ASK THE DIETITIAN: Your Questions Answered!

From our email last week we have received a whole lot of questions about diets, fads and buzzwords, so we have sat down with Dietitian Kelly to bust some diet myths and set the record straight on all things health and nutrition.


What is the low FODMAP Diet?

Kelly: FODMAPs is a term that groups together a few different small molecules found in food, some examples of which include lactose and fructose. In most people, FODMAPs are tolerated very well, however in some people they are poorly absorbed which causes bloating, discomfort and other nasty symptoms for our tummies. Some people opt for low FODMAP diets to reduce stomach symptoms such as bloating. This diet generally involves cutting out lactose (found in some dairy foods), fructose (which is found in some fruits and vegetables) and reducing wheat intake. These can slowly be re-introduced later to know which FODMAPs a person is reacting to, and how much they can tolerate without getting nasty symptoms.

Will a vegan diet help me lose weight?

Kelly:  Will a vegan diet help me lose weight – the true answer is..maybe. It depends on how you do it. For most people, going on a vegan diet means they can no longer buy takeaway foods as easily, and forces them to cook more at home and be more organised with their food, which for many would help them lose weight. Gone are the days of a kebab on the way home after a night out, or massive meat and cheese platters. However, there are many people who eat vegan who do not lose weight. They replace meat and dairy with carbohydrate rich foods like pasta and rice. You can still overeat vegan foods, so it really depends on how you go about it.

Is dark chocolate actually healthier than milk chocolate?

Kelly: Most dark chocolate should still be thought of a treat food, however a really good quality dark chocolate is very different to your standard milk chocolate. The difference between the two is essentially the ratio of cocoa versus sugar. Milk chocolate usually contains around 25% cocoa with the rest being sugar, milk solids and emulsifiers. In comparison, a good quality dark chocolate can be 85% or more cocoa with as little as 10 - 15% sugar and has no milk solids or emulsifiers. A piece of 90% chocolate has only 10% sugar in it which in a lot of cases is less than the amount of sugar in something like a bliss balls. The good thing about having more cocoa is that it is incredibly high in antioxidants, which does all kinds of good things for our body. So yes, dark chocolate is actually good for you but to get the most benefit you want to look for the darkest possible but anything 85% and above is pretty good. It’s also important to keep in mind that dark chocolate is energy dense, so limiting yourself to two pieces is best!

Can you actually speed up your metabolism and if so, how?

Kelly: Your metabolism is simply referring to how much “energy” you burn to live and breathe and do your day to day activities. The good news? You absolutely can increase your metabolism! Each and every person will have a certain amount of muscle, and a certain amount of fat. The reason men have higher metabolisms than women (and can therefore eat more than women) is because they have more muscle. In comparison, women naturally have less muscle and slightly higher levels of fat (think boobs and booties). The best way to increase your metabolism is to increase how much muscle you have. This doesn’t mean you have to become a bodybuilder, but building some lean muscle tissue, through light weights and resistance training will increase your metabolism over time.

What’s the difference between good and bad fats?

Kelly: When we think about fats that come from food there are three different types. Two of them are thought of as “good fats” and one of them is thought of as a “bad fat”. You may have heard of the term saturated fat, and this is the name of the bad type of fat, however there has been some controversy more recently about whether saturated fat is actually that bad for you. Saturated fat is the type of fat found in eggs, meat and dairy, however it is also found in takeaway foods, biscuits/cakes and the like. We do need a little bit of saturated fat, but too many has been shown to increase your “bad” cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease. Healthier fats, however, such as those in avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish, have been shown to have a positive effect on our health because they increase your good cholesterol levels, which helps promote good heart health. Ideally, we would be having lots of “good fats” and keep our intake of “bad” fats to a minimum. We can still include eggs and meat in our food but staying away from takeaway foods and cakes will hopefully mean we aren’t eating toooo much saturated fat.

What is the alkaline diet and should I do it?

Kelly: Quick answer? No. The alkaline diet is an old school diet where they claimed you could change the pH of your body by changing what you eat. This is absolutely not true. Our bodies are naturally very good at keeping a really tight control on pH. If your body is in the wrong pH you are seriously unwell and would be sitting in a ICU bed in a hospital. The diet would claim that by eating alkaline foods (foods with a higher pH), this would change the overall pH of our body. In reality that doesn’t work. Those alkaline foods just get mixed with acid in our stomach (a low pH) and has no overall effect on your body’s pH at all, and nor should it because like I mentioned, it's meant to be very tightly controlled. Turns out, there is absolutely nothing beneficial about following an alkaline diet!

Are all carbs bad for you?

Kelly: Absolutely not. As much as they get a bad rap, carbs as a whole are not the problem, it’s the type and the amount of carbs that we as a society consume that is a problem. For example, sugar is a type of carbohydrate. So a person could have a high carbohydrate diet because they eat a lot of sugary foods and drinks, and we all know that’s not healthy. Carbs may also be a problem because we eat wayyy too many of them. A lot of people in Western countries love big portions, and that means big portions of bread, pasta and rice, all of which are carbohydrate foods. If people just ate smaller, more appropriate portions they would be much much healthier as a whole. Wholesome carbohydrate foods such as multigrain breads, oats, legumes, lentils and fruit are all incredibly high in fibre which will help keep us full, promote food tummy health, and give us important nutrients like B vitamins, iron and vitamin C. In moderate amounts carbohydrates can be good for you.

What is clean eating?

Kelly: Clean eating is when a person focuses on eating whole, minimally processed foods. With clean eating there is a focus on choosing lots of vegetables, unrefined fruits, grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. It also means taking out most of the “processed foods” which are generally high in fat, sugar and salt. By putting all the good stuff in your body and leaving out the “bad”, you’re going to be much healthier for it.


About Kelly:

Kelly is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. Kelly is passionate about assisting people with their nutrition and health, specialising in weight management, IBS and food intolerances. Not to mention she is an all around amazing chick!