NUTRITION TIPS & MYTHS
NUTRITION TIPS & MYTHS
5 April 2021
Lisa Beveridge (she/her)
Nutritionist - Final Year Student
There is so much health information going around nowadays, trend diets, social media product ambassadors etc., that finding the real truth about what to eat is difficult. So, I thought it would be helpful to start a monthly tips & myths blog about some frequently asked questions on nutrition and health. If you have something you’ve always wanted to know about, and would like evidence-based answers, ask away! For this month, we have B12 from plant-based sources, carrots for vision, greens powders, leaky gut, and soy. Enjoy!
1. B12 from plant sources?
To get enough B12 from non-animal sources is difficult because of the difference in agricultural practices, there can be big differences in the amount of B12 naturally occurring in foods. Shiitake mushrooms, do contain B12 however this amount varies so it is not a reliable source. Algae on the other hand, in this case nori, is a great source. It was demonstrated to have enough B12 to meet the recommended daily intakes if 2 sheets were eaten per day. Some foods are now fortified with B12 also, or you can use savoury yeast flakes however, there is not a substantial amount of B12 naturally occurring in these and they are fortified so please check the packaging if you are going to use this as your source of B12.
However, if you are not having this everyday, it is important to supplement to prevent any irreversible neuronal damage. In this case, you will need to supplement and there are a range of tablets and sprays for this (you can discuss with your Nutrition or Naturopathy practitioner which is best for you).
2. Can carrots help you see?
The nutrient in carrots, beta carotene, builds up in the retina and can help with eye sight as it is an antioxidant and helps to prevent damage to the eye. So yes, eating carrots, or any orange and yellow fruits and vegetables will help with eyesight. However, it is not only beta carotene that helps with eye-sight, but also the other carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. These can be found in eggs, broccoli, spinach, capsicums and kiwifruits. In the skin, beta carotene can present as an orange tinge as it builds up, this accumulation has been demonstrated to minimize UVA and UVB rays, i.e. it can lessen sunburn, in combination with appropriate sun safety.
DOI: 10.1111/phpp.12541 ; https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201801046
3. Greens powder, is it worth it?
Most greens powers will contain the same sort of ingredients, so this is just a general overview. One ingredient, spirulina, has an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-hypertensive, antitumor, immunomodulatory effect, however is not a good source of iron, and rather is an iron-chelator, i.e. it binds to iron in food and it is then excreted rather than absorbed. 1-2g/day of spirulina however, was found to improve markers of cardiovascular disease and diabetes (HbA1c, c-LDL, c-VLDL, triglycerides, blood glucose and insulin), whist also increasing antioxidant activity (glutathione) which helps with inflammation.
Chlorella, has been studied to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure, blood lipids, cholesterol, blood glucose, insulin, diabetes expressive genes, liver damage enzymes, heavy metal excretion (at a dose of 100mg), immune system regulating, depressive symptom lowering, and antioxidant increasing, in doses of 6-8g per day. Cruciferous sprouts are beneficial as an antioxidant and can help regulate blood glucose and lipid levels. These studies were done with doses effective between 100-200mg/day. Carica papaya, from the papaya fruit, has anti-cancer, immune regulating, anti-oxidant effects, however there is not a lot of research on the dose amount needed for these effects. Depending on which brand you get, the amount you have per day, and what other smaller number of ingredients are in it, there may be beneficial effects as mentioned however, it seems that greens powders are an additional benefit on top of an already healthy, fruit, and vegetable dense diet, not as a substitute.
4. Leaky gut, is it a real thing?
Leaky gut, in simple terms, is when the normal, tight barrier of your gastrointestinal lining becomes ‘leaky’. Meaning, things that would normally be separated from the rest of your body, i.e. food particles, bacteria, and toxins, are entering areas in your body that they’re not supposed to which causes an immune and inflammatory response. Leaky gut can cause many symptoms like tummy upsets, fatigue, brain fog, food intolerances, and mood irregulars among others. This can happen because of many things, i.e. diet, deficiencies, stress (mental or physical!), infections, autoimmune disease, allergies, medications, disruptions in the microflora, or smoking to name a few. In our Westernised society, this is common, however fixable! Elimination or reducing in food irritants and allergens, stress management, restoring nutrients, lowering inflammation, and working with a Nutritionist or Naturopath for additional nutrients to speed up the recovery process is essential.
5. The soy myth
Soy has made a bad name for itself, namely through Westernised countries adapting to having soy as a major protein source and not adapting other foods from these countries with it, i.e. seaweed. However, studies conducted have found that, especially if soy is introduced early on in life, soy has a breast cancer development reducing capacity (whether it be pre or post diagnosis), a prostate enlargement reducing, bone strengthening ability! There have been a handful of single patient studies where there has been changes in their hormones, either causing gynecomastia (male chest tissue growth) and menstruation changes in women however, this was only a few cases who may have had sensitivities to the components of soy and these symptoms completely resolved when the soy was eliminated from the diet. Thyroid issues have also been seen however, only when people were low in iodine (from seaweed, fish, iodised salt), and symptoms were resolved when iodine deficiency was fixed. Isoflavones, which have an antioxidant capacity, are high in soy and even more available for the body to absorb and use when the soy is fermented, like in tempeh, miso, and nato.
Therefore, addition of soy to your meals is highly beneficial. The less processed the soy the better, so try products like edamame, tempeh, miso, nato, tofu, soy milk, and tamari.