Our experts give their opinions on some of your most common questions
- Weight loss
Is it better to count calories or watch fat content?
Despite increased awareness around the benefits of good fats and the ongoing argy bargy around calories, the most fundamental tenant of weight loss remains true: it’s calories in versus calories out, says nutritionist Rob Hobson, head of nutrition for Healthspan.
“It all comes down to calories. Good fats are essential for health, plus they’re super-tasty and help us feel full. But they’re pretty high in calories so if you eat too many you won’t be creating the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. However, it’s also true that not all calories are created equal. The body digests and uses calories from foods differently, and healthy fats from foods such as avocado, olive oil and nuts keep blood sugar levels stable rather than spiking it. That’s why it’s better to eat 150-cal of nuts than it is a 150-cal chocolate bar.”
Is it better to go to the gym or go for a walk?
Celebrity trainer Matt Roberts puts it this way…
“Working at a high intensity [as in the gym] achieves more in a short space of time than moderate exercise, such as walking. There’s a much greater likelihood that someone will “overload” in the gym in a way that gets results faster than they would do going for a walk, unless they’re walking over tough terrain.”
Can’t get to the gym? It’s better to go for a walk than do nothing at all. A 2016 study found that a brisk walk of only 20 minutes per day burned around 700 calories a week and led to a 30-40 per cent reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Exercise (however you like to move) is also essential for weight control.
- Everyday additions
Is it better to cut down on salt or sugar?
“In my opinion, the latter,” says GP Dr Emma Clancy, of St Luke’s Primary Care Centre in Duston
“Too much salt has been linked to raised blood pressure and puts a strain on the kidneys but we’re becoming increasingly aware of how bad sugar is for us. It’s strongly associated with obesity, which is directly linked diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers and joint pain. Plus, sugar is everywhere, and so easy to eat – it’s hard to consume quite as much salt.”
Nutritionist Rob Hobson agrees, adding: “Sugar is particularly addictive.”
“And it all adds up – a teaspoon in your tea, take-away coffees and even ostensibly healthy snacks such as energy balls contain a lot of sugar. Even if you aim to cut your consumption by half you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour.”
- Caffeine fix
Is it better to drink tea or coffee?
“In my opinion, either is fine,” says Rob Hobson.
“Studies show that coffee can be beneficial for the liver but tea is packed with antioxidants, so either way you’re getting a health boost. Slightly in tea’s favour is that many people can drink it without the nasty jittery side effects associated with coffee.”
Studies consistently indicate that tea may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Likewise, coffee has been linked with living longer, although in both cases it’s probably wise to hold the sugar (and cream, and syrup). Otherwise, bottoms up! Talking of which…