Food know-how to help you get the most from your training


Naturally tart blackcurrants are rich in anthocyanin antioxidants, which help to fight inflammation and oxidative stress, and now scientists have just discovered another benefit of the dark-coloured berry. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland recently discovered that eating blackcurrants can help to avoid blood sugar spikes. During the study, participants were given three different blackcurrant test products containing 75g of the berry over a course of four separate study visits. Each product contained 31g of carbohydrates and contained a simpler composition of sugar components. Scientists took blood samples in a fasting state and during various intervals after consuming blackcurrants. The results showed that blackcurrant products helped to reduce glucose and insulin levels. It is thought that eating the berry could help to win the war against chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 

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 Q I often suffer from a bloated belly in the evenings and go to bed feeling very uncomfortable. Should I have a food intolerance test? A bloated belly that gets worse in the evening is typical of irritable bowel syndrome, and food intolerances frequently contribute to symptoms. I wouldn’t recommend IgG food intolerance tests, as they are not particularly accurate. Instead, I’d recommend investigating the FODMAPs diet, which eliminates bloat-causing fermentable carbohydrates in one go and then reintroduces them one by one. Research has shown this can work really well for IBS, but it is quite complex, so you’ll need to do it with a FODMAPs-trained dietitian. 


Q I’ve read a lot about intermittent fasting and how it can help us live longer. Is there any truth in this? Consistently eating 15 per cent lower than the body’s calorie maintenance needs for two years has been shown to reduce oxidation in the body, which in theory might protect against disease of ageing, such as cancer and dementia. But there’s no actual proof that either constant calorie restriction or intermittent fasting – e.g. limiting food to an eight-hour window each day, or having two 600-calorie days a week – will make you live longer. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study also cast doubt on some of the weight loss and glucose control benefits of intermittent fasting, so the advantages are by no means cut and dried.


Q I would love to go vegan, but I’m worried it’s going to affect my energy levels. Are there any particular supplements or foods that would help? A healthy vegan diet may lower cholesterol, reduce cancer risk and help with weight loss benefits. But vegans must take a supplement of vitamin B12 to avoid low energy levels (and more serious problems such as neurological changes). Energy levels will also be affected if iron levels are low, and there’s an increased risk of this in vegans as the mineral isn’t as well-absorbed from plants as meat. However, if you eat plenty of pulses, like kidney beans and lentils, along with nuts (especially cashews), fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains and dark green veg, you should get enough. Include vitamin C-rich foods at mealtimes (berries with your cereal, for example), to increase the amount of iron you absorb.

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