Ireland should 'weigh up' the benefits of plant-based foods in a bid to scale down the growing levels of obesity, according to nutritional therapist Anna Collins. Here she outlines how these foods will help you to lose those excess pounds and get your ‘mojo’ back.
Irish men are the most overweight in Europe and Irish women rank third amongst our European sisters. We all know that burning off calories are part and parcel of being trim and slim. But there’s much more to it than that!
Stretch, stretch, stretch…Did you know that your stomach has stretch receptors? These sensors tell your body to produce a hormone called cholecystokinan (CCK), which tells you that you’re full and to ‘stop eating!’
Non-starchy veggies (e.g. all green leafy veg and peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, celery, onions, leeks etc) activate your stretch receptors by being low in calories but high in bulk, thereby helping you to feel full.
By contrast, low-bulk calorie-dense foods like grains, potatoes and sugar don’t activate your stretch receptors as much, calorie for calorie. This leaves you wanting more.
There’s a time lag between the stretch receptors being activated and the message telling you to stop eating. Could this be one of the reasons why eating raw or barely cooked vegetables (foods that need a lot of chewing) makes you eat less?
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that chewing your food 40 times (!) compared with 15 times makes you feel fuller faster and eat less whether you are lean or overweight.
Eating a meal that you don’t need to chew on much (sandwich, pasta or burger and fries anyone?) means you’re likely to have overeaten before you notice you’re full. This is why filling half of your plate with low-carb veggies at midday and evening meals is so important for getting or staying slim.
Too much starchy veg causes weight gain, according to a 24-year study that followed 133,468 men and women; eating more potatoes and corn meant an expanding waistline.
The same study showed that eating more low-carb veggies (broccoli, leafy veg, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, onions) and tofu resulted in a leaner physique.
It’s all about critters: Did you know that you contain around 1,000 different types of micro-organisms (bacteria and yeasts mainly) that colonise your gut (intestines). Overweight people have elevated amounts of certain gut bacteria which extract more calories from food!
In a recent study scientists identified 22 particular species linked to obesity and diabetes .However, it’s not all doom and gloom – you have immense power to change your own gut bacteria!
Within 24 hours of diet change, the population of bacteria in your gut starts to shift. Increasingly, research is proving that incorporating more vegetables to foster growth of good bacteria species results in weight loss in overweight people.
Good bacteria thrive on a wide range of plant foods; veggies, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds and just a couple of servings (cups) of fresh fruit every day. Too much fruit (or eating dried fruit regularly) provides too much sugar. Which isn’t great for your gut bacteria.
Species that promote obesity thrive on a typical Western diet (high in grains, carbohydrates, sugars, refined oils and processed meats). It’s useful to keep in mind that lots of variety on your plate is key.
Different beneficial bacteria thrive on different fruit, veg, pulses, herbs, spices, seeds and nuts. That way you will increase the types as well as the numbers of ‘good’ bacteria.
What about nuts and oils?: Most overweight people I come across in practice try to eat low fat foods and avoid nuts. Surprisingly, this is one of the worst ideas if you want shed the pounds. Certain types of fats are essential for your thyroid hormone (T3) to help you burn calories and feel energetic.
Supplementing a Mediterranean diet (rich in a rainbow of veggies, with some fruit and high quality protein from unprocessed fish, beans, eggs or cheese) with 30g of nuts a day or 1 litre extra virgin olive oil a week results in weight loss .
Another study of 51,188 people over an eight-year period showed that those who ate nuts twice a week or more stayed slimmer than those who ate nuts less often . It didn’t matter whether the nuts were tree nuts or peanuts.
Good fat foods such as raw nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados will help to make you feel full, but they also contain important other nutrients in their own right.
What about minerals? Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium, which you need for avoiding weight gain and protecting against diabetes. Without enough magnesium (also in green veg) you can feel tired but wired. This is another cause of weight gain because the stress hormone cortisol makes you gain inches around your midriff.
Raw nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados contain Vitamin E, important for prolonging the action of Vitamin C inside you. The heavier you are, the lower the levels of Vitamin C in your blood.
Vitamin C deficiency makes you tired, weak and lacking the energy to exercise. This is yet another reason to load up with raw or lightly-steamed vegetables and a little fruit in your meals.
Foods that pack far more Vitamin C than oranges include sweet peppers, strawberries, watercress, broccoli and kiwis.
Get the right amount of fresh, unprocessed plant foods on your plate, with good quality protein and exercise and chances are you will never have to worry about the scales again!
Wishing you all the best of health!
To book your free 20-minute phone consultation or to make an appointment at her clinic in Dublin 12 call 01-4937409 now or email email@example.com
Visit www.annacollins.ie and leave your email to receive Anna’s regular bulletin or check out her latest recipes on her food blog Anna’s Larder.
Anna shares her passion for how your food choices can change your life....
 Bertioa et al. Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLOS Medicine 13(1): e1001956
 I, Li J American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011:94(3)
 Zupancic et al. Analysis of the Gut Microbiota in the Old Order Amish and Its Relation to the Metabolic Syndrome. PLOS ONE. August 15, 2012
 Lasa et al (2014) Comparative effect of two Mediterranean diets versus a low-fat diet on glycaemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;68(7):767-72
 Rastrello et al (2009) Prospective study of nut consumptom, long-term weight change and obesity risk in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2009 Jun; 89(6): 1913-1919