Change your cooking oil, change your life

Our friend, Chris Maddison at N Nutrition, wrote a wonderful article recently about cooking oils and we wanted to share the gist of it.

We all use oils to cook with, but how much do you know about yours?

Cooking with oil involves heating it to a very high temperature (180-230°C), at these temperatures, different oils behave in different ways.

Vegetable oils, some nut oils and seed oils produce a nasty compound called HNE when they are heated (anything much above 180°C). Oils have long been marketed on ‘smoke point’, which is not very informative nutritionally speaking, it just tells you when black smoke will begin billowing from your pan.

To improve the nutrition profile of your cooking oil, you need to forget about “Smoke Point”

There are some oils which behave rather better and don’t produce high amounts of HNE, these include:

  • coconut oil
  • avocado oil
  • light olive oil
  • butter (or ghee).

These oils contain more nutrients, and don’t produce HNE, but they are often more saturated so be sparing in their use.

Make sure you make the best choice of oil depending on what you are using it for.

How to avoid getting Hangry (Angry ‘cos you’re hungry)

The human body has two main energy sources: Fat and carbohydrate. Fat is by far the most efficient energy source, but it cannot cross the barrier between the blood and the brain cells. But carbs can…

The ‘Brain Blood Barrier’

It may sound a little gross, but it’s actually pretty simple science:

  • Your body’s (and brain’s) cells need energy to function
  • Blood carries this energy to them via the circulatory system (arteries)
  • Unfortunately there’s a barrier around your brain that fat cells don’t fit through
  • This means that only carbohydrates can give your brain energy

Avoid getting Hangry


Hangry – the anger associated with feeling hungry, is your brain crying out for energy, not your body.

When you are eating carbs, think of it as feeding your brain before you think of it as feeding your body

The brain uses only carbohydrate (sugar) as its energy supply, that is the only reason why carbohydrate is essential to the diet.


Why should I choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats?

Fats are made up of groups of three fatty acids.

Each of those fatty acids is made up of a chain of molecules, just like carbs.

There are:

  • short chains (0-6)
  • medium chains (6-12)
  • long chains (13-21)
  • and very long chains (22+).

Three of these chains, attached to a glycerol, makes a fat.

The arrangement of molecules within each chain determines how saturated the fat is.

If there is a double bond in the arrangement then the fat is un-saturated.

The number of double bonds determines whether it is mono-unsaturated (1) or poly-unsaturated (2+), no double bonds and you’ve got a saturated fat.

What difference does it make if I choose a saturated fat over an un-saturated fat?

So let’s say we have the choice of two different fats for breakfast, sausage (high in saturated) or avocado (high in unsaturated).

It’s the world cup of fat, Sausage vs. Avocado.

  1. On first impressions, there is no difference, they all go down the same way and are broken up into fatty acids. They both contain 9 calories per gram. 0-0
  2. Whilst they can all be used for storage and energy, the avocado contains some essential fatty acids. 1-0 to avocado on quality of fatty acids.
  3. The sausage fat is associated with an increase in LDL and vLDL cholesterol, which are the types which carry fatty acids out into the bloodstream. On the other side, the avocado may increase HDL, which mops up excess fatty acids from around the body and bring them back to the liver to be disposed of. 2-0 to avocado for promoting a better HDL-LDL balance.
  4. High levels of circulating fat and high levels of LDL’s are associated with a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and some cancers. In particular, LDL’s and circulating fatty acids are found in atherosclerotic plaques which block the blood vessels. 3-0 to avocado for potentially reducing the risk of cardiac events.
  5. Fats from fish, shellfish and plants (like avocado) contain more vitamins and minerals than the sausage. These help to fight against disease, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. 4-0 to avocado for providing more additional nutrients.
  6. New research shows that foods high in essential fatty acids are associated with better brain function and a reduction in the risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Can’t get that benefit from a sausage! 5-0.
  7. Unsaturated fats like those from the avocado are consumed in high amounts throughout the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Greece) where the average life expectancy is the longest in Europe, and almost the world (82-83 years). Countries consuming high amounts of saturated fat like the USA have a much lower average life expectancy (78 years). 6-0.

Final Score: Sausage 0 vs. 6 Avocado – I know which one I would go for.

The 15 Minerals that your body needs to work! (and where to find them)

Minerals are natural compounds found in the diet. At least 15 minerals are currently considered essential for health, though it’s likely there are more you require*.


Minerals are usually divided into two areas:


We usually require more of these, or our bodies use them faster, or store them less well, meaning we need to consume them more regularly. These include:

  • Iron (Fe) – found in meat/poultry, beans, watercress, lentils, and chickpeas. It is essential for the formation of red blood cells. Very important for menstruating women.
  • Sodium (Na) – found in salt (no more than 6g per day) and is important for nerve transmission and cell integrity.
  • Phosphorus (P) – found in meats, milk, and soya products and is important for the formation of DNA and cell function.
  • Magnesium (Mg) – found in spinach, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, soya beans, and avocado. Is vitally important for energy production/metabolism.
  • Calcium (Ca) – found in dairy products, almonds, sesame, quinoa, beans, broccoli and kale, and is vital for cell signalling and bone/tooth formation
  • Potassium (K) – found in parsley, almonds, dried apricots, bananas, avocado, and soya beans. Is important for normal cell function.

Trace elements

No less important, but our bodies require less of them to function well. You don’t need to go out of your way to try and get more, but it is good to know what they are. These include:

  • Zinc (Zn) – found in oysters, lobster, crab, meat, beans, seeds, and nuts. Is essential for enzyme function (affecting dozens of body processes).
  • Copper (Cu) – found in shitake mushrooms, oysters, kale, sesame seeds, cashew nuts and chickpeas, and is essential for respiratory enzyme function.
  • Selenium (Se) – found in brazil nuts, tuna, wholewheat, sunflower seeds, and meats, and is essential for thyroid function
  • Molybdenum (Mo) – found in green beans, eggs, sunflower seeds, and lentils, and is important for biochemical reactions in the body and tooth enamel maintenance.
  • Chromium (Cr) – found in black pepper, broccoli, oats, green beans, and tomatoes, and may be essential for metabolism
  • Manganese (Mn) – found in mussels, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, wholewheat bread and butter beans, and is essential for wound healing, nutrient absorption and bone formation.
  • Iodine (I) – found in seaweed (nori in sushi), cod, potato skin, prawns and tuna, and is essential for the production of thyroid hormones which control growth and metabolism
  • Fluorine (F) – found in toothpastes, mouthwashes etc. It helps in bone formation, and prevents tooth decay
  • Cobalt (Co) – found in wholegrains, seeds and nuts, and is essential for enzyme function and is an important component of B vitamins.


A note on farming…

The concentration of minerals in your food depends on how much was in the soil it grew from. As less intensive farming methods leave more minerals in the soil, cheaper products sometimes have less nutritional value. So it’s worth investing in good quality produce, if you want to be super healthy.

*As with any science, our knowledge of how the body works is constantly expanding. There may well be minerals that we consume that are essential for various functions, we just don’t know it yet.

Unsaturated – The better kind of fat!

Unsaturated fats are the healthiest type of fat you can consume and should form part of ANY balanced diet. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or not.


The science of Unsaturated Fat

Fats are made up of fatty acids. They chain together to form different types of fats. Within the chain, there are different arrangements called bonds.

  • If a chain contains a double-bond then it is a mono-unsaturated fat.
  • If it contains more than one double bond it is a poly-unsaturated fat.
  • If it contains no double bonds at all then it is a saturated fat.

So what does Unsaturated Fat mean to me?

On packaging labels fats are divided into their different types. Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturates and polyunsaturates. The more saturated a fat is, the harder it is for the body to chop up and use. Saturated fats promote the formation of LDL (or bad) cholesterol. Whilst Unsaturated fats HDL (good) cholesterol.

“The more saturated a fat is, the harder it is for the body to chop up and use…”

Most vegetable oils are mono-unsaturated, whilst most seeds, seed oils and fruits (like avocado) contain poly-unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats also contain the essential fatty acids, which are essential (it’s in the name!) for your health.


The bottom line – Pick poly-unsaturated fats and reduce you saturated fat intake, if you can. This will help keep you healthy and reduce your risks of Heart Disease and other related conditions.

Why high fat food is not a bad thing

Fats have acquired a bad reputation over the last few decades. But they are an essential part of any healthy balanced diet.

Fat contains 9 calories per gram, which is more than carbs (4), protein (4) and alcohol (7). This has contributed to their reputation as a ‘bad’ component of food. Which is not entirely true…

The Benefits of Fat

All fats provide insulation, help us absorb vitamins (A,D,E & K) and store energy. But some also provide essential fatty acids.

“Even saturated fat has more nutritional benefit than simple carbs.”

Though cutting fat out of your diet can reduce the number of calories you’re digesting, swapping out simple carbohydrates (like white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and any refined sugars) could be a better option. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates, provide none of the. Even saturated fat has more nutritional benefit than simple carbs.

So why has Fat got a bad reputation?

The main reason that fats have had a bad reputation has nothing to do with the fat itself, but more our choice of where that fat comes from.

Since the invention of modern agriculture, we have started to eat more and more animals based foods. Animal products contain more saturated fats (because they are stored in the animal) and less unsaturated fats than our diet before this.

Limit Your Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are created in animals for long term storage. Eating a lot of saturated fat can increase the LDL (not so good) cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.


Plants on the other hand, don’t need to store fats. When we eat plants we get the benefit of their unsaturated fats which are more useful to us. The same goes for fish, who also provide us with healthy fats.

The bottom line – pay attention to where your fat comes from. For a simple way to reduce saturated fat intake… Swap meat and dairy products for fish, olive oil, seeds, nuts and avocado and get all the benefits of fat, without the down side.

Packaging and Nutrition Requirements

For every essential nutrient there is a set requirement that your body needs every day in order to stay healthy


You will often find percentages on the front of packaging on in the ‘nutrition information’ section to show you the contributions to daily nutrition that a product makes.

In the UK the requirements are called
DRVs (dietary reference values) or RNIs (reference nutrient intakes).

In the US they are called RDAs (recommended daily allowance).

There is one other abbreviation you should know, it is:

SI = Safe Intakes – Refers to non-essential nutrients including some minerals.They let you know how much of a nutrient you can eat safely.


The DRVs for the major nutrients are listed below:


  • 50% of total energy intake
  • less than 11% sugars
  • 18g fibre per day

Actual average UK intake = 47% energy, 15% sugars, 11-14g fibre.


  • 0.83g protein per kg of body mass per day
  • Avg. = 55.5g for men, 45g for women



  • Less than 35% of energy
  • less than 11% saturated

Actual average UK intake = 35.3% energy, 13.3% saturated.


  • 1.2 litres per day


  • No more than 6g per day

Actual average UK intake: 8.6g

From the UK food data we can see that
“we need to increase fibre, reduce sugar, salt and saturated fat and most of us should drink more water”

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a source of energy. The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer it takes to release the energy. 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, so it’s worth knowing how that energy is released.


Carbohydrates are usually split into two main categories, simple carbs (or sugars) and complex carbs (or starches). This is a good general rule, though there are a few bits worth getting your head around.

Carbohydrates are built from units of sugar (saccharides), the longer the chain of units, the more complex the carbohydrate. To use the sugar your body needs to chop up this chain. This means that complex carbohydrates release their energy slower than simple (short chain) one.

The longer it takes to turn it into sugar, the more complex (and probably better) the carbohydrate.


Glycaemic Index (GI) Simply Explained

The glycaemic index is a way of ranking carbohydrates according to how quickly they raise blood sugar.


Each food is given a GI value between 0-100 compared to pure glucose mixed in water, the closer to 100 it is, the faster it will raise blood sugar. Foods which are close to 100 are high in sugar and cause peaks and troughs in your energy level and consequently your mood. Foods nearer to 0 raise the blood sugar slowly, releasing their energy over a longer period of time, they help you to maintain consistent energy levels.

The bottom line – if you want consistent energy levels, go for lower GI foods.

Toning Up – The Science

Here is the complete guide to everything you need to know about toning up.

  • What is toning up?
  • How can you tone up?
  • Can you tone up in different areas?

What is toning up?


Toning up is a common thing many of us want to achieve through various tummy, arm or bum exercises. But what exactly is it?

It often get’s misused as a standalone concept, away from fat loss and muscle bulking. However, without a combination of the two toning up wouldn’t be an option.

Toning happens when you remove layers of fat between the muscles and the skin. It is here that your muscles can then be become more noticeable, firm and refined, giving you a toned look. Overall, when you tone up you are essentially losing fat and gaining muscle.

How can you tone up?

We can get more noticeably leaner, more trimmed and firm by undertaking a combination of 3 activities.


Weight lifting

Weight training is the perfect way to lose weight and develop leaner looking muscles, without bulking them out. As you push your muscles gradually with weights, they get stronger.

If practised regularly, your muscle cells then start to develop leaner protein that is noticeable. This is good because your growing muscles will continue to require more energy than fat cells, pushing up your metabolism rate to use more energy from the fat stores. Ultimately, your fat cells then shrink leaving you looking more toned.

To find out how to lift check out our blog and challenge sections.


70% of your weight loss comes from the right diet. To shed pounds and get a little more toned, you have to choose foods which are full of nutrients, making it harder for body to break these nutrients away from one another. This prevents sugar highs and sugar lows during digestion. As a result, your body is not desperately seeking any more food, reducing sugar fluctuations in the blood and making you feel less hungry for longer. You have not consumed any excess calories, so less of them get stored as fat.

Getting a good balance between the combination below is important for achieving tone:

  • Leaner proteins
  • Browner carbohydrates
  • Healthier Fats

To find out more about these visit our relevant blogs and challenges here to get more nutrition into your diet.

Interval training

To counteract the weight gain through any excess calories consumed, it necessary to use them up through physical activity. We can do this efficiently by having the perfect cardiovascular combination of high to low intensity workouts.

Interval training is well known for its “afterburn effect”. After only 20 minutes of a cardiovascular workout, you can still be burning fat when you’re sat on your sofa.
This is known as “excess-post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPEOC). The more exercise you do, the more oxygen you consume. This causes your metabolic rate to be higher because the more you are using up energy and hence calories. This energy is taken from the quick breakdown of fats as they are more calories dense, leading to fat loss.

To find out more about interval training, check out our challenges and blog.



Can you tone up in different areas?

Let’s firstly dispel the myth that you can tone up in certain areas, otherwise commonly known as “spot reduction”. There are loads of tummy, bottom and thigh “tone up” exercises out there to chose from.

Here’s why they don’t work:

1. The muscle areas that you work upon does not reflect the fat areas your are trying to lose to tone up and look leaner

Fat cells are made up triglycerides which cannot be directly converted energy for the muscle cells to keep functioning. Fat loss occurs through the breakdown of triglycerides into free fatty acids and glycerides. these fat components are then let loose into the bloodstream and are then used as energy.

Forget about the specifics, research shows that fat loss can come from any part of the body leading to a reduction in your total body fat.

2. Many of the spot reduction tone up techniques do not allow you to burn many calories compared to other workouts.

To lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume within your food. If you cannot exceed the calorie levels of your food, then you will either stay at the same weight or even gain weight. Calories are the energy components of your food that if left unspent during inactive times are stored as fat within your cells.