Happy Pancake Day!

Pancake Day is very well ‘observed’ by many in the Western world and has become a popular day, but few people may realise that it has roots in Christianity.

Shrove Tuesday is now more commonly known as Pancake day – the day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. Lent is the period of time 40 days before the Christian festival of Easter, and gives Christians that chance to reflect and replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of withdrawing to the desert. During Lent Christians remember the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, marked by Good Friday.

Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was the last day to feast before people fasted over Lent. It was seen as the last chance to indulge oneself and use up foods that weren’t allowed during Lent (sugar, eggs, and dairy). It is thought that pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday because they were an ideal way to use up the leftovers before Lent.

Pancake Day is now celebrated and loved by many even with the emergence of pancake races. Time Out have a list of pancake-related events happening in London here.

 

This is a very simple recipe to make pancakes.

Basic Pancakes

Makes 12-14 small pancakes

Ingredients

4oz/110g plain flour, sifted

Pinch of sat

2 eggs

10fl oz./275ml milk

Oil for greasing the pan.

 

Method

Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it, then whisk in the eggs.

Gradually add small amounts of milk, whisking as you go. (any lumps will disappear as you continue to whisk). You want the mixture to be the consistency of thin cream.

Add some oil to a frying pan and heat until almost smoking. Now turn the pan down to a medium heat. Spoon about 2 tbsp. of the batter into the pan using a ladle if you have one. Tip the pan from side to side so that the batter covers the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. (Flip the pancake with a pan slice if you’re not feeling confident enough to slip it in the air!)

When the pancake is done, side it on to a plate and top with anything you like – get creative!

My favourite toppings include;

  • Lemon and sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Lemon, sugar and Cointreau (a favourite of my grandad’s which I didn’t appreciate until recently!)
  • Nutella and banana
  • Peanut butter and banana

 

I hope you have a delicious pancake day! Use #thesimplenutritionblog on your pancake pics so I can see all your wonderful creations.

The Nutrient Series – SODIUM (& salt)

Why do we need sodium?

Sodium is used for various functions within our body. The main ones include;

  • Maintaining the right balance of fluid inside and outside our cells. It is important to have the right volume of fluid in our cells, blood and extra-cellularly (outside of cells). Sodium is one of the minerals which helps to maintain this balance.
  • Sodium is also used by our nerves in the process of transmitting signals around our bodies and activating particular muscles as and when we need to use them.

 

How much should we be consuming?

Most of the sodium in our diets comes from sodium chloride, most commonly known as table salt. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, most people in the UK consume more than enough salt in their diets.

SACN (The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) recommend that adults consume no more than 6g salt per day (1). However, the average UK adult consumes 8g per day (2).

Too much salt in our diet has been associated with high blood pressure which can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

 

Sources of sodium

Salt is used as a preservative (to make foods last longer) and to enhance the foods flavour. The main sources of sodium are;

  • Preserved meats and fish
  • Ready meals and takeaways
  • Bread and other cereal products

Other, much smaller, sources of sodium are monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavour enhancer, and sodium bicarbonate.

 

Sodium and salt on food labels

Sometimes food labels only state how much sodium is contained in the product. If this is the case, there is an easy way to work out how much salt it contains:

Salt = sodium x 2.5

Some packets may also use a traffic light system to let you know whether the food item is considered high in salt(3);

  • High salt is colour-coded red and is more than 1.5g salt per 100g.
  • Medium is amber-coloured and is anything between 3g and 1.5g salt per 100g.
  • Low-salt foods are colour coded green and contain less than 0.3g salt per 100g.

This is shown easily below:

picture1

 

How can I reduce the salt in my diet?

It’s best to try and eat foods that are low- or medium-salt, and only have foods high in salt occasionally.

You could also try switching to low-salt varieties of things like stock cubes and baked beans. It may take a couple of weeks to adjust to the change in flavour, but it’s quite surprising how quickly you get used to a lower salt product.

You could also try not adding salt to food at the table or when cooking. Try adding other spices and herbs whilst cooking, and maybe only put pepper on the table when it comes to sitting down to eat.

 

 

Sources

  1. SACN (2003). Salt and Health. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338782/SACN_Salt_and_Health_report.pdf
  2. Public Health England (2016). Obesity and healthy eating. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-phe-data-on-salt-consumption-levels
  3. NHS Choices. Salt: the facts. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/salt.aspx

 

 

 

A thought on ‘health and wellness’ bloggers

There’s been a lot of talk recently about people giving unqualified nutritional advice, particularly online. Unfortunately, the term ‘Nutritionist’ isn’t a legally protected title at the moment so anybody can use it, regardless of whether they have completed a 3 year BSc degree or a three-week course online. As you can imagine, the knowledge given in each of these two courses is completely different.

Another warning sign is if someone is suggesting that a weight loss or healthy eating solution will work the same for everyone. A properly qualified dietitian or nutritionist has spent years studying biochemistry and physiology and knows that nutrition is actually very personal when applied to real people. That’s why they can’t just give you a one-answer-fits-all response when you ask them a question. They will spend time asking you about your other illness/conditions and about your life at the moment to make nutritional strategies personal to you that are based on good scientific evidence. 

On the bright side, you can be sure that you are reading good advice by checking that the person is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutritionists or a registered dietitian (they will have ‘RD’ after their name). My course mates, Fight the Fads, are also petitioning for the title ‘Nutritionist’ to become a legally protected title so that not just anyone can use it.

 

However, I am not saying that you should completely avoid anyone else who is blogging or writing about having a healthy lifestyle. Suggesting that we eat more fruit and veg, lean protein and complex carbohydrates, and move a little more is not a bad thing! And those who are making it fashionable to be healthy have a lot to be thanked for. They are making a healthy lifestyle feel more accessible to thousands of people and giving us tips on workouts and new ways to use veggies.

An observation I have made, though, is that lots of health and wellness bloggers give the impression that you must spend a lot of money on special products or expensive gym memberships to be healthy. You don’t! Laura Thomas, PhD recently addressed this, and the fact that we need more diversity in the wellness and blogging sphere, on her podcast Don’t Salt My Game. All her podcasts are excellently engaging and funny, but this one was particularly topical.

 

What I’m trying to say is to have your sensible hat on when deciding whether to take somebody’s nutritional advice (be especially careful if they are advocating cutting out a whole food group). Take inspiration from these guys and implement small realistic healthy habits into your own lifestyle but don’t ever let it make you feel guilty that you can’t keep up with their ‘lifestyle’ – remember that they are:

  1.  Often endorsed by various companies
  2. Only showing the highlight reel of their life on social media.

A brief introduction to diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that has been referred to a lot in the media in recent months, and is also a concern of medical professionals as the number of people with this condition is increasing.

Its full name is Diabetes Mellitus, and there are two main types; Type 1, Type 2. (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is the one that is most commonly spoken about in the media, and that is associated with being overweight.)

In this post I hope to briefly explain what diabetes is and what the different types are. (Diabetes is a very complex condition, and if you have diabetes, or think you have any of the symptoms, you should take advice from your doctor and a dietitian).

In very simple terms, people with diabetes are unable to control their blood glucose levels properly, which can lead to a whole host of other health problems.

When we eat carbohydrate-rich foods they are digested in our small intestine and the longer chains of carbohydrates (starch) are broken up into smaller molecules (glucose). Some of the carbohydrates we eat, such as table sugar is made up of glucose and fructose molecules (a small molecule similar to glucose). These smaller molecules are absorbed from our small intestine into the blood and transported around the body.

All of our tissues (muscle, bone, brain etc.) use glucose as a fuel to carry out all of their essential processes that keep us alive. The cells in these tissues take up the glucose from the blood with the help of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is released from our pancreas in response to our blood glucose levels increasing after a meal. Think of insulin as a key which unlocks the door for glucose to enter our cells.

It is this process which goes wrong in diabetes – either the pancreas stops producing enough insulin, or our cells stop responding to insulin and don’t take up glucose from the blood causing high blood glucose levels.

 

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is caused by damage to the cells in the pancreas which produce and release insulin. This is usually due to an infection or autoimmune disease (where our own immune system recognises something in our body as foreign).

This means that people with Type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin and must inject it to enable their cells to use the glucose from the blood.

Type 1 diabetes is not preventable – it happens through no fault of the patient.

 

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of diabetes cases. Again, it refers to an inability of the body to use the glucose in the blood, but can be due to one of two reasons (and sometimes a combination of both).

People can become insulin resistant over time which means that their cells no longer respond as well as they used to to the insulin that is released by the pancreas.

The other problem that may occur in Type 2 diabetes is that the pancreas starts losing the ability to produce enough insulin to deal with the demand. (The pancreas becomes tired and overworked if you constantly have high blood glucose levels that need to be brought down).

Type 2 is associated with obesity, particularly when fat is carried around the tummy area. It usually develops over the age of 40, however, we are now seeing more and more young people developing Type 2.

This is worrying because people with diabetes often experience high blood glucose levels which can cause damage to our small nerves and blood vessels which lead to other problems (cardiovascular disease in particular).

diabetes-mellitus

Various symptoms that are associated with diabetes (both types);

  • Hunger
  • Shaking
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Going to the toilet a lot
  • Blurred vision

*If you think you have any of these symptoms, speak to your GP!*

Your GP may test the glucose levels in your urine (as if you have too much glucose in your blood it is excreted in your urine). They may also take a blood test to check your blood glucose levels.

Although you cannot prevent getting Type 1, a good way to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes is to follow a healthy balanced diet as advocated by the Eatwell Guide and to keep your weight in a healthy BMI range (between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2). Also try and include a good amount of fibre and wholegrains in your diet, as it has been shown that foods with a low glycaemic index have a beneficial effect on our blood glucose levels. (I will write a separate post on Glycaemic Index but, briefly, it describes how quickly different foods increase your blood glucose levels.)

 

For more information on diabetes visit these websites;

https://www.diabetes.org.uk/

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Diabetes/Pages/Diabetes.aspx

https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/diabetes.pdf

https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/diabetestype2.pdf

 

Picture: iStock