November 2016

Cook&Count2 launches at Diabetes Professional Care 2016

21st November 2016
Cook&Count 2 flyers and cards

Last week we attended the Diabetes Professional Care 2016 conference to launch Cook&Count2 (available now from iTunes) – the much anticipated update to Cook&Count.

 

It was great to meet a wide range of healthcare professionals all interested in diabetes care. And we heard talks and discussions on some controversial topics in the diabetes health world. We met current users and fans of the app, those interested to learn more, and other young businesses working to improve healthcare in the diabetes space.


Digital health tech for diabetes

Diabetes specialist consultant Partha Kar talked about the need for digital health tech in supporting those with diabetes. He emphasised the impossibility of random clinical trials in this area, with technology moving so fast that new digital solutions are obsolete by the time full scale NHS trials are complete. Partha believes anything that’s useful to patients is worth recommending – something we completely agree with.


Low carb vs low fat

There was a lot of promotion of low carb diets for those with diabetes. This included a particularly lively panel discussion made up of GP Ian Lake (who uses a very low carb diet as part of his own type 1 diabetes management), Trudi Deakin (X-PERT Health) and Arjun Panesar (Co-founder of Diabetes.co.uk). All of the panel members were fighting in the high fat, low carb corner.

Here at Health Apps we’ve always promoted a balanced diet, including lots of vegetables – particularly leafy green ones – and reducing sugar intake. While we can see the benefits of a low carb eating plan for many people, it’s not something we necessarily promote ourselves. We want to wait until there’s more long-term evidence into its efficacy. And as Trudi says, everyone is different, so get some tailored advice from a medical professional.


Take home messages for Cook&Count2

We discovered that future versions of Cook&Count could be better adapted for different cultural groups (the UK government database is missing a few popular Asian and African ingredients!), discussed specialist and guest cookbook opportunities, and explored further how Cook&Count could be linked with other health and fitness tracking apps.

 

All in all we received lots of positive feedback and are looking forward to our next opportunity to share Cook&Count2! Click here to head to the App Store to take a look for yourself.

 

 

Dietitian Monika on Polish cuisine

7th November 2016
Dietitian Monika Jakiel-Rusin at table

Our dietitian Monika has been working on some brand new Cookbooks for the new Cook&Count app. As a dietitian, registered nutritionist in public health and a personal trainer, she has a wealth of experience in health and nutrition. Here she tells us a little about herself and her passion for healthy living and home cooking…


At home

My food journey began where I grew up, in a little village in central Poland, where natural food was an integral part of my childhood and my home. Our food was reared or grown locally or by us, and we ate what was abundant, affordable and seasonal. In Poland, food is at the centre of family, friendship and community: it’s about enjoying life! My time growing up in Poland was one of the biggest influences on my nutritional philosophy and is the source of my passion for sharing my love of natural, health-giving food with others.

My goal is to help people lead healthier lifestyles, and I believe that the easiest way of achieving this is through being generally more active and cooking from scratch. Cooking is a great form of physical activity. From my experience, I’ve learned that the more you do it the more you enjoy it and the more benefits you can get out of it!

I enjoy cooking and love spending time in my kitchen where I can completely relax and get lost in preparing enjoyable meals for my family and friends. Cooking and sharing food, for me, is one of the best ways of expressing love.

I try to lead a healthy lifestyle myself, so I can teach with authority by being an example for others. I love sport and in my free time I run, swim, cycle, and practise Pilates and yoga.


At work

My professional journey began with my BSc Honours degree in Diet and Health at Bath Spa University, followed by a Masters degree in Dietetics at the Medical University of Silesia in Poland. I have eight years’ experience in nutritional & dietetic counselling and within the sports industry.

My nutritional philosophy is to use nature as a guide. I encourage people to make the most of the harmony and balance inherent in natural, local, seasonal ingredients.

Balance and harmony are the pillars of my philosophy and clinical method. Harmony for me means all aspects of diet and lifestyle working together, efficiently. In turn, this helps us balance our commitment to our health with all the other demands of our lives.

The focus of my philosophy is on what healthy choices bring to life rather than what they take away. This approach allows changes in attitudes, tastes, and relationships with food and exercise to take place naturally, as a process of discovery. For me, creating a healthy lifestyle is a life-long journey, one that can be challenging, surprising, enjoyable and exciting. I would like all people to be able to find a huge joy in their food journeys.


We love Monika’s philosophy! Here at Cook&Count we’re all about healthy balanced diets, good home cooked food and knowing what we’re eating.

Dietary fat explained: the good, the bad and the ugly

3rd November 2016
Cheesy potato pancakes fat

There’s often a lot of conflicting information in the media about dietary fat. Here our dietitian Monika outlines the facts, so you can make informed choices on the types and quantities of fat in your diet.

Fat is one of our main energy sources, but it also helps us to absorb vitamins, as well as playing a major role in cholesterol levels. To function well our heart prefers to use fat than carbohydrate for energy (unlike the brain, which prefers carbs – glucose in fact).

The main types of fat are saturated, unsaturated and trans-saturated. According to the Food Standard Agency, up to 35% of our total daily energy should come from fat. This should consist of no more than 11% saturated fat, 6.5% polyunsaturated fat, 13% monounsaturated fat, and 2% trans-saturated fatty acids.


Saturated fat: It’s not all bad

Saturated fat often gets a particularly bad rap in the media. But despite its reputation, it has a huge number of important uses in the body, including hormone regulation and immune function. It also has antiviral, antiplaque and antifungal properties that may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And it regulates gene expression in ways that could help to halt the development of cancer cells. Certain types assist the production of omega-3 fatty acids (an unsaturated fat important for brain development), and some can lower a certain type of “bad” cholesterol while others can raise a certain type of “good” cholesterol.

Saturated fat can be found in animal products such as butter, ghee, lard, meat and other dairy. But it’s also contained in some plant products such as coconut, palm oil and cacao butter.

While we don’t want to take in too much of any nutrient, saturated fat is a very important part of a healthy diet.


Unsaturated fat: Absolutely essential

Our bodies can’t make all unsaturated fats themselves – some of them can only be obtained through diet. While mainly found in plant-derived fats, they are also in oily fish and grass-fed animal products. There are two types: polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in vegetable, nut and seed oils, and monounsaturated fatty acids, found in peanut, olive and canola oils.

Both types have some well-known health benefits, including lowering “bad” cholesterol levels and raising “good” cholesterol levels. Omega 3, an unsaturated fat, as mentioned above, has anti-inflammatory and brain boosting properties.


Trans-saturated fat: Worth avoiding

Trans-saturated fats are formed during food processing to make foods solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes foods that stay fresh for longer, therefore increasing shelf life.

The result of the hydrogenation process is a completely unnatural fat that can cause dysfunction in our bodies and increase the risk of heart disease. Processed foods, such as hard margarines and vegetable shortening, sweets, crisps and chocolates are high in trans fats.

All types of natural fat are part of a healthy balanced diet, though we’d recommend you try to limit processed trans fats, which aren’t natural and have a detrimental affect on our health. Eliminating highly processed foods is the easiest way to do this.


So how about getting in the kitchen with Cook&Count to rustle up some tasty unprocessed meals that give you all the benefits of saturated and unsaturated fats!

Sugar intake: from science to society

1st November 2016
Granola bars raspberries yoghurt sugar

It’s hard to avoid sugar in today’s world. Whether it’s cake at parties, desserts after meals, or an ice cream in the park – there’s a lot of social pressure to eat what everyone else is eating. Here our dietitian Monika talks about how best to control sugar intake.

When it comes to eating sweet foods, I try to remember one simple scientific fact – the dose makes the poison. I choose to have small portions, find out a little bit more about the food being offered to me, and then decide whether I’d like to have some more. I do my best to walk the line between making a healthy choice, and a choice that will allow me to fully participate in life.


What’s the science?

Different types of sugar are metabolised differently in our bodies and can have different effects on our health and functioning. Glucose, for example, is the form of energy we were designed to live on. Every cell of our body, every bacterium, and every living microorganism on the planet uses glucose for energy.

When you consume fructose, however, 100% of it goes straight to your liver to be metabolized before it can reach the rest of the cells in the body. Eaten in excess, it overloads the liver and can be toxic. This can lead to long term health problems including gout, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and liver disease.

It isn’t that fructose itself is bad – it is the massive doses the body is exposed to that make it dangerous. In vegetables and fruits, it’s mixed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate the negative metabolic effects. The problem lies in its high quantities in processed foods.

Processed foods contain refined forms of sugar that contain high doses of fructose. These refined forms include the much (negatively) publicised high fructose corn syrup (containing 55% fructose and 45% glucose), and table sugar (sucrose – containing 50% fructose and 50% glucose).


So what’s the problem?

Over the years, low fat recommendations have led to a dramatic increase in sugar consumption around the world. Excessive amounts of sugar in processed food have been overwhelming supermarkets in the western world. Even foods that are considered “healthy” can contain worrying amounts of added sugar or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

It’s important to distinguish between natural sugars and added sugar in foods. For example, a small pot of plain yogurt has about seven grams of sugar in the form of lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy. On the other hand, a fruit flavoured yogurt may contain up to 19 grams of sugar, 12 grams of which is added sugar. This equates to eating a small pot of plain yoghurt with a tablespoon of sugar.

The main problem with sugar is the fact that our livers have a very limited capacity to metabolize it. All the excess sugar is metabolized into triglycerides and free fatty acids, which are stored as body fat around our organs and within the arteries. This can lead to chronic metabolic diseases, from obesity and type 2 diabetes to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.


A piece of cake

It’s hard to escape the sugary world that we live in. We do need to relax and let go. Food connects us with others. During meals with friends and loved ones we need to decide whether joining in with the social norm outweighs the nutritional value of the food that we eat, and sometimes it does.

We do, however, need to be careful not to let social pressure drown out our internal wisdom that helps us make healthy food choices.

Life is short. We need to do our best to be healthy, but equally importantly, we need to stay connected to the ways of the world, and to the ones we love.

Professor John Yudkin was a British physiologist and nutritionist, and the founding Professor of the Department of Nutrition at Queen Elizabeth College in London. Since 1957 he was making the argument that overconsumption of sugar is dangerous to health. He wrote several books, including “Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem of Sugar”, an internationally recognised title, in which he explained how sugar consumption was a factor in the development of conditions such as dental cavities, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In one interview, Yudkin’s granddaughter said that although her granddad would always try to limit his sugar intake and wouldn’t have it in his tea, he would never say no to a homemade piece of cake!

 

Top tips for reducing sugar socially:

  1. Let your friends and family know that you want to make healthy food choices without isolating yourself because of how you eat
  2. Find creative ways to say no to highly processed food, without offending, upsetting or alienating anyone
  3. Watch your portion sizes!

And of course, take your own home cooked food to social occasions – with the help of Cook&Count you can know the exact nutritional information, including sugar content, of what you’re eating!