease, support maintaining a healthy weight, and are essential to ensuring overall wellbeing.

Some dietary trends encourage people to cut certain foods or food groups out of their diet. However, in truth, this could lead to nutrient deficiencies such as anaemia; a condition that is characterised by feelings of tiredness and lethargy and is often seen in teenage girls who don’t eat red meat.

All foods can feature as a part of a healthy and balanced diet, even the less nutrient dense foods such as chocolate and sweets! The problem with banning any one food group is that we end up craving them more, which could result in a binge, and then even worse, a vicious binge-restrict cycle, which can have negative effects on physical health and mental wellbeing.”

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Emma Derbyshire
Dr Emma Derbyshire

Government recommended breakdown of food groups in a balanced diet

“Healthy and balanced diets are varied and do not eliminate core food groups. Goalposts have been shifting, as diet trends are now incorporating a focus on sustainability, but we need to also remember nutritional balance.  

In summary the government’s recommended breakdown of food groups in a balanced diet is:  To aim to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food we eat. Choose higher fibre wholegrain varieties, such as whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, or simply leave skins on potatoes.  Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage-frais are good sources of protein and some vitamins, as well as of calcium. Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, lean meat and other protein daily.  Aim for at least 2 portions of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel. Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts e.g. rapeseed oil“.

Professor Robert Pickard
Professor Robert Pickard

How the body obtains nutrients from different foods

“Human beings are omnivores. This is illustrated in the anatomy and physiology of the mouth and gut, and also in the biochemistry of  digestion. We have no mechanism for the digestion of cellulose, which is a requirement for all herbivores. A human diet should contain small amounts of many different foods and no large quantities of any single food. In a balanced diet, two-thirds of the foods are derived from plant sources and one-third is derived from animal sources. From the animal sources, we obtain all our vitamin and mineral requirements. We also obtain our amino  and fatty acids in the correct ratios required for the construction  of  human proteins and fats. Unnecessary chemical conversions of amino acids generate toxic conditions in the liver and increase the risk of both cardiovascular and oncological disease. From the plant sources, we obtain fibre, which is essential for healthy gut function, carbohydrates, additional vitamin C and many pharmacological agents, which are health promoting, such as glucosinolates.

Elsie Widdowson, the globally undisputed pioneer of human nutrition, said to me once: “Eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing”.


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