You asked, Aarti answered!
Last week on our social media, we asked YOU to send in some quick-fire questions for expert nutritionist, Aarti Bhanderi-Shah. Today, she’s answering them!
Hello Aarti! What’s your advice on nutrition for women going through the menopause?
Falling levels of oestrogen during the menopause can increase the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Eating a varied and balanced diet with minimal sugar, processed foods and poor fats will ensure you are fuelling your body with the right macro and micro nutrients and give you a sense of vitality. To reduce the risk of osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D are key nutrients. Food sources include dairy, leafy green veg, tofu, sesame seeds, fish and supplements can also be helpful. Top tips for heart health include cutting back on deep fried foods, watch your salt intake, minimise alcohol, and eating enough fibre from vegetables, beans, pulses and wholegrains.
With working from home, long hours looking at a screen and minimal working out – what would you recommend in terms of minimal intake on nutrients to avoid tiredness and fatigue?
B vitamins are key for energy metabolism and the mitochondria in your cells – these are the energy powerhouses in your cells. These can be obtained easily in a nutrient-dense diet consisting of 6 handfuls of fresh or frozen vegetables daily especially leafy greens, peas, avocado, mushrooms. Also include wholegrains, pulses, chickpeas, organic dairy, nuts, seeds, free range meat and oily fish in your diet. If you feel your diet is lacking then you can use a B Complex supplement but food sources are more effectively absorbed by the body. Lifestyle tips to boost your energy; get a daily dose of the great outdoors – 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 times per week is really important for mood and energy levels. Proper sleep is key – nowadays many of us skimp on sleep and it’s generally the root cause of tiredness, more so than diet. Aim to get 7 to 8 hours per day and don’t drink caffeine after 4pm as it disrupts good quality sleep.
What essential foods should be consumed as a vegetarian to ensure our nutritional needs are met?
It is really easy to be a healthy vegetarian by following a few simple principles
- Eating the rainbow – lots of varied and colourful fruits and vegetables, at least 6 portions a day, 5 vegetables and 1 fruit, is an absolute must. Frozen and fresh are both as good as each other. Flavour them with garlic, herbs and spices to bring them to life.
- Eating a ¼ plate of complex carbs with your meals – wholegrains, starchy vegetables eg potatoes, squash, peas, beans and lentils (these are both complex carbs and a source of protein).
- ¼ of your plate should be a plant-based protein source –Vegetarians often worry about lack of protein in their diet but remember there’s lots of choices and cooking inspiration online. Choose from lentils, pulses (dhal), dairy (especially greek yoghurt and skyr), 8 eggs, soya beans, tofu, mushrooms, quinoa, nuts and seeds. You can boost your protein intake with a good quality vegan protein shake containing hemp or pea protein – Pulsin, Sevenhills and Purition are my favourite brands.
Do I really need to eat meat and vegetables every day?
Vegetables, yes. 6 handfuls a day. Meat is not essential as a daily staple – it is a personal dietary choice and a good source of protein. However, nowadays there are plenty of plant based sources of protein that are more sustainable for the environment. This is an important consideration for many people choosing to move away from eating meat and a driver for the growth in veganism. You can be healthy with and without animal protein.
Do I really need to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day?
5 is not enough. You need 6 portions and 5 of those should be vegetables. A 250ml glass of juice does not count as 1 of your 5 a day as it is lacking in fibre and high in sugar – the dietary guidelines need to be changed. Think of creative ways of powering up your plate with vegetables. You can try a stir fry, soup, curry and salads – check out chefs such as Meera Sodha and Mira Manek for healthy vegetarian recipes and my own YouTube recipe channel – Yourplate
I’m not really a fan of fruit. What’s the best replacement, if any, for my diet?
Fruit is a good source of vitamins and minerals especially Vitamin C and antioxidants. It is not essential for a healthy diet – as long as you are eating 6 portions of vegetables daily you will have all your nutrients needs covered. You could try poaching apples and pears with spices as an alternative to raw fruit and add them to your porridge or greek yoghurt.
i’ve been advised to eat red meat for my diet. What should I be eating instead to get a good dose of Vitamin B12?
Dairy products such as organic milk (as long as you are tolerant to it), yoghurt, cheese and eggs are good sources of B12. Chicken and fish also contain B12. However, if you have been advised to eat red meat because you are very deficient in B12 your GP may advise you to have a B12 injection. Alternatively, you can supplement with a good quality B12 supplement. I recommend Cytoplan, Solgar and Better You brands in my clinics.
is it really possible to get all the nutrients you need from a plant-based/vegan diet?
Yes it is. You do need to be more mindful with your diet and eat plenty of vegetables, plant based sources of protein and supplement with Vitamin D, B12 and omega 3 fats. The clinical research is showing that plant-based diets appear to lower the risks of cancer, reduce diabetes risks, aid weight management and improve heart health. There is a lot of great advice available to anyone who wants to try this way of eating. My favourite advocates are Dr Colin Campbell, Dr Michael Greger and Dr Dean Ornish if you want to learn more.
I want to become a vegetarian for many reasons such as it’s better for environment, my health and the animals. What are some of the best sources of protein in a vegetarian/vegan diet?
The best sources of vegetarian protein (not vegan) are eggs, dairy including yoghurt and vegan sources are tofu (made from soya beans), hemp protein, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts and seeds. I also recommend high quality, sweetener free protein shakes for individuals who are particularly active and have a busy lifestyle.
What’s the deal with chocolate, is it really that bad for you?! I love chocolate!!
Me too! If you love chocolate choose dark chocolate with at least 70% minimum cocoa solids – this means it contains higher levels of cocoa and lower levels of sugar and dairy. A 40g portion should be the daily limit. My favourite brands are Green & Blacks, Divine and Montezuma. Booja Booja do amazing vegan truffles that are HEAVENLY. Cocoa contains antioxidants and heart healthy flavanols to help support vitality and reduces free radicals in the body (they cause ageing). It also provides a mood boost and is a source of joy for many individuals. If you are trying to lose weight limit chocolate intake to once per week.
Thanks to our NC community for sending in such brilliant questions! And thank you very much Aarti for taking the time to answer our questions.
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Aarti is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, health expert and passionate foodie. She is co-founder of Your Plate – a Nutrition and Behaviour Change wellness clinic – www.yourplate.co.uk
Check out Aarti’s other articles for us HERE