Community: The Social


Nutritional Therapist Zoe joins us to answer your questions on how you can change your diet to improve your health - depression, vitamin deficiencies, dermatitis and more.


Randomgirl: What do you recommend for depression and anxiety? I can't have fish oil as I'm vegetarian. Is flaxseed oil worth taking?

Zoe: Thanks for your question Randomgirl. Omega 3 fatty acids which are found in fish oil are really good for depression. As you don't eat fish, I would recommend either taking flaxseeds oil or having ground flaxseeds with your breakfast like porridge or muesli.

You can also add flaxseeds to soups and salads, but you need to make sure they are ground first. Other foods that can be helpful for depression are those that contain the amino acid tryptophan as it is a precursor to serotonin which makes you feel good. Tryptophan can be found in nuts, seeds, spinach, eggs, wholegrains and peaches.

The Mediterranean diet is also recommended to help with depression lots of colourful fruits and vegetables.

Finally, I'd also try and limit alcohol as it is a depressant and keep coffee and aspartame (artificial sweeteners) to a minimum.

Regarding alcohol, one of the reasons it can make you feel low the next day is because it depletes your magnesium and B vitamins which are needed for your neurotransmitters.

**Helen**: I've learned loads from that, thanks Zoe! TheSite also has some info on good mood food that's worth checking out. We're going to move on to Franki's question now.

Franki: I had a blood test a few weeks back and I went for the results yesterday and it said that my B12 is quite low, as well as something else that I can't remember, but I'm on a diet (cutting down on cheese/milk) and I'm not a fan of seafood. What's the best (and cheapest) way for me to work on the B12 while still keeping my weight loss on track? (Also, any ideas for a cheap and simple weight loss plan would be lush).

Zoe: Hi Franki, thanks for your question. Are you veggie?

Franki: Good lord no.

Zoe: Okay, just wondering as sometimes veggies can be low in B12. It's important to keep your vitamin B12 levels up otherwise you can get a type of anaemia.

Franki: Yeah, doctor man said that, he said that it's possibly one of the reasons I'm so tired all the time and sleep badly.

Zoe: I would suggest trying to eat lots of yeast extract (marmite!) if you like it?

Also, B12 is found in egg yolk - so omelettes and poached eggs would be good. Eggs are also a great source of protein and you can have up to 7 a week!

Cheese does contain B12 but it is high in saturated fat so I wouldn't have too much.

Franki: Dislike marmite :( Up to seven eggs?! That doesn't sound like many.

Zoe: Eggs do contain some cholesterol. We need some cholesterol for our hormones but too much isn't good. You could also try yoghurt which contains vitamin B12, probiotic (live) is best.

Franki: Would Greek yoghurt work?

Zoe: Yes, that would be ok. The only thing is that it can be high in fat so you might be better off getting a low-fat probiotic one.

With regards to weight-loss, what kind of diet are you following at the moment?

Franki: An eating less pizza and chips one :D I'm trying to have a lot more salad (bacon/feta/lettuce) but I'm finding dinnertimes quite hard. I'm essentially very lazy and I like quick things so I eat a lot of pasta.

Zoe: With weight-loss I generally advise people to eat lots of veggies, three portions of fruit a day and to eat wholegrains (such as brown rice, brown pasta etc.) with a good source of protein like fish, free-range chicken, pulses like chickpeas and lentils.

This way your blood sugar is balanced, you will feel full and not want to snack on unhealthy things. And of course, drink lots of water!

Megan: I'm currently trying to lose weight, and have been since the start of the New Year. I've lost 7 pounds so far but I find I am unable to do all the exercise I would like to because of family being around (living at home as I'm only 16. I feel embarrassed doing exercise while other people are in the house.) Do you have any tips on how to do - for want of a better word - quiet exercise and how to keep myself motivated with losing weight? Thank you in advance.

Zoe: Hi Megan. Congrats on your weight-loss, that's really good! To lose weight and maintain it, it needs to be steady, combining healthy eating and exercise. Do you have a tele or a laptop in your room?

Megan: I do, yes.

Zoe: You could try buying a yoga video. Yoga is a great form of exercise as it helps to strengthen and lengthen the muscles. You can also do it quite quietly so no one needs to hear.

Combining this with regular walking (30 mins, 5 days a week) would really help. With walking, its good to walk at a fast pace so that your heartbeat is raised and you are sweating.

Megan: I do have two dogs (at different houses) so walking the dog is an easy option.

Zoe: That's great! Dog-walkers tend to be really healthy. You could try going on different routes - hills are great! So combining the walking and yoga would be really beneficial I think.

**Helen**: How does that sound Megan?

Megan: I do often hike with my father as well. We sometimes go on a Sunday but I've found that with the weather at the moment and with my Dad's mental health issues it's rather hard to get out sometimes. Of course my mental health issues don't help either.

Zoe: Sure, the weather doesn't make it easy. But it doesn't rain all the time, and getting out in the open always makes me feel better. Plus, exercise releases endorphins - the feel-good hormone!

**Helen**: Thanks Zoe, always good to be reminded of that!

Megan: Yeah, got to love endorphins! Haha and yes, I suppose I will keep pushing my dad to take me and the dog out.

Kate: I have a question, I eat little meat or fish. How can I tell if I'm low in protein/other nutrients?

Zoe: Hi Kate, thanks for your message. If you were eating very little protein you would most likely feel tired and potentially quite low. Your nails would be splitting and you may find you get big energy dips.

Do you eat any vegetable sources of protein like pulses (chickpeas, lentils, other beans)? Eggs are also a really good source of protein and are what we call a whole protein as they contain all the essential amino acids.

Kate: Okay. I'm often quite tired but I dont have any of the other symptoms. So am I getting enough? (I know it's hard to say). I do have chickpeas and kidney beans frequently, and I've just bought some lentils so I'm going to try and incorporate them more.

Zoe: That's great.

Kate: I have eggs a few times a week.

Zoe: It's hard to say whether you're getting enough but generally it is good to try and have a source of protein with each meal. Some grains also contain protein, like quinoa and buckwheat. You can now get buckwheat noodles which are yummy!

Kate: Okay. I think I will look into some more recipes and see what I can include. It can be hard to know what's good and if things are doing the right job!

Zoe: If you're concerned about this you can always go to your GP and ask for a test. They should be able to test your protein levels for you.

"If you were eating very little protein you would most likely feel tired and potentially quite low. Your nails would be splitting and you may find you get big energy dips."

Kate: Okay. I'll also look into quinoa and buckwheat. Are they available in the gluten-free area of supermarkets?

Zoe: Yes, they're normally in the grains section. You might have to go to a health food shop to get the buckwheat noodles.

Kate: Right, I'll see if I can find that then. I have a fairly large supermarket nearby so will have a look next time I go.

Randomgirl: Buckwheat is yummy.

Zoe: I find that the BBC Good Food website is quite good for new ideas as you can type an ingredient and it comes up with lots of recipes for that one ingredient.

Kate: Yep, I'm fond of that website too!

Zoe: Good stuff!

Kate: Thanks Zoe!

Purple: I've been having trouble with binge eating. I'm getting help with getting to the root cause, but I'm wondering about managing my diet in the meantime, like how can I counteract the effect of binge eating afterwards?

Zoe: Thanks for your question Purple. With binge eating I would recommend that the next day you try not to beat yourself up about it and deprive yourself to compensate, start a brand new day. The best thing to start the day with is a healthy balanced breakfast.

For example, porridge, fruit and yoghurt or poached eggs on wholegrain bread. I would then try and make sure you eat regularly throughout the day. You can munch on healthy things like seeds, nuts and fruit to maintain your blood sugar levels and to make sure you don't let yourself get so hungry that by the evening you are starving. That way, you're less likely to feel the need to binge.

Maintaining your blood sugar is a good way of keeping your mood feeling balanced too.

**Helen**: Cool, thanks Zoe, some good tips there, I'm going to move on to another question we have waiting now.

Claire: I have dermatitis on my face and it's always pretty sore. I'm just wondering if there are foods I need to be eating/avoiding to help it?

Zoe: Hi Claire, thanks for your question. Is it eczema that you have on your face?

Claire: Yeah it's similar I think but it's called dermatitis.

Zoe: Okay well there are a number of foods that can help. Firstly, Omega 3 essential fatty acids are really important for skin health. People with dermatitis or eczema are often low in Omega 3s.

Claire: Oh, good to know!

Zoe: Things like oily fish - so mackerel, sardines, tuna - are good. And ground flaxseeds can be good too. You can sprinkle them on cereal or in soups and salads. You could also eat more avocados and walnuts.

Claire: I like tuna and sardines :) Thanks, I'll defo try them.

Zoe: I'd also avoid cooking in vegetable oil as it produces an inflammatory compound called arachidonic acid.

Megan: Are there other ways of getting enough Omega 3 Zoe?

Zoe: As I mentioned, walnuts and avocados are good. And of course ground flaxseeds! As you can tell I am a big fan of them.

Megan: Cool, thanks Zoe.

Zoe: Also with dermatitis, foods that contain Zinc can sometimes be helpful. So that would be things like sesame seeds, chickpeas and cashews. These are all good.

Finally, on dermatitis, some people find they are sensitive to certain foods. If you think you might be, you could try eliminating that food for 10 days, keep a food diary of your symptoms and then re-introduce that food and track any symptoms.

**Helen**: Ok cool, hope that's helped Claire. We're going to dash to feelinglow's question now!

Claire: Thanks for the advice :)

Feelinglow: I do karate four nights a week and do walking and lots of other sporty activities and I eat a balanced diet but I'm still in my eyes fat, what else can I do?

Zoe: Hi feelinglow. That's great that you are doing lots of exercise. I guess, as you're doing so much exercise you need to make sure you are eating enough.

Sometimes, when we are exercising a lot and not loosing weight it can be because we are actually not eating enough! If the body doesn't have enough fuel our metabolic rate is lowered and we start to hold onto fat.

feelinglow: I make sure I eat and try to eat balanced but sometimes I do skip meals.

Zoe: Skipping meals is never a good thing. It's important to maintain your blood sugar levels and your energy levels. When we skip meals our body goes into stress response and produces the stress hormone cortisol. When there are high levels of cortisol the body tends to hold onto fat - so it's not a good thing.

feelinglow: Oops.

Zoe: It's a good idea to have a snack containing carbohydrates before exercise.

feelinglow: I get it so, no food + exercise = body holding back fat?

Zoe: Yes, that's right. I'd recommend eating something like a banana before exercising. Fruit would be a good snack. Or, a meal containing some carbohydrates - but of the wholegrain variety - so wholegrain or rye bread, brown pasta or brown rice. After exercising it's important to have a balanced meal containing protein so, fish, chicken or pulses.

feelinglow: Okay, thanks Zoe :)

Zoe: If you only have time for a snack after exercising then some fruit with some nuts or seeds would be good. Basically, you got to make sure you fuel your work-outs!

feelinglow: I'll try that, thanks Zoe.

Megan: Simple question before we go Zoe, does flavoured water count as water?

Zoe: Thanks Megan. It actually depends how it's flavoured. If you have flavoured it at home with fresh lemon and mint for example then yes, it counts. But, if it's shop bought, most of them contain aspartame which is a chemical sweetener. These are not good for you. I would try and drink mineral water instead and if you want to flavour it, flavour it yourself. You can try adding fresh lemon or lime or mint leaves. Or you can make your own herbal ice tea by cooling mint or ginger and lemon herbal tea, yum!

Megan: Right, got it. Thank you!

**Helen**: Ok guys, sadly that's all we have time for from Zoe, thanks for all your questions and thank you Zoe!

Zoe: Thanks guys - it's been great chatting with you all!


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