Experts at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) explain why good nutrition is about more than just what you eat!
When it comes to optimum nutrition, it’s not just what we eat that has an impact on our health. Whilst we might assume that our waistlines are a result of our food choices, other aspects such as how and when we eat can be just as important.
According to registered nutritional therapist Leanne Gardner, who practises at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition’s clinic in London, when we are stressed energy is diverted elsewhere and digestion is put on hold. “This is compounded when we are hunched forward at our desks or eating in the car,” she says. “In these situations our breathing is compromised. The level of oxygen in our blood is reduced and the compression means the food does not travel to our stomach and gut easily.” This can lead to partially digested food hanging around, resulting in gas or bloating.
“Perhaps too, our body sees distraction as distress and is therefore unaware that digestion is required,” she adds. “When we eat whilst multitasking or bombarded with sensory overload and stimulation, our body and specifically our digestive system is confused.”
To get the most out of the digestive process, al-desko lunches and TV dinners are best avoided. Gardner also suggests taking a moment to relax before beginning to eat, eating slowly, and being mindful of the smell, taste and texture of your food – these will help your body to properly absorb and digest the nutrients, leading to better nourishment overall.
Although many of us grab meals and snacks as and when it suits us, without thinking about the time, when we eat can also have a big impact on our health. Heather Rosa, Dean at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, says: “Every time you drink or eat something, it goes into the intestinal tract. We need to keep some distance between our meals – at least four hours. Our body needs to recuperate from the digestive process rather than being stimulated continually with food input.”
Studies have also suggested that consuming all of our meals within a set time frame, such as within eight, 10 or 12 hours, can reduce body weight and improve blood sugar and insulin levels. One study found that delaying breakfast by just 90 minutes and eating an evening meal 90 minutes earlier led to a reduction in body fat, despite no restrictions placed on how much participants could eat.
However, it’s worth consulting an expert to find out what might work best for you.
Just because we’ve eaten something, it doesn’t mean we get all the benefit from it. Malabsorption refers to when we don’t absorb all the nutrients from the food we eat, which can result in symptoms such as tiredness or persistent diarrhoea, along with deficiencies in iron, folate, vitamin D or vitamin B12.
Malabsorption can be due to illness, food intolerances, or inflammatory bowel disease. As we get older, we may be at increased risk of malabsorption because our digestion becomes less efficient.
Certain nutrient combinations don’t work well together either. Phytic acid, for example, which is found in cereals, seeds, nuts, legumes and bran, can bind to minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and zinc, reducing the extent to which they can be used in the body. Calcium, to a small degree, and the tannins in green and black tea can also have a negative effect on iron absorption. So that morning cuppa alongside your scrambled eggs may be counterproductive.
Because it’s important to find the right foods for you as an individual, and also to think about lifestyle factors which may be impacting your health, ION recommends working with a registered nutritional therapist. With recommendations tailored to your individual needs, they can help you get the most out of the food you eat.
Visit ION’s Optimum Nutrition Clinic at: ion.ac.uk/thriveclinic to find out how to optimise your own health.
Or why not go a step further and find out about a career in nutritional therapy? Help yourself, your family and others to get the most from food.
Visit ion.ac.uk/thrivecareers to learn more.
References:  https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ journal-of-nutritional-science/article/ pilot-feasibility-study-exploring-the-effects- of-a-moderate-timerestricted-feeding-intervention- on-energy-intake-adiposity-and-metabolic- physiology-in-freeliving-human-subjects/ 9C604826401917A6CAD9CD10B72FEA32