Did you know that the body is 70% water? Staying hydrated therefore is very important. Just 1% dehydration can affect how your brain functions. Other symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth (Xerostimia)
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Thirst

Thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already likely to be suffering from the effects of dehydration.

Depending on the weather and your activity levels, the average recommended amount to drink is 6-8 glasses of fluid a day, (approx. 1.2litres). There are many sources which can contribute to your fluid intake. Around 30% comes from your food especially if you eat lots of fruit and vegetables, which have high water content.

Healthy Beverages:

  • Water
  • Watered-down fruit juice (this contributes to your five-a-day) – watered down is better because juice can be high sugar content
  • Weak cordial/Squash – This can be high in sugar too, so have as weak as possible
  • Fruit tea/Infusions – These are very refreshing with a choice of flavours
  • Herbal tea – There are many varieties and some have health-promoting properties
  • Semi-skimmed/skimmed milk
  • Tea/green tea – Both are said to contain antioxidants, which have a protective effect on the body
  • Rooibus tea – High in antioxidants, naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins

Other beverages (drink in moderation):

  • Coffee – Caffeine is a mild diuretic but the main concern is that it can act as a stimulant which can affect moods and energy levels
  • Carbonated drinks – (High in sugar)
  • Sports drinks – These are great for elite athletes, but most active people don’t need them, they are loaded with sugar to help rehydrate quickly. Watered-down fruit juice is just as good and is free from lots of added ingredients
  • Alcohol – There is some evidence that certain alcoholic beverages are good for you, such as red wine and stout, in moderation.

Alcohol – Know your limits!
Women should not exceed more than 14-21 units of alcohol a week, men’s limit is 21-28 units a week, and it advisable to spread this throughout the week rather than binge drink.
In simple terms, a UK unit is 10ml/8 grams of pure alcohol. The number of units in a drink depends on what you’re drinking.

One Unit is a pub measure of spirits, one-and-a-half units is an alcopop (e.g. Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer, WKD), while two Units is a pint of ordinary-strength lager, pint of bitter (John Smith’s, Boddingtons), a 175ml glass of red/white wine, or pint of ordinary-strength cider (Dry Blackthorn, Strongbow). Meanwhile, three Units is a pint of strong lager (Stella Artois, Kronenbourg 1664) or a 250ml glass of strong Chardonnay. It takes the body roughly one hour to process one unit of alcohol.

Alcohol also has a calorific value, 1g of alcohol = 7 calories:

  • Half pint of lager (284ml) = 85 Kcal
  • Half pint of sweet cider = 110 Kcal
  • Half pint of dry cider = 95 Kcal
  • Small glass of dry white wine (125ml) = 83 Kcal
  • Small glass of red wine = 85 Kcal

That’s why sometimes alcohol is seen as empty calories – it doesn’t have any nutritional benefit in terms of macro-nutrients.

Rachel Linstead is a nutrition consultant at Firecracker, a nutritional therapy and consultancy service for businesses and individuals.

Incorporating protein into your diet is very important, especially so if you are vegetarian or vegan. The body uses protein for essential processes such as growth, repair, muscle contraction and aiding immunity. Protein provides structural support in skin and bone. Occasionally, your body uses protein for energy, but this only happens when there is an excess of dietary protein/an inadequate supply of dietary carbohydrate and fat.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Twenty amino acids are needed to build the various proteins used in the growth, repair and maintenance of body tissues. Eleven of these amino acids can be made by the body itself (the non-essential amino acids), while the other nine (essential amino acids) must come from our diet, but all 20 amino acids are necessary for health.

Different protein sources are:
Animal:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Game
  • Dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese)
  • Eggs

Vegetable:

  • Soy protein (tofu, soy milk, soy mince, tempeh (fermented soybeans), miso (fermented soybean paste)
  • Pulses (peas, beans and lentils)
  • Quorn (mycoprotein made from fungus)
  • Quinoa – pronounced ‘keenwa’ (known as the mother-grain from South America)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado

However, not all protein is equal. You may have heard of the term “good quality protein” – this refers to whether the protein contains all nine essential amino acids. Though it’s not as simple as that. It’s important to consider the other constituents of the protein.

All animal proteins contain the nine essential amino acids, however some animal protein is high in saturated fat, whereas some vegetable proteins don’t have all the amino acids, but are high in other nutrients like fibre, vitamins and minerals and are naturally low in fat. Most vegetable protein doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, so vegetarians and especially vegans must get their protein from a variety of sources.

One way to ensure that you are consuming the full range of amino acids is by protein combining. This means eating two or more foods which complement each other in their amino acid levels.

  • Beans on toast
  • Cheese or peanut butter sandwich
  • Rice with beans or peas.

When eating meals or snacks, incorporate protein because this slows the digestion of carbohydrates helping you to feel fuller for longer.

How much protein should I eat?
The UK Department of Health recommends that women have an average of 36g of protein a day and men have 44g. This average though will depend on your life stage, such as pregnant women, very active people or heavy manual workers.

Rachel Linstead is a nutrition consultant at Firecracker, a nutritional therapy and consultancy service for businesses and individuals.

People often find themselves confused about carbs and fibre, and how much they should be getting in their diet. Here is an explanation if the different forms of carbohydrates and foods you should consider adding to your diet, and some facts on fibre.

Carbohydrates are often called starchy foods, and are more easily broken down by the body than protein and fat. It should make up about 40% of your diet, with every meal containing carbohydrates. The body uses carbohydrates as its primary energy source and it contains nutrients such as fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

There are two types of carbohydrates: refined and unrefined.

Refined carbohydrates are white rice, white bread and white pasta. These types of carbohydrates are processed to have the husk of the grain removed. By removing the husk, however, you are removing many nutrients. Refined carbs are easily broken down by the body into glucose, which sometimes results in a sugar rush.

When choosing carbohydrates, it is best to look out for ones that are ‘unrefined’ like wholemeal flour, whole wheat, spelt, rye, barley, rolled oats and oatmeal. Wholegrains have little processing and are harder for the body to break down so make you feel full longer. They are high in B vitamins, help maintain a healthy skin, nervous system and aid energy production.

When the grain is harvested it contains three parts, the ‘fibre-rich’ outer layer (bran), the starchy middle (endosperm), and the ‘nutrient-packed’ germ. For a food to be called ‘wholegrain’, at least 51% of its ingredients must contain grains with all three parts remaining.

There are plenty of carbohydrates to choose from, and it’s important to try to vary the carbohydrates you eat so you don’t overload on one type.

What are other examples of carbohydrates?

  • Corn, Buckwheat or vegetable pasta
  • Rice noodles

Rice is a popular alternative to pasta and there are lots of varieties to choose from:

  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrain
  • Basmati
  • Jasmine – This works really well with Thai food
  • Wild rice

Fibre, which is soluble or insoluble, is another component of food which is mainly found in cereals, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables.

The term dietary fibre describes a number of different categories of substances such as non-starch polysaccharides, oligosaccharides and lignin. Fibre cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes but micro-organisms that live in the large intestine are able to digest it. Fibre helps prevent constipation and helps lower blood cholesterol and/or glucose levels.

Soluble fibre contains gums and pectins, which help to reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. All fruit and vegetables contain fibre, but some have more than others, such as apples, pears and citrus fruits. Insoluble fibre contains cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. It helps the bowel pass food and can help relieve constipation. It is found in wholegrain cereals, lentils and fruit with edible seeds.

In the UK, most people do not eat enough fibre. The average adult intake is 12 grams per day, while the recommended level is 18 grams. A low fibre intake is associated with constipation and some gut diseases such as diverticulitis and bowel cancer. Foods and food products that contain 6g fibre per 100g or 100ml may be labelled as a ‘high fibre’ food.

Rachel Linstead is a nutrition consultant at Firecracker, a nutritional therapy and consultancy service for businesses and individuals.

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