Nutritional expert Dr Libby will speak about healthy living at the Warkworth Town Hall on September 26, at 7pm. Dr Libby is backed by 14 years of university study and two decades of clinical practice. Her books have sold more than 300,000 copies in Australia and New Zealand and she has just released her 11th book, What Am I Supposed To Eat?
Are people pre-occupied with their health and if so, what is the downside of this?
This is certainly becoming more common, yes. On one hand, it’s fantastic that people are taking a proactive interest in their health and wellbeing, because without our health we have nothing. But, at the other end of this spectrum is orthorexia, a condition fuelled by an obsession with perfect, healthy or “clean” eating, and a deep-seated fear of not being able to maintain this at all times. It can take over a person’s thoughts and their life, and this isn’t healthy at all.
Who is more interested in food and good health – men or women? Why do you think this is?
In my experience, women generally take a greater interest in this, and unfortunately it tends to be driven by a fixation on their body shape and size. The desire or pressure to be ‘slim’ and ‘pretty’ is far greater on girls and women, although body dissatisfaction and pressure to look a certain way seems to be becoming more of an issue for men nowadays, too. Body focus aside, women tend to be more interested in taking care of their health, both their own and as well as that of family and friends.
How much sugar can a normally active 20-year-old consume in one day and still remain healthy, and does the source of the sugar matter?
We cannot burn off or out-exercise the effects of bucket loads of sugar or a poor-quality diet. Sugar doesn’t just have the potential to impact our body shape and size, it can also affect our metabolic health and the health of our body systems and organs, and this is something that we won’t necessarily notice until much later down the track. The WHO says that a “safe” amount of sugar to consume is six teaspoons per day. There are 10 to 14 teaspoons in one can of soft drink.
Also, where we get our sugar from matters – there’s a huge difference between eating some lollies and eating a piece of fruit. The fruit is packaged up with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and these are the nutrients that we need to stay alive and for amazing health.
Sometimes it can feel like information overload in the health sector – how are ordinary people meant to be able to know what information they can trust?
A great way to strip nutrition or health information back and make sense of it all is to bring it back to the fundamentals of good health which most health professionals, regardless of their background, agree on, such as eating more vegetables and decreasing or avoiding highly refined and processed foods. There is no one diet that is best for everybody, so I encourage people to listen to the messages their body is sending them and to do what is right for them. Your body truly is your best barometer. In general though, eat whole real foods, not processed “foods”.
Where do you stand on vegan and vegetarian diets?
It’s the food choices that people make within these diets that will determine whether they are nutritionally adequate or not – the label doesn’t guarantee that they will be nourishing. There are certain nutrients that can easily be too low when you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, so it’s essential to be mindful of this. If you eat in this way, an experienced nutrition professional can help to ensure you are meeting your nutritional requirements.
Why do so many people these days have food allergies? Do you think they are real or imagined?
Food allergies and food intolerances are most definitely real, but they have very different mechanisms. Allergies can be life-threatening while intolerances make people unwell. Stress can also contribute to the development of intolerances – it is known to exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and can affect the integrity of the gut wall, which can lead to inflammation and/or hypersensitivity to certain components of food.
Mahurangi Matters has three double passes to give away. Send entries to email@example.com, with Dr Libby in the subject line. Competition closes at 9am on Monday September 25.