Q&A with Fresh Start nutritionist Emma

Today Emma tackles intermittent fasting, whether kombucha and switchel are healthy, reducing cholesterol, what fruits are healthiest and navigating online macro calculators.

Can you please give some advice around diet and reducing cholesterol. Some healthy options. I’ve done a lot of reading but always open to new suggestions.

Firstly, for anyone reading who isn’t sure, cholesterol is a fat-like particle in our blood, some of which our body produces, and some comes from our diet. We need some cholesterol as it has a functional role in our bodies, however maintaining too high levels of certain blood cholesterols (there are a few types) can put us at higher risk for heart disease. To manage high cholesterol, we need to work on reducing our dietary cholesterol.

Dietary cholesterol comes from foods high in saturated fats, such as butter, animal meats like poultry, pork and red meats (especially the fattier cuts), dairy products (especially the higher fat varieties like cream), coconut and palm oil, and baking high in butter like pastry, biscuits or slices. Processed foods (ready to eat type foods) often are high in saturated fats as contain ingredients like palm oil or poor-quality oils. Reducing the amounts of high saturated fat foods in our diet can help us to reduce our blood cholesterol levels.

Instead, look eat foods that contain heart healthy oils like olive or avocado oils which are rich in monounsaturated fats, or good quality canola or rapeseed oil (such as cold-pressed and extra virgin) which are rich in polyunsaturated fats and all are low in saturated fats, and don’t affect our blood cholesterol negatively. Using a good quality oil in the kitchen is a great place to start.

Having a diet rich in plant foods, so whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, farro, or oats, legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds all provide our body with lots of fibre which helps our dietary cholesterol management. These foods also deliver plant sterols, which can have a positive effect on our cholesterol.

Essentially, this looks a lot like the Mediterranean style of eating, of which Fresh Start has many similarities to! Lots of plant foods (veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts), good quality seafood and lean meat proteins, lower fat dairy varieties and small portions of foods that contain saturated fats, and eating these in moderation.


Which fruits are best for weight loss as snacks?

All fruits are super healthy options, as all provide us with fibre, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. One portion of any fruit is still going to be a good snack, and one that can help us achieve weight loss however some fruits are higher in sugars than others though. Being mindful of sugar content of fruits can help us to reduce the calories as well as the sugar load on our body.

Lower sugar fruits include berries (fresh or frozen), kiwifruit, melons like cantaloupe/rock melon, honey dew or watermelon, grapefruit or peaches. Stewed rhubarb with apple is also another great fruity snack, especially for after dinner!

How do I work out how much protein/carbs/fat I need? All the online calculators are so different.

When it comes to our macro balance, everyone will differ slightly as to which set up works best for them! As a general rule of thumb, we tend to think about it more as a plate model – so if you imagine your ‘plate’ in quarters, ideally you want 1/4 lean protein, 1/2 veggies and 1/4 complex carbs and then top up with about what would be 1/6 of the plate as healthy fats (I know, this doesn’t exactly equal 1 plate 😊). Despite how your plate looks however, this will look different when you come to look at your macros from a calorie tracker. This is because all the macros provide different amounts of calories e.g. 1g of fat is 9 calories, whereas 1g of protein or carbs is 4 calories (and alcohol is 7 calories per gram).

How you set up your macros is totally up to you and what you find suits you best! As long as you’re close to that calorie range each day and getting your energy from a variety of wholefoods, and including protein, fat and complex carbohydrates it really shouldn’t matter too much over the course of a week if your macros are changing each day. You might have also found you function better on a slighter higher carb or protein diet, so listening to your body here is most important.

Are switchel drinks really healthy? Is it that bad to drink other fizzy drinks if its no sugar and just one glass?

Switchel is a fermented apple cider vinegar drink, much like how kombucha is a fermented tea drink as they’re made in the same process. Both drinks come second in healthiness to water (gold standard of hydration!) or milk (rich in protein and calcium) however they’re preferable to a diet fizzy drink. This is because despite being sweet tasting and made with sugar, the fermentation process means all the sugars are metabolised by the SCOBY (i.e. eaten up), making the drink lower in sugar. These drinks are often made using an unrefined sweetener also. No sugar or diet fizzy drinks however are often sweetened with non-nutritive or low-calorie sweeteners which are often not natural but chemically engineered and are intensely sweet, such as aspartame (e951). It’s fine to have these drinks on occasion however, they’re probably not drinks we want to be incorporating into our daily lives.

Thoughts on time restricted eating?

So time restricted eating or intermitted fasting is a pattern of eating whereby you create specific time windows in which you choose to eat all of your daily meals within. Then you do not eat for the remainder – this typically looks like an 8 hour window for eating and a 16 hour window for not eating, or fasting.

For some this means fasting from 8pm to 12 midday, others from 4pm to 8am. Depending on what suits lifestyle

The idea is that we start to utilise stored energy during these fasting windows rather than energy from the foods we’ve very recently eaten, and that this might have an effect on our insulin activity in our bodies too.

So, while here at Fresh Start we don’t like to promote specific diets or ways of eating we realise intermittent fasting (IF) can be a helpful tool for some people.

It’s important to note if you are looking to try IF, especially while on FS, the key is to make sure you’re still eating all your calories in the eating window and make sure to stop if you feel light headed or unwell in the fasting period.

It’s important to note that any diet or restriction to eating habits or patterns can interfere with our ability to eat intuitively or be flexible in our day to day lives, suggesting the sustainability of these patterns of eating might not be achievable.

Meet the Nutritionist

Emma ‘Edamame’

Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?

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