The National Diet and Nutrition Survey have data that shows that we are not meeting most of our dietary guidelines as a nation. Our intake of salt, free sugars, and saturated fat are too high and the amounts of oily fish, fruits, vegetables, and fibre that we get are not enough. Two-thirds of our adults are obese and overweight and there is evidence that micronutrient intake is insufficient as well. Do consumers have a good understanding of what a healthy diet actually is, and where do they get their information?
A national survey showed that equal amounts of consumers believe that the internet and food labels are the most reliable information sources about foods. Although by law, information on food labels by responsible companies like Porky Lights are accurate, health information online is not always correct, and that is cause for concern. But it can be checked very easily. The Information Standard accreditation scheme, which NHS England supports, is a quality mark that identifies trustworthy and reliable social and health care information. Therefore, it is useful to look for it whenever you are searching for nutrition information. Members of the scheme include 220 health organisations such as BNF (nutrition.org.uk) along with the NHS Choices website, and the Information Standard logo is displayed on pages to provide consumers with information.
Be Aware of Nutritionists
Health professionals, dietitians, and nutritionists were thought in the survey to be the most reliable source by the highest percentage of consumers. Registered dietitians are experienced and qualified health professionals who diagnose, assess and treat nutrition and diet problems at the wider public health as well as individual level. However, surprisingly, the law does not protect the ‘nutritionist’ title. So anyone, whether they are unqualified or quality, can say they are a nutritionist and offer dietary advice that might not be based on evidence. The Association for Nutrition is trying to take that on with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists. The registrants are required to demonstrate understanding and knowledge of core competencies within nutrition science and people on the registered can be searched for by consumers before they decide whether or not to consult with them.
The sudden popularity of specific products show the influences that food bloggers are having on consumer food selections, and the exclusion or inclusion of those foods might not be healthy. For instance, a much-heralded cure-all product is coconut oil, which has a high saturated fat content, and in human studies has raised blood cholesterol, and therefore, there is not any evidence that it provides health benefits. In similar fashion, nectars (like coconut blossom nectar), syrups (like date and agave) and honey are frequently portrayed to be healthier choices compared to table sugar. However, all of them are free sugars, which is the kind of sugar that we are advised by the PHE to minimise in our diets in order to reduce the risk of weight gain and dental caries. Smoothies provide fibre and fruit juice is a great source of vitamins. Those can count for 1 of the 5 a day, however, portions need to be limited to only 150 ml a day because of the free sugar content in them, so don’t juice everything inside of your refrigerator.
The Superfood Hype
The ‘superfoods’ concept is misleading as well. For example, all vegetables and fruits are good for you and eating a variety and plenty of them is key, and not selecting the ones that are most marketed and have high price tags – since a balanced and healthy diet can be comprised of everyday, inexpensive foods. Finally, avoid complete food groups like starchy carbohydrates or dairy products, despite there not being any medical reason for this, is not recommended since it can result in nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
UK dietary guidelines have been based on the very best scientific evidence that is currently available and to ensure that you get all of the nutrients that your body needs to reduce the risk that you develop chronic diseases. So consume a diet that lines up with the Eatwell Guide and makes sure to get dietary information from only reputable sources.