Welcome to my recap of episode two of Diet Secrets and How to Lose Weight, all about superfoods. This four part Channel 5 series asked a group of experts common questions about dieting to divine fact from fiction.
As ever, I watched with my personal finance cap on to see how their views might influence our spending for the better. This Channel 5 weight loss programme says in the intro that they investigate “the surest way to be the size you’ve always wanted to be.” I think it’s probably impossible to make yourself an imagined size, but many of us will lose our paycheque trying.
The show pitches itself as the truth about diets and how to succeed at losing weight. To that end, doctors, nutritionists and researchers tackle trendy health claims or popular myths in each episode. I didn’t want to misquote anyone, so I’ve tried to faithfully capture their opinions below. It’s not a word for word transcript, but I’ve tried really hard not to change anyone’s meaning. I hope this information is demystifying so that that we can stop wasting money on pseudoscience.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
What Is A Superfood?
Is BMI The Best Way To Measure Health?
Can Superfoods Cure Serious Illness?
Is Blending Good For You?
What Does It All Mean For Our Wallets?
Plus Bianca Gasgoine tests the eating more nutritiously diet (how peculiar!), and there’s another diet horror story to give you food for thought (pun intended, shoot me).
The diet industry makes billions from crash diets and I’m not convinced they’re great value for money. Contrary to some, I think that a goal to get fitter or eat more nutritiously is not only possible while saving for something big like a house deposit, but can actually be a way to spend better and achieve that very savings goal.
Missed episode one?
Here’s the episode one recap all about fats in food.
I also recapped Save Money Good Health and part two was about crash dieting also and the “cheapest diets”.
If it’s exercise you want help with, see my How to Get Fit Fast (For Free) recap.
Here’s the experts featured in the series:
Dr Ranjan Chattergee GP
Dr Linia Patel, Consultant Dietitian
Pixie Turner a.k.a Plant-based Pixie
Dr Gavin Sandercock, Director of Research at Essex University
Nutritional Therapist Ian Marber
Science Journalist Nathan Rao
Rosemary Conley OBE
Dr Nicola Guess, Assistant Professor at Kings College London
Dietitan Priya Tew
Clinical psychologist Dr Anna Colton
Dietitian Sian Porter
Professor Mark Thomas, University College London
Judy Swift, Associate Professor of Behavioural Nutrition
Dr Sarah Schenker
Dr Aseem Malhotra, Consultant Cardiologist
Dr David Unwin GP
I’ve just used first names below after I’ve introduced someone to make things easier. Also because I like to think I’m on first name terms with everyone after about five minutes of basking in their knowledge. If you don’t see someone’s full name below, it will because they already appeared in episode one.
I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist etc and I rely on professionals like the ones in this programme to be my Yoda, my Giles, my Deaton [insert name here of your favourite wise fictional character]. I am not trying to give medical advice, and I don’t think bloggers should repeat any claims without referring clearly to experts and evidence.
Episode 2 – Superfoods!
We all know what a superfood is…right?
Question # 1 What Is A Superfood?
Dr Ranjan Chatterjee says this depends on our definition. Some foods have lots of health benefits if that’s what you mean.
Dietitian Sian Porter says “superfoods” tend to be trendy or expensive…which implies that a superfood by definition is just a marketing term.
Priya says any food could be a superfood.
Professor Mark Thomas from University College London says a superfood would have to be “extremely nutritionally balanced”, so he only counts milk as approaching superfood status.
Milk has vitamin D, calcium, and protein, essential fatty acids…
What do you think? Good value for a “superfood” since most of us just buy it so we don’t have to drink our tea black?
Question #2 Is BMI The Best Way To Measure Health?
Nicola and Anna both say BMI is not accurate if you have a large muscle mass as muscle weighs more.
Judy Swift, Associate Professor of Behavioural Nutrition says BMI doesn’t measure other health factors like sleep and activity.
Gavin says a person’s BMI doesn’t tell you how that weight is achieved. You could have a “normal” BMI, but be a chain smoker who never eats. It was never designed to diagnose obesity, so it’s misused this way.
Anna says visceral fat is dangerous. You can have plenty of visceral fat even if you have a normal BMI and appear “slim”.
Ranjan says he prefers to measure the waist to hip ratio: you divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If your waist measurement is higher than your hips, he suggests losing weight.
If he recommended the other way round I think Iggy Azalea and the Kardashians would be a bit miffed…
31% of the experts said BMI is the best way to measure health, 50% said it’s not, and 19% said they agreed with neither.
Question #3 Can Superfoods Cure Serious Illness?
The EU banned using “superfood” in marketing in 2007 unless you have scientific evidence to support your claims.
Gavin says “superfoods” are often used to refer to foods high in antioxidants. These are watersoluble, so you mostly pee them out! What they do in a petri dish is not the same as how they behave in our bodies.
Pixie says antioxidants fight free radicals. Free radicals might contribute to cancer because of cell damage, but our bodies produce antioxidants as well.
Dr Sarah Schenker says anyone writing books about curing diseases with superfoods is dangerous.
Anna says a rainbow on your plate will do more for you than one or two superfoods because the different colours represent different properties that are beneficial.
Dr Aseem Malhotra is a consultant cardiologist. He says clinical data shows omega 3 in oily fish or fatty acids in veg and nuts reduce inflammation or the chance of clots, and so these are helpful in avoiding heart disease… But he doesn’t believe in superfoods otherwise.
The final word: 20% of the experts said a superfood can cure serious illness, or that they were unsure, 60% said no.
Question #4 Is Blending Good For You?
Nathan says it’s a fad.
Priya says we will feel fuller if we eat the ingredients without blending, but a smoothie sometimes is okay.
Linia says if someone avoids kale and other veggies, she might get them eating vegetables by blending at first, but she would expect them to eat vegetables without blending later. Blending or drinking fruit juice counts as free sugar because we don’t get the fibre with the sugar.
Here’s a link to Sugarwise if you want to read more about free sugar. Basically it’s any added sugar, or sugar that’s not contained with the structure of a food i.e. a whole apple traps the sugar within its cells alongside the fibre, but if we make apple juice, the sugar is no longer contained and the fibre is lost. The natural sugars in honey and syrups also count as free sugar presumably because of their state and the lack of fibre.
Ian says blending doesn’t add any nutrients.
Nathan says we put more fruit in a smoothie than we would eat and we tend to drink them quickly because it’s easy to do so, so we are consuming far more sugar this way than eating fruit.
The final word: 20% of the experts said blending is good for you, 20% said it isn’t, and 60% said neither.
Diets From Hell The Sequel: When Superfoods Attack
Gemma told her story about an obsession with superfoods. She says she was overweight and attributed it to eating constantly. She went on a 1200 calorie per day diet and lost weight rapidly.
Her hair started falling out, so she shaved her head on one side. She was understandably miserable. Gemma started adding in one “superfood” a week and became obssessed with her diet.
Ultimately she lost so much weight so fast that she wears clothes a size up to fit her excess skin into her outfit, and the stretch marks get infected. I think they want us to know that weight should be lost slowly if at all, dear Lord…
Diet Test: Eating More Nutritiously!
What a funny name for a diet, eh? That’s because the diet test in the second episode didn’t quite go to plan and for good reason.
Model and former Love Island winner Bianca Gasgoine got her GP’s approval to volunteer for the show, but Westminster University found she had a healthy BMI, no metabolic disorders, and low visceral fat. I wonder how many dieters funding the diet industry would get the same results that medically say they don’t need (to pay) to lose weight…
They decided therefore that she would not be on a calorie controlled diet as she didn’t medically need to lose weight. This goes to show that without access to all the right information to build a bigger picture of health, someone might be paying for extreme diets when medicine would tell them to stop wasting their money.
Bianca has body dysmorphia because she thinks she was chubby as a kid and still sees herself that way in photos. At 18 she was working out three times a day and thought she looked her best, although people told her she looked ill. On Love Island she was bullied for her weight too.
She also works nights running The Gaslight of St James’ gentlemens clubs, so she keeps different hours to most of us. The programme got her eating more unsaturated fat, protein and veggies through salmon, quinoa, avocado, lentils, brocooli, beetroot and more.
Bianca found the regime easy, but expensive. I’ll just jump in here to say that none of the above have to be expensive. You might have to switch your supermarket or the format e.g. frozen instead of fresh, but these can be found for less. See this page:
At the end they used the same measures at Westminster University and found she lost weight regardless. She was still in a healthy range for BMI and visceral fat despite eating more than she usually does.
I was a bit disappointed that since she didn’t need to lose weight, they didn’t find another way to measure any benefit, but I suppose they wanted to keep their process the same for everyone in fairness. Not that there’s any point comparing the other diets to each other as there is no one size fits all in every sense…
Diet Secrets And How To Lose Weight Episode 2
Let’s wrap this up without any references to tortilla wraps. Aw, crap, never mind.
The expert’s final words:
Nathan says blueberries are good for you, but they’re not superfoods.
Ian says the terms “superfoods” is used as an excuse to eat anything so long as it has a blueberry in it! A muffin is still a muffin.
Linia says chia seeds have a very hard shell, so she prefers walnuts and flaxseed anyway for plant-based omega 3 as this is easier to absorb.
Ian says goji are rich in vitamin C and have polyphenols…So do raisins.
Sarah says any berry will do.
So do superfoods exist? 25% of the experts said yes or they were ambivalent, 50% said no.
Raisins are on the page I already linked above of over 100 best value food ingredients. If you want to switch from goji berries and save a fortune, frozen berries are mentioned on there too. (The blueberries cost more than the strawberries/mixed berries, and fresh is priced even higher than that).
What Does It All Mean For Our Wallet?
We might want to be wary of paying more just because of “superfoods” branding.
We can speak to a doctor before forking out extra for special diets, especially if it’s only our BMI that has us worried. Our doctor would ideally then take other factors into account.
We probably don’t want to pay more for extra antioxidants unless we want really expensive urine…
Oily fish, milk, a rainbow of veggies and berries might be an investment in your health, but I wouldn’t buy a book from anyone saying they’re going to cure you of cancer…
We don’t need to be afraid of blending (food is not an enemy!), but don’t buy a blender especially with the idea that it’s “healthier”. Especially if it’s in exchange for eating fruit and veg with their fibre intact.
There are cheaper sources of plant-based omega 3 than chia seeds which also might be easier to digest. (Especially if you force yourself to eat them in the first place because you think chia pudding is a bit like eating frog spawn…)
As much as I like to write for my own amusement, don’t be shy to share your tips in the comments if you’re a professional with more to add, or please shout me if any of this has helped you save money.
Next on Diet Secrets and How to Lose Weight…
In episode three they answer the following:
Are crash diets effective for short-term weight loss?
Are fasting diets effective for weight loss?
Can you reverse type 2 diabetes on a crash diet of less than 800 calories per day?
Can you detox with a diet?
Do crash diets make you put on weight in the long term?
Frankie Essex tests the 5:2 Diet and there’s another diet story from hell just in case you were fed up of all the celebrity angels singing about their no-carb-low-carb-high-fat-low-fat-i-exist-on-fresh-air diets.
Here’s the link to the episode one recap again if you want to go back. That ep was all about fats in foods.
I’ll have a recap eventually of The Big Fat Lies About Diet and Exercise too. That was a Channel 5 diet programme from 2019 that ties in with this and features the same savvy talking heads.The mailing list is always there for you if you want to know ASAP about anything new on the blog, plus I send out extra savings tips in the weekly emails.