We are fortunate to work with some very experienced nutritionists and dietitians for many clients, and to keep us fully up to date, we had a session with Fiona Hunter. Fiona is a highly respected, experienced and qualified nutritionist, food writer and broadcaster, with over 30 years’ experience.

One thing I learnt early on in Ceres, is that for every health or nutrition claim we make, there has to be a good base of evidence behind it, otherwise, you simply can’t say it. As a simple rule of thumb, research published in peer review scientific journals is the most reliable. Sadly, you can’t always trust the media, internet, celebrities etc.!

This approach for me makes Ceres different and it means that from an ethical and legal point of view, we are only communicating the truth, which is really key. Fiona is part of this process. As one of the experts we work with regularly, Fiona checks any claims, provides nutritional tips, nutritionally analyse recipes, etc. plus ensures our stories are as strong as possible.

There were many take outs from this session, but some key ones for me are below. This is by no means exhaustive – nutrition is a hugely complex topic and there is so much to learn, but as a whistle stop overview, hopefully the below will provide some clarity and interesting pointers!

1. The body needs over 40 different nutrients to stay healthy – the best way to ensure we get the full range of these nutrients is to eat a wide variety of foods. The current healthy eating guidelines state adults should eat at least two portions of fish a week (one of which should be an oil rich variety like salmon or mackerel), two to three portions of dairy a day and at least five portions of fruit and/or veg a day. Wholegrain and unrefined carbohydrates should be chosen over unrefined carbohydrates and we should cut back on salt and free sugar.

2. Omega-3 fats are really beneficial to our health; they can help reduce the risk of heart disease and are critical for brain and eye development in babies. There is growing body of research relating omega-3 to mental health and aging showing that a good intake of omega-3 may help reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

3. The amount of protein we need is based on body weight – and it’s needed for the growth and repair of tissues. Some studies suggest that food higher in protein can make you satiated for longer as it remains in the stomach for a prolonged amount of time, but this is not a permitted health claim at this point in time – although of course that may change.

4. Some fat is essential – it is a source of energy and it allows us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K - but it is saturated fat and trans fats in particular that are damaging to health if we eat too much.

5. Not all sugar is bad for you! Sugar which is naturally occurring in foods like fruit and milk comes accompanied with other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The current advice to reduce sugar to 5% of our energy is based on free sugar – that means sugar which is added to food or those naturally present in honey, syrup and unsweetened fruit juice.

6. Figures from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) show that 48% of girls and 27% of women in the UK had low iron intakes. The best source for iron is red meat as iron in meat is in a form which can be easily absorbed. For people who don’t eat meat, green vegetables like kale and fortified breakfast cereals also contain iron.

7. 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed food – ready made sandwiches, canned soup etc.

8. Honey, maple syrup and agave syrup are no better for you than regular sugar! Although honey has slightly more vitamins and minerals, you would need to consume huge amounts for it to be significant! 

One further learning that I found interesting? We’re born with a preference for sweet foods but we learn to like salty food. The more you have, the more you want as your taste buds become less sensitive to it. It takes about a month to adapt to new flavours!

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