Diet Advice And Trends Of 2015 Debunked, Including Sugar Bans And Clean Eating

28/12/2015 09:19 GMT | Updated 28/12/2015 09:59 GMT

Like every other year, 2015 has seen new theories and trends around diet emerge.

But what pearls of wisdom should we bring with us to 2016 and what food trends should we take with a pinch of salt?

We spoke to the experts about hot topics including sugar, clean-eating and red meat to find out.

Sugar

sugar

The idea of cutting down on sugar - or eliminating it from your diet completely - isn't new. But the sweet stuff has been on everyone's lips (figuratively speaking) in 2015 after Jamie Oliver declared war on sugar.

In his programme Jamie's Sugar Rush, the TV chef met people suffering from diabetes and rotting teeth due to the effects of sugar. He then launched a campaign in support of the Sugar Tax to help cut down on the amount of sugar we're consuming.

"I want to see the introduction of a 20p levy per litre on every soft drink containing added sugar – this equates to about 7p per 330ml can," a statement on his website reads.

"Studies show that this could have a significant impact on health in the UK, potentially reducing obesity levels by up to 200,000 people reducing sugary drink consumption by 15%."

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) supports the idea of taxing sugar-laden products.

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, BDA spokesperson Monika Siemicka says Jamie Oliver has given some "good advice" on sugar, but we need to be mindful about the type of sugar we're talking about when it comes to cutting down.

"A lot of the sugar we talk about, (refined sugar), is found in biscuits, cakes and chocolates, so yes cutting that sugar out is a good idea because that comes under the umbrella of healthy eating," she explains.

"But when people start cutting out fruit because they’re worrying about the natural sugar content, that’s quite worrying.

"I’d always suggest that the sugar found in fruit is fine, because it’s very minimal and you still get lots of vitamins and minerals from fruit that are essential as part of a healthy diet."

Clean Eating

organic veg

According to Clean Eating Magazine, the core principle of clean eating is "consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible".

Followers will opt for organic produce wherever possible and "any product with a long ingredient list is human-made and not considered clean".

With more than 23 million images now tagged #EatClean on Instagram, there's no denying that clean eating has continued to be a dominant food trend in 2015.

Celebrity nutritionist Madeleine Shaw is a fan, while high-profile blogger Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) has been labelled "the poster girl for clean eating". The latter takes the concept one step further and eats a purely plant-based diet.

HuffPost UK blogger Hedi Hearts claims clean eating will "boost your energy levels, make your skin glow, flush toxins from your system, maintain your weight, strengthen your immune system and quicken your metabolism."

But Siemicka says clean eating "is not necessarily healthy" and it's important not to take the trend "too far".

"If you're cutting out processed foods, things like ready meals and takeaways, then clean eating can be sensible as you shouldn't have too much of those things anyway," she says.

"But it’s when people start cutting out things like meat because they think it’s having a toxic effect on their body - when it’s not - that can be worrying."

Jordan Younger, the person behind the popular blog The Blonde Vegan, has also spoken about how the #EatClean trend on social media contributed to her developing orthorexia nervosa - an eating disorder based on a obsession with perceived "healthy eating".

Red Meat

bacon sandwich

Meat-lovers broke down in unison this year when the World Health Organisation declared that processed meats such as bacon and sausages are "as big a cancer threat as cigarettes" and all other red meat, including steak, is "probably" carcinogenic.

"Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer," The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO's cancer agency, said.

Cue mass panic. But Siemicka says there's no need to be frightened by the WHO's findings.

"It's not a case of cutting out all red meat, it’s just cutting down what you have. Eating red meat a couple of times each week is fine," she says.

In fact, Siemicka insists it can be beneficial to include red meat alongside chicken and fish in your diet as it contains high levels of protein and can "keep you feeling fuller for longer".

"The World Health Organisation has said processed meat does increase your risk of cancer, but by a tiny amount, so that’s why it’s been listed as a potential carcinogen," she explains.

"To put it into context, six out of every 100 people will get bowel cancer in their lifetime. If those people start eating an excess of 50g of red meat per day it goes up to seven in 100 - that’s only one extra death.

"People need to be aware that if they have loads of red meat - and by loads I mean processed meat such as bacon, sausages and ham every day - they should think about cutting down.

"But having a fry up or a ham sandwich once a week really isn’t going to be an issue.

"People are comparing it to smoking, but we know that the majority of smokers are going to go on to develop cancer and that’s just not the same for red meat. It can’t be compared."

Gluten-Free

bread

Sales of gluten-free products have reportedly doubled in the last five years as more and more people jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.

Celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Novak Djokovic are reported to be among fans, but Siemicka warns that gluten-free may not be for everybody.

"If someone has coeliac disease - meaning they can’t have gluten in their diet because it actually damages their gut - that is very serious and in that instance following advice on a gluten-free diet is a must," she says.

"But for people who do not have coeliac disease, gluten is not bad for us. The gluten-free fad almost undermines how serious coeliac disease is because suddenly everyone has a gluten intolerance.

"For people with coeliac disease if they even have a grain of flour that can set them off and their body will experience an attack, but gluten-free isn’t something the majority of people need to do."

Siemicka believes our growing obsession with gluten-free food may be linked to the "bad rep" carbohydrates have gained in recent years.

"I think people like the idea that if they say they’re gluten-free that means they have a reason to cut out things like bread," she says.

"Of course if you cut out carbs you are cutting out a large food group and a lot of calories, so you will lose weight. It has nothing to do with cutting out gluten.

"Carbohydrates have had a really bad rep recently but that’s where our body gets its energy from."

Advice To Take Forward

plate of food

So what diet advice should we take with us to 2016?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Siemicka's overall message regarding the diet advice of 2015 is to take on board all tips in moderation.

It may be a good idea to cut down on sugar and red meat, but you don't need to banish these foods from your life completely. In the same way ditching processed foods may be beneficial to health, but be mindful not let clean-eating take over your life.

Jo Travers of the London Nutritionist echoes the message that balance is the key to a happy, healthy body.

"None of the fad diets are very easy to stick to long term and some are just plain weird. My favourite diet of all time is The Healthy Balanced Diet," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"It contains protein, whole grain carbs and fruit and veg, some dairy, nuts and seeds. It's not a branded diet just the one that most dieticians recommend.

"A good rule of thumb is at every meal to fill half the plate with vegetables (vitamins and minerals are needed for every process in the body), a quarter with protein (needed for cells and to make hormones and enzymes) and a quarter with carbs (for energy).

"If you get this balance, you won't be hungry, you will keep energy levels up, and your body will work efficiently and you'll get gradual weight loss that is easy to maintain."

Well, we can't argue with that.

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