This season we caught up with Holland and Barrett’s nutritionist Alex Thompson to find out about the latest trends in the health world, how to snack well and what to look out for in 2015…
What’s all this hype about coconut oil?
Coconut oil contains a high level of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are more easily metabolised as a source of energy compared to the more common longer fats also sourced from the diet. Substituting some of the fat in the diet for MCTs (sourced from coconut oil) has been shown by some research to increase rate of weight loss.
Fight off those viruses and bacterial infections…
One specific MCT in coconut oil, called lauric acid, can be converted into a natural anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent in the body called monolaurin.
Coconut oil also contains an MCT called caprylic acid. This has been shown by in vitro studies to have an anti-fungal effect. Caprylic acid containing products have also been traditionally used to help address yeast infections.
Lauric acid also been shown to have the effect of increasing HDL (‘good’) cholesterol which may provide a protective effect against cardiovascular disease (CVD) when combined with other dietary and lifestyle measures conducive to reducing CVD risk.
Coconut oil has been reported to provide excellent moisturising effects, to be a useful intensive hair conditioner and can be used to remove oil based make up. Coconut oil has also been traditionally used to promote oral health and whitening of the teeth.
Snacking is essential, but we need you to tempt us away from those devilish biscuits! What treats are on offer at Holland and Barrett to make us happy and healthy?
For those with a sweet tooth there are two types of product available, which provide a taste satisfaction but do not carry the same negative health effects of foods high in extrinsic (‘free’ and refined sugars).
Firstly, dried fruit provided naturally occurring sugars but also provides an array of other useful nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. These are best combined with nuts and/ or seeds, providing protein and healthy fats, to provide a good array of nutrient types and to promote balanced blood sugar levels in between meals.
Go Sugar Free
Secondly, Holland and Barrett stock a wide range of sugar free and no added sugar products in the form of sweets and chocolates. These provide the same taste satisfaction but contain sugar substitutes such as polyols instead of added sugar. Polyols have a very similar taste and sweetness to sugar but typically have around half the available calories of sugar, have a lower glycaemic index (GI) rating and are typically free form side effects at intakes less than 30g per day (higher intakes may have a mild laxative effect), although more sensitive people (e.g. those with IBS) may need to restrict intake to no more than 10g per day. Brands available include: Diablo, Free’ist, Ricola, Plamil, and Ohso.
What’s the HOT product of 2016?
My personal opinion would be xylitol. This is a particular polyol which is found in many of the sugar free/ no added sugar products on the market. It can also be bought in granulated form and used in hot drinks, on cereals, in puddings or in baking. It tastes identical to sugar and has an almost identical texture and mouth feel. I have conducted blind taste challenges with customers at product showcase days and product demonstrations and very rarely do customers tell the difference between xylitol and sugar. The product provides all of the taste satisfaction of sugar but carries none of the negative health effects. However, due to its similarity with sugar in terms of taste and sweetness it is generally very easy and painless substitution for people to make.