Commonly Asked Questions
Celene presents a selection of the most common questions – answered by Patrick Holford
Q1. HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD ONE DRINK?
Our bodies are made largely of water, so ensuring a regular intake of about 2 litres of filtered water is essential for cells, organs and tissues to function well. The brain too is also dependent on water. A mild dehydration can interfere with concentration causing headaches. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will also provide water in an easily available form.
Q2. WHICH IS BETTER- BUTTER OR MARGARINE?
Butter has been much maligned for its high saturated fat content but it is also a good source of the important fat- soluble vitamins A and D. Compared with most commercial margarines, its fats are not actually that bad for you. Most margarines are made from highly processed vegetable fats called hydrogenated fats, in which the chemistry of the oil has been altered so that it becomes solid. These hydrogenated fats can actually be harmful because they still have the hallmark of the original vegetable fat as far as the body and brain are concerned, for example linoleic acid in sunflower roil, but have been altered so that the body can’t use it.
Q3. IS CHOLESTEROL BAD FOR YOU?
Cholesterol is essential for good health – your brain contains it and it is used to make the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Staying away from cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs does very little to reduce body cholesterol levels, as most of it is produced in the liver anyway. The problem is not cholesterol as such, but damaged or oxidised cholesterol, because this can accumulate in the arteries. Most important is to avoid oxidised cholesterol such as that found in fried foods. A boiled egg is fine, but fried eggs and bacon are off the agenda. It is important to take antioxidants because they protect cholesterol in the body from being damaged.
Q4. I KEEP HEARING THE WORD “HOMOCYSTEINE” – WHAT IS IT?
Homocysteine is an amino acid which occurs naturally in the blood. High levels indicate a higher risk for degenerative diseases such as heart disease. Homocysteine is kept in check by a natural process in the body called methylation. This process is vital for keeping our cells young, by protecting DNA(stop DNA from becoming damaged) and allowing you to build healthy new cells. Certain nutrients and natural chemicals boost methylation, notably the B vitamins, especially B6, B12 and folic acid. There’s no B12 in vegetables therefore you need meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or supplements to get enough B12. If you are a vegetarian, you need a particular supplement to bring down high Homocysteine levels.
Q5. HOW DOES ONE KNOW IF ONE IS LACKING PROTEIN?
Apart from growth and development, protein is used in the body for energy and is needed in the manufacture of hormones, antibodies and enzymes, as well as helping to maintain the proper acid-alkaline balance in the body. If one is deficient, you will have generally poor health, poor wound healing, depression, apathy, frequent infections, hormonal imbalance, imbalances in blood sugar, fatigue, and an under functioning liver. Ideally protein should make up at least 15%of the calorific intake. Eat at least two daily servings of beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu, eggs, fish, cheese, seeds or raw nuts. If your energy is poor, eating protein whenever you eat carbohydrates can really help to stabilise blood sugar e.g. snack on pumpkin or sunflower seeds when eating a piece of fruit, balance out baked potatoes with grilled free-range chicken, mackerel or a bean stew.
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