Nutrition Round Up 2022

Dr Joan Ransley

Despite two years of a pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a dramatic rise in the cost of living there have been a lot of exciting things happening in the world of food and nutrition in 2022.

The importance of eating well for a healthy immune system, the menopause, personalised nutrition and how to eat well on a tight budget are just a few of the topics to be put under the spotlight this year.

Here are some take home messages from 2022. Focus on one message at a time to help keep your diet and health on track in the new year.

Take home messages from 2022

The Immune system

Novel viruses like Covid -19 and the increasing rates of food allergies have made us more aware of the importance of our immune system. Recent research has identified that the lining of the human gut, together with its microbiome, play a crucial role in the immune response.

Eating more of the following foods can help your immune system.

  • Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, unpasteurised cheese, and live yogurt.
  • Foods rich in prebiotic fibres such as leeks, onions, and cabbage.
  • Foods rich in colourful polyphenols such as berries, beetroot, carrots, and oranges.
  • Foods such as leafy green vegetables help to dampen inflammation.

Eat more plant foods

Most of our diet comes from plants. The spices in a curry, the nuts we nibble as a snack, the oats in drinks, herbs in a pizza, as well as the tomatoes in salad. These all count as plants.

Plants contain phyto-chemicals (phyto means leaf) which our bodies use to nourish cells and feed the healthy bugs in our gut. They also provide fibre which is crucial to keeping our digestive system working.

Eating at least 30 different plants a week has been shown to be beneficial to health.

Eat less Ultra Processed Foods (UPF)

UPFs are foods sold ready to consume or heat up. They contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt and little dietary fibre. They have been linked to developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disease.

Eating less of the following UPFs will help to improve the quality of your diet:

  • Snacks and confectionary products containing high levels of salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Foods containing high levels of processed fats and salt such meat pies and pastry

Personalised nutrition

Personalised Nutrition has gained a lot of scientific interest this year as more is discovered about our individual response to food. This may help to explain why some people put on weight and others don’t. For example, some people can digest starch much more quickly than others leading to differences in blood glucose levels, even between identical twins.

Our response to food depends more on the health of our unique gut microbiome than to our genes. Eating a varied diet containing vegetables, pulses, and wholegrains such as oats, can help to improve your response to food keeping blood glucose and fat levels in check.

Diet and the menopause

2022 was the year when celebrities began talking about how the menopause affects their lives. Research on the menopause has shown it leads to significant changes in women’s metabolism, their risk of gaining weight, developing heart disease and their mental health.

Gradually changing to a diet rich in fibre, healthy fats, and oils (such as olive and rapeseed oil), lean protein and reserving sweets and desserts for special occasions may lessen the impact of the menopause.

Tips for eating well on a budget

  • If money is tight careful planning helps your food budget go further.
  • Improving cooking skills helps you to prepare and cook cheaper cuts of meat, get portion sizes right, work more efficiently in the kitchen and waste less food.
  • Revisit old cookbooks and challenge yourself to cook beautiful dishes with cheaper, often overlooked, seasonal ingredients.
  • Get other members of your household interested in sharing the cooking so you can all think of ways to eat well on a budget.

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