The Truth About… Lemon Water

So I thought it was time for another diet debunking… and while this is one is getting old, (and hopefully less popular), it seems to keep popping up every now and again… so I thought that I would post this anyway…

Another popular… shall we say diet trend that I have been watching for a little while is again not in itself a diet but another food buzz… a food buzz around lemon water… No I am not just talking about flavouring water with a slice of lemon to make it more palatable, although… it is just lemon in water… but it’s the claims that surround it…

Once again, my friend google has offered countless of sites that offer lots of reasons why everyone should start their day with warm lemon water… everything from alkalizing the body, to speeding digestion, to flushing out toxins… but can it really be that good? Unfortunately not… it’s just lemon in water… Although unlike many wonder diets out there at least this one hasn’t cost you that much…

So what’s the truth… well, maybe it’s easier to say what isn’t.  The most common reasons for consuming lemon water… as searched on google by myself… are as follows… aiding digestion and detoxing, weight loss, and balancing the bodies pH… and here are the facts

20131007-133103.jpg1. Water helps with digestion and detoxing… not lemons.
Some of the benefits that are often attributed to lemon water are most likely due to the fact that more water is consumed.  Water is essential for digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients, body temperature regulation and the elimination of waste from our bodies.  Starting the day with a full glass/mug/bucket of lemon water also means that you are starting the day with the same volume of water and in many cases this is additional to what you may have normally consumed, or instead of an alternative beverage that contains other things as well as water, such as milk, juice or coffee. When we consume adequate amounts of water, which many people find challenging, our bodies are more efficient at processing and removing waste products… I guess that could be called detoxing, but it’s not the lemon, it’s simply the fact that the body has the bits it needs to do it’s job.

20131007-133043.jpg2. One food won’t ‘fix’ your metabolism.
Another common misconception that gets caught up in this is that lemon water can also ‘increase your metabolism’ and to be blunt, it’s just not true… there is no single food that will boost/speed up/alter our metabolism. Yep foods are metabolised differently, and some are easier to digest than others, but our metabolism as a system is much more complicated than simply adding lemon. It is regulated somewhat by our intake, including water and hydration, but also by a whole series of hormones… and if I could find one food that would make it go faster… my job would be a lot easier… but it’s not lemon water.

20131007-133037.jpg3. Lemons are acidic!
There is also lots of hype around alkaline foods… and their neutralizing nature – but that’s a whole blog in itself. The reality is the GI tract which runs from our mouth to… well the other end, has a number of different pH levels (that is how acidic or alkaline something is) which it requires to function.  On the most part it is acidic… on purpose… and if it wasn’t it would stop working properly.  Lemons are also acidic… in saliva, they are still acidic… they give us vitamin C because they are acidic (Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid)… if they neutralized and somehow alkalized the body we wouldn’t get the vitamin C or ascorbic acid… because it would have disappeared in the process… if it becomes neutral or alkaline… its not an acid anymore… Lemon water and alkalising just doesn’t make sense.  You can’t add an acid to our acidic bodies and make an alkaline environment.

As a side note to the whole lemons are acidic thing… acidic drinks… like soft drinks, juices and you guessed it lemon water aren’t great for your teeth, so you need to make sure that you clean your teeth afterwards… the acids in these drinks eat away at the enamel on the teeth… and if that’s not protected… well it’s not pretty. Acid + more acid doesn’t equal alkaline

20131007-133110.jpg4. Lemon water won’t make you lost weight.
Well simply adding lemon water to the diet won’t… there are lots of celeb’s that rave about the lemon water diet…the great Beyoncé herself believes it is a miracle diet… but it only works if you use lemon water to replace other food… so really just having less calories in the diet… less calories in = weight loss. But in this case it also means you also lose all of the other nutrition that the meal replaced has provided… mostly all macronutrients – Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate… none of which lemon water provides. So it will work, but it’s not a great way to do it, it’s unsustainable and dangerous… and definitely not recommended.

20131007-133057.jpgSo is there any actual benefit for lemon water?
Well, if you can’t stand plain water and a slice of lemon helps you keep your fluids up and stay hydrated… then absolutely… If you really hate fruit and this is as close as you can manage… well I guess some vitamins are better than none (and even then a slice of lemon only has 16% of your recommended daily intake of Vit. C compared to an orange which contains 118%). But including water and fruit, even lemons, as part of the bigger picture of a well balanced diet is much more important than relying on lemon water to fix everything… because it just can’t.

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It’s not magic,
It’s not special,
It’s just regular food…

Em – your friendly Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD).

The Truth About… Green Juice

There are lots of new diet fads popping up all the time, some good, some bad, some indifferent…  Usually they have all  been spruced before… Just like fashion trends, diets come and go, some last a little longer and some are gone almost as soon as they were in.

The truth is, lots of these diets are actually based around a little bit of truth, but their promotion and advertising, usually done by those who don’t understand the research or science behind the idea, often promise miraculous results and mind blowing efficiency.

One such diet that I have been watching for a while now, is actually not so much a diet, but a food buzz around something in particular… Green Juice…

A quick google search will quickly offer you a number of benefits from this magic drink.  From curing cancer, detoxing and cleansing, to goodness delivered straight to your cells because of decreased digestion… But the reality is, they are not all they are cracked up to be… and in some ways they can actually be more of a hinderance then good…. but before we get that, lets just clear a few things up:

  1. There is no diet/juice/miracle food that will curer cancer.  Believe me I have looked and if there was, I would tell everyone… and I would be very rich.  Good nutrition is important to maintain strength and wellbeing during cancer treatment, and in some cases good nutrition can assist in preventing cancer, but there is no one food that will magically take it away.  I wish there was, but there isn’t, green juices are not the exception to this rule.
  2. Juice does’t cleans or detox The jury is still out on detoxing, but the reality is regardless of what we eat our food is broken down through the same system.  Our gastrointestinal tract… it has one liver and some kidneys whose greatest purpose in life is to detox the body… and you guessed it, they do this to the green juice too.  Juice cannot not actually remove any toxins itself, and depending on how concentrated it is can actually just make your body work harder than if you had eaten the ingredient raw.  As a side note, because the ingredients of green juice are… juiced… they also loose some of their ability to cleanse and clean out.  This idea is basically looking at a good bowel… making sure what goes in, comes out and does so regularly this system relies on fibre to work and much of the fibre from the ingredients in green juice are removed or prematuraly broken down during the juicing process.
  3. Green Juice is Digested… As you may have guessed from number 2…   Green juice is in fact digested.  Everything we consume is digested, in fact the act of chewing or in the case of drinking… swallowing is part of the digestion process… these nutrients are delivered to the cells of the body the same way everything else is… via digestion.  If something went straight to our cells we wouldn’t need to drink it… we could simply bath in it to get the full affect… but that’s not what happens, we drink, we digest, and the nutrients are delivered just as efficiently as any other food.

There are a few other things about Green Juice that worry me just a little.  While they do contain lots of vitamins and minerals they are deficient in key macro-nutritients that our bodies require to function.  These are called macro-nutrients because we require ‘macro’ or larger amounts of them, than the micronutrients offered by a juice.  So when a juice is regularly used as a meal replacement, we miss out on protein and fat that we need (yes, fat is an essential part of the diet).

If we consume the juice with a meal, e.g. as part of breakfast we also get the additional energy provided by the juice… (an average cup of green juice contains somewhere between 335kJ and 502kJ (80 and 120 calories) this is roughly equivalent to a tub of low fat yogurt (427kJ)).  Extra energy in, if not burnt. will eventually lead to weight gain, so the addition of green juice to an individual’s regular diet will not assist with weight loss

Generally speaking Australian’s struggle to get enough fibre in the diet.  Good bowel health is important for so much more than regality, and fibre is crucial to this.  While you may be able to fit the volume of 3 serves of vegetables into a green juice, because of the fibre lost through juicing, it will only ever be equivalent to 1 serve of veg… thats a lot of work for 1 serve.

So what’s the alternative… well there is a place for the occasional juice, especially for the fussier few who don’t really include any vegetables, as juiced vegetables are better than none at all… but can you get the same amount of vitamins and minerals without juice?  Of course!  How?  Well you eat the greens (and other vegetables) normally, include them as a regular part of the diet.  The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that women consume 5 serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit daily, for Men it’s 6 serves of Veg (19-50yrs) and 2 fruits… What’s a serve? 1/2 cup of cooked veg, or a 1 cup of salad.  A nice way to work towards this is to aim to have half of your dinner plate vegetables.

Fruits and Veg

Remember that the vitamins and minerals are not enhanced by juicing, they are always there in the food… Make sure you include fruits and veg at every meal because the reality is, one great day of intake doesn’t give you your vitamins for the week… if you don’t need these extra vitamins on the day, your body will dispose of them anyway.  Most of them aren’t stored up for a rainy day, they need to be consumed daily… so just eat your greens… and oranges… and yellows… and reds… and purples… get a little bit of everything and you’ll actually find you will have all you need.

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It’s not magic,
It’s not special,
It’s just regular food…

Em – your friendly Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD).

Enough is Enough

IMG_2064Recently I read an article which sums up some of my sentiments much better than I can, in fact you can read all about it here…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/nutrition-advice_b_3061646.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

But if you can’t be bothered reading the article… let me summarise and paraphrase… Basically the article talks about how in the world we live in today everyone is considered a nutrition expert, when in fact they are not.  It highlights the fact that while many people have had success with weight loss and improving their health, this does not automatically make them a nutrition expert.  And while that may not sound like a big deal, when you think about it in the context of other industries it makes a little sense.  It is like saying because someone has looked at a house they can build one, or because someone has watched ‘Law and Order’ they are actually now a qualified lawyer… when you look at it like that, it seems pretty silly.

The thing is people do this all the time… they see an interesting picture on the internet, or hear someone who looks healthy, or who is famous recommend something that agrees with their food philosophy, or just seems legit so they think it must be true and they have to tell everyone about it… even if it’s not true.  But because the general population are not experts in nutrition they can’t actually tell you whether it is or not… which just continues the whole cycle and actually helps no one.  This is how most fad diets are born, including things which on the surface look pretty good, for example juicing, or sharing propaganda on specific nutrients which are now apparently toxic… despite the fact that there is no actual evidence to back this up.

You might think I am being a little harsh, but the reality is, poor nutritional information and dietary habits can be dangerous and it is important that people think clearly about what they believe when it comes to food as well what they are going to share when it comes to food.  But isn’t that what I am doing you might say… just pushing my own opinions on nutrition?  Well maybe I am, but I am actually a qualified expert in nutrition, and I not saying that because I want to sound good or because I want to promote myself in anyway, it is what I am employed to do.  I am a dietitian and this means that I am trained to be an expert in nutrition and all that comes with it, including the interactions between nutrition, weight and health and disease…  Often I find myself, in fact most of the time I find myself defending good nutritional advice to people who have heard or read that some obscure supplement with an ingredient in such minute amounts it is almost not there, is better… which no matter how much I explain and provide evidence in the contrary, because the reality is not exciting, like the supplement or quick fix, people don’t want to hear it.

I have deliberately chosen not to write about nutrition and/or dietetics in the past because nutrition isn’t a one size fits all thing, sure there are some general rules of thumb, but what you need can be very different from the person sitting next to you.  And while I know what is right and wrong when it comes to food, sometimes I am not the best example and as this is my personal blog I wouldn’t want people getting the wrong idea about what I think is ok to do because of what I do on here (although I try not to share my worst food habits just in case).  But I have had enough and this blog has been brewing for a little while… in fact every time I see something incorrect on facebook, which is at least second daily, I think now is the time… but I hadn’t done it… but now I feel inspired, maybe because I feel like someone is finally on the side of the dietitian… who knows.  As a result I am going to try and debunk some common food myths or fad diets as I see them.  Please don’t think I am trying to push my own agenda, I just want there to be a place for people to find if they ‘google a diet’ so that some good evidenced based advice comes up… rather than what usually happens… lots of false, unhelpful claims… It’s not going to be all the time, just every now and then because I feel like I need to be better at sharing what I know, breaking some of my own bad habits… but also helping others make sound choices rather than wishing the internet would regulate the rubbish its self, coz lets face it, its not going to happen.

The truth is having a healthy diet may not be the most glamorous diet going round, but it works, what you put in your mouth needs to be used or you will put on weight, extra weight puts you at risk of a number of diseases, as does being underweight.  And unfortunately there is no quick fix… but the good news is even small steps in the right direction help.

So if you want to make sure you are getting correct information, check where it comes from, who wrote it and what their intentions were.  Don’t be afraid to challenge claims and fads, read labels carefully and if you are stuck ask a professional… there are actually a lot of us out there… here is a good place to start if you want one…

http://daa.asn.au

Be careful and if it looks to good to be true, it probably is…

Em – your friendly Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD)