This January the shelves were stacked with the latest new diet books ready to grab our attention and money after we had all indulged over the festive period. I spotted this stand in a local supermarket and it includes The Sirt diet, Michael Mosley’s The 8 week blood sugar diet, Bear Grylls Fuel for Life, Davina’s Smart Carbs, I Quit Sugar, Clean and Lean for Life…. The running theme here is sugar (free!), which is the hot topic at the moment, and therefore a sure way to make some cash! With so many books to choose from where do you start and will the book be useful?
Celebrity endorsed books always catch our eye; surely they know what they are talking about with food and nutrition!? Well they eat food and probably cook – but does this give them the knowledge to tell us what to eat and teach us about nutrition? Would we go to an electrician or plumber when we need an operation? Then why do we turn to celebrities for nutritional advice? Personal experience does not make you an expert in nutrition, everyone is different. What works for one celebrity doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
What about the ones with the funny names… The Sirt Diet?? – they may well blind us with science, but when you look into them closer (like Rosie Saunt does on her blog) we find the science is poor and often the diet ultimately leads to diet restriction which is why you lose weight!
Be careful that some diet books don’t make you feel bad about your self. Sarah Wilson is looking beautiful on the front of her best seller ‘I Quit Sugar’, it must be because she doesn’t eat sugar any more….?!? She tell’s us some of the reasons we should quite sugar – “It’s Poison and it is responsible for over 35 million deaths world wide”. This is not strictly true and could be classed as scaremongering. Yes obesity can lead to fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but not sugar on it’s own. People who eat large amounts of sugar, will also consume a large amount of fat and calories leading to weight gain and then obesity related diseases.
If people believe this it could lead to them feeling guilty about eating sugar. When we cut something totally out of our diet we often crave it and then might eat to much of it, so by allowing a little of something within a healthy diet it may help our mental health as well as our waistlines! Sarah has discussed this previously in her article Don’t be scared of sugar.
Some books advocate cutting lots of food groups out of your diet, for example Bear Grylls Fuel for life advocates a dairy, wheat and sugar-free diet and Deliciously Ella’s new book ‘Every Day’ contains dairy, gluten, meat, fish and sugar-free recipes. Ella states that this diet has helped her back from a debilitating illness, but is this diet right for everyone? The worry about going dairy, gluten, meat, fish and sugar-free is that without careful thought or supervision you could easily become deficient in calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, B vitamins. Yes, eating more veggies in your diet is great, so eating one of her recipes ever so often would be a great way to get some more veg and fibre in your diet, but there is no evidence to say your diet is healthier if you cut out dairy and gluten. If you want to find out more about Deliciously Ella’s book then check out this review in the Healthy Food Guide.
James Duigan’s book is about clean eating. What is clean eating? Clean eating is eating whole foods that have not been processed. These foods include whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, free range meat, unsalted nuts and seeds. Foods that should be avoided are processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine. On the face of it this seems great, cooking from scratch and lots vegetables, but peer into to the world of social media and the #cleaneating has been taken too far in some cases and people are ‘over healthy’ restricting their diets too much, losing weight and becoming malnourished. This recent phenomenon has been termed orthorexia: an eating disorder in which the suffer avoids foods they believe to be harmful causing them to lose weight and become malnourished.
The most scientific book out of this bunch is Michael Mosley’s 8 week blood sugar diet. He is a doctor and also wrote the book ‘The Fast Diet’ (the 5:2 diet). This diet is aimed at overweight people who are at risk of or who have developed diabetes with the aim of reversing it. The diet is low carb Mediterranean-style and consists of 800kcals a day for the first 2 weeks. He backs his book up with 52 references in the back and even has the help of a Dietitian, Dr Sarah Schenker, (yay!) to devise the low carb recipes. He does point out that you should talk to your doctor before starting especially if you are on insulin or blood pressure tablets. So this is a diet option for some, but not a diet for everyone.
The one diet book / cook book that you will find on my coffee table is Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super food (I must admit I have been a fan since 1999 when his first book was published and I have 10 of his cook books on my shelve…!). Although not a nutritionist, he has recently taken the time to study nutrition and has taken advice from leading dietetic names such as Prof Gary Frost and Prof Tom Sanders. His healthy diet advice at the back of his book is the most sound out of all the books looked at here, although I must admit some of his recipes would require some concentration and I have not tried one yet!!
Why isn’t there any plain old healthy eating books out there? Probably because it is to boring and you need to keep re inventing diets to make into books and make more money! My advice would be to enjoy these books as cook books, not as nutrition books. Look at the lovely pictures of the foods, try some of them out, but don’t take these books to heart. For a healthy diet: eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, fish, meat, include some vegetarian days (meatless Monday!), eat modest amounts of high sugar / fat foods. Try cooking from scratch more. Only avoid foods that cause you a problem, don’t eliminate dairy or gluten unless you have a proven intolerance (speak to your GP or a dietitian). Head over to our blog post ‘Thoughts on Healthy Eating‘ for some more tips. For trusted nutrition advice, contact a dietitian (as we are actually qualified in nutrition)!! Oh and if any celebrity wants to team up with a dietitian for their next diet book then you know where we are!