Lets talk about the Cholesterol.. Is it good, is it bad or what about both good and bad.  Definitely not fair to say it is ugly.  After reading more and more about the stuff, I have come to the conclusion that it is not only good, but vital.  However, it can be led astray by its chauffeur, giving it the bad reputation it has.   Lets use a rubbish collection service and postal service analogy to explain, with some fly-tipping thrown in too!

First, we will start with explaining what cholesterol is and what it does?

Cholesterol is a fat and if you held it in your hand it would resemble very fine scrapings from a whitish-yellowish candle, i.e a waxy substance.

Due to its waxy nature, it is a terrible swimmer.  If it were to jump into our rivers of blood it would quickly curdle up into useless blobs.  This is the reason why the body has a postal service to transport cholesterol to its many destinations.  The envelopes for cholesterol are protein covered molecules, lipoprotein being the major one and it has no problem mixing with blood and water.

Cholesterol is so important to our body that mother nature did not put all her eggs in one basket and rely on us humans to collect enough cholesterol from our diet, instead the body is able to manufacture the approximate 1000mg of cholesterol that it needs to function properly.

Cholesterol is a vital brick in the walls of cells.  In liver cells, cholesterol accounts for 30% of the cell wall components.  Within the cell walls, cholesterol plays a role in stability, allowing the cell to maintain its function over a wide range of temperatures.  Cholesterol also acts as a cell wall insulator preventing the leakage of ions out through the cell wall.

Cholesterol is used in the production of bile acid, which is important for the breakdown and digestion of our food in the intestines.

Without Cholesterol, we would not exist. Now how do you feel about the C word that gets a lot of bad rep?

Lets quickly crack the myth that eating lots of eggs raises our cholesterol levels.  As we mentioned earlier, most of the bodies cells can make their own cholesterol, the liver especially, it is a cholesterol powerhouse that can afford to export most of what it makes.  So if the body brings in more cholesterol through the diet, in the form of eggs for eggsample, then the liver will decrease its production.  Supply and Demand.  This results in the total body cholesterol changing very little if at all.

How food becomes cholesterol and how it is transported around the body?


After eating a meal, the food is broken down by enzymes and acids throughout its journey.  In the small intestine, fatty acids are bundled together to form triglycerides, these then hook onto a cholesterol and a protein to form a chylomicron.  This is part of the postal service, building a package fit for export.  There are two main post offices in the body, here in the small intestine and in the liver.

Escape to freedom!  Chylomicrons, some spare fatty acids and glucose leave the small intestine, are absorbed into the blood and travel to every organ in the body.  The Chylomicrons stop off at the liver to drop off some cholesterol for repackaging.  This is of course when Insulin Incorporated dispatch the glucose sales team to encourage the uptake of glucose into the bodies cells.  (See last month’s blog if you are slightly confused right now!).

Meanwhile, at the  Central Post Office HQ in the liver, the staff are busy collecting the carbohydrates and proteins that were released by the small intestine.  They have the machinery to convert these into tryglycerides (three fatty acids and a glycerol molecule) and then package the tryglycerides with proteins and cholesterol, to produce something transportable called a very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).  These VLDLs or postal delivery vans enter the bloodstream and travel with the chylomicrons delivering triglycerides to the cells for storage.  To do this, they pull into the driveway of the cell without crashing into the cell wall!  The VLDL or Chylomicron driver hoots the horn to signal enzymes from the muscle cell or fatty tissue cells to come out and unpack most of the triglycerides and bring the load back into their cell.  Triglycerides are used as energy in muscle cells and are stored as an energy source in fatty tissue cells.

Both chylomicrons and VLDLs become more and more dense as they give up their low density fatty cargo.  Eventually, all that remains is the van, i.e the cholesterol and protein packaging, and a fraction of the original triglyceride.  Chylomicron drivers stick an empty load sticker on the van so that the liver can recognise them.  The liver takes these back and uses them again in the future.

Many of the triglyceride depleted VLDL vans keep circulating and eventually become Low density Lipoproteins (LDLs) once their triglyceride parcels have all but gone.  LDLs are now transporting cholesterol as their main product, they consist of roughly 45% cholesterol at this stage and are responsible for transporting 60-70% of the body’s cholesterol. Virtually all cells in the body can take up and use LDLs for their individual needs.

It is this LDL cholesterol that is given the bad name, as you will have heard on many TV adverts.  However, LDL’s come in different sizes and densities.  The larger less dense are not as prone to fly-tipping as the smaller and more dense LDL’s.  By fly-tipping, I mean leaving their luggage in the blood vessels, which can then lead to athersclerosis or hardening of the arteries.  The reason why the more dense LDL’s can get stuck in the arteries and deemed “bad” cholesterol is because they are smaller and so can travel from the blood stream into the blood vessel a lot easier then the larger LDL.  More importantly and unfortunately, they are more susceptible to oxidation, especially if there is consistent high blood sugar levels (check out the December blog for info on oxidation and January blog for tips on controlling blood sugar levels) which can result in them sticking to the arterial walls and becoming an unsightly mark on the landscape, hence the fly-tipping analogy.  The body then releases its immune defense cells called macrophages to clean up the mess, they operate like pac-men and engulf the oxidised LDL’s.  They over-indulge and become too enlarged to escape back through the blood vessel cell wall and so become trapped along with the LDL’s.  The LDL’s undergo more oxidation and so more Macrophages come to the rescue, which leads to a build up of plaque deposits.  These deposits can narrow the artery over time.

Cholesterol artery

What can be done about this?

The body has a rubbish collection service by the name of HDL cholesterol.  The rubbish trucks or HDL are made in the liver and intestine and have two main jobs.  They get out there and give the chylomicrons and VLDL’s the proteins or stickers that they use to alert the liver to attract them back to HQ so that they can be recycled.  The other job is called Reverse Cholesterol Transport.  This involves the rubbish trucks scouting the blood stream in search of extra cholesterol LDL’s that is not needed by the cells or tissues and delivers them back to the liver where they are used to produce bile or are recycled.

This explains why high levels of HDL are associated with low risk of heart disease.

How do we increase our HDL levels?

homer work

Lifestyle changes affect HDL levels, Exercise increases HDL count while obesity and smoking lower them.  There is mounting evidence to show that interrupting time spent sitting with regular standing breaks or light intensity walking has a positive effect on HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL and blood glucose levels.  A hugely important finding from these studies is that even meeting the guidelines for physical activity, i.e 150 mins/week of moderate to vigorous activity does not protect you from the poor health effects from sedentary behaviour.  I like to use Homer Simpson as an example in this case.  Homer gets up at 7am, goes for a 30min jog, then gets in the car to drive to work, pretends to work all day in a reclined position, gets back in the car to drive to springfield, then gets his kicks on the couch for the evening.  According to the World Health Organisation, Homer meets the Physical Activity Guidelines,  I am sure we all agree that he is not exactly a healthy human in prime condition! Besides the fact he is not even human! What about the other 98% of the day, how sedendary are you, and if so, think of ways of breaking the sitting habit.  Get up during the adverts, place your bin further away from your office desk to encourage regular sedentary interruption.  Pick up a pedometer and ensure you meet your daily step goals, or use a pedometer app on your smart phone. Check out the nicely put together movie by Dr Mike Evans called 23.5 hours.


Cholesterol lowering medication called statins work by preventing the production of cholesterol by the cells, causing the cells to pull in LDL from the bloodstream in order to feed their cholesterol needs.

If we leave it there for this Month, hopefully you are all now more aware of how cholesterol is made in the body and how it is absorbed from the food and the difference between HDL/LDL and VLDL.

Next month we will continue the focus on fats by using a court case trial as an analogy.

Thanks for reading

John Phelan

Associate Nutritionist and Chartered Physiotherapist.

Let’s talk about Energy..

Welcome back to the Delicious Gluten Free Bakery “Nutrition Corner” for February’s Blog Entry.

As promised we will look at ways of keeping your blood sugar levels in check whilst at work or play.  We will revisit Insulin Inc. and the glucose sales team and look at their difficulties in dealing with insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes.

And we will try not to be too heavy handed with romantic writing for the month that is in it! Having said that, my girlfriend and I are now officially engaged since the last blog was posted.  It all happened on a surprise trip for one and a nervous trip for the other to Budapest!

It’s 3pm…… this is not a story about the engagement, don’t worry! It is a story that I reckon happens to a lot of people during their daily working life.  Its 3pm and your feeling low in energy, the computer screen is beginning to turn blurry and your brain is shouting “drink some coffee, I need caffeine”.

Have a read of this article I put together called Energy to Burn and make the changes to your daily dietary tactics in order to keep going till bedtime.


What to eat and when to eat it to boost your metabolism and fight fatigue all day long!

Eat smart and eat often.  More specifically, snack often.  By snacking on the right foods at strategic times, you’ll keep your energy levels stocked all day.

7 A.M.: Jump-Start your Body

 They call it breakfast for a reason:  You haven’t eaten for at least 8 hours.  Your blood-sugar level is at its lowest ebb, and now its time to fuel up with some protein and some fat, but mostly with complex carbohydrates.


At Home

Grab a bowl and add some complex carbs, e.g. Gluten Free porridge (A company called Nairns do a Gluten Free Porridge) or Millet can be used as a breakfast cereal.  Add some milk.  That’ll give you fat, protein and long burning fibre, plus a little sweetness (some sugar added) to spike your blood sugar and help you wake up.  Plus the fibre in the complex carbs helps slow down the absorption of food in the stomach, so you have more energy over a sustained period of time.

10.30 A.M.: Prevent Midmorning Malaise

It takes your body 2 to 3 hours to break down the sugars in the food you eat, release them into your bloodstream, and convert them into energy.  Go longer than that without eating again and your energy levels will start to fade, forcing your body to crave sugars.  Not good!

At Work

Skip the mars bars and pastries and grab some fruit instead.  Since fruit breaks down slowly in the body, it provides a more gradual dose of sugar for the bloodstream.  “Your brain is constantly burning sugar for fuel, so maintaining an adequate supply of steady sugar in the blood at all times is one of the key strategies for keeping energy levels high” says J. Mark Davis, Ph.D, professor of exercise science.

Noon:  Eat a Power Lunch

By lunchtime, your blood-sugar level doesn’t need an immediate boost.  Instead, stock up on sources of long-term energy to get you to your next snack.

Some lunchtime ideas

  • Try some tuna.  The omega-3s found in fish are one of the primary building blocks of brain tissue, so there vital for keeping the mind sharp.  “Omega 3s also increase the flexibility of red-blood cells, boosting blood flow and the supply of energy-providing oxygen throughout the body.”  Says Douglas Bibus, Ph.D., a lipid researcher at the University of Minnesota and editor of Omega-3 News.
  • Drizzle some olive oil and vinaigrette dressing over a salad topped with chicken, ham or hard boiled egg.  The oil will help slow down the digestion of the protein and carbs in the salad, stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping energy levels high.
  • (try to fit in oily fish, tuna, salmon, mackeral, ect, 2-3 times / week for omega 3 benefits)

Tuna Lunch

 3.30 P.M. Beat the Afternoon Slump

Work stress has taken its toll.  Fight fatigue with these tips:

  • Grab a carton of yoghurt and not the diet type, when your energy starts to waiver.  High-protein foods like yoghurt are good sources of amino acids, such as tyrosine.  “The body uses tyrosine to create a chemical called norepinephrine, which helps reduce the effects of stress, boost energy levels and keep the brain alert,” says tyrosine expert Jan Berend Deijen, Ph.D.
  • Snack on crackers and peanut butter, which provide quick carb energy plus long-burning protein and fat.

slump 2

6 P.M. Dinner Time

Here’s your chance to get in the anti-oxidant effects of colourful vegetables, along with a portion of meat/beans to provide the proteins.  Why not try substituting the ever-present potatoe with some complex carbohydrates like Quinoa, Basmati rice, Millet grain.  All of which are gluten free and available in all health food shops.

Good Ideas

Include a small dessert or something sweet after dinner, as this takes the edge off possible sugar cravings later on in the evening, where they are most detrimental to weight management.  This is because sugar taken on its own causes a spike in insulin levels and while we need this hormone to standardise our blood sugar level, it also acts as a fat storage hormone.


If hungry after 8 or 9pm, swap those sugary biscuits and chocolates for a small portion of ice-cream or peanut butter.  I.E.  any foods containing a large proportion of protein and fat and a low level of carbohydrates/sugars.

After reading last month’s blog on blood sugar and insulin release, you will have understood the reasons for the choice of foods and times for eating them in the above article.  I hope!


Ok, lets talk Diabetes.  Not as a scare tactic, but to improve your understanding of the condition and there-by improve your ability to make informed decisions on your diet and lifestyle. In 2012, the estimated number of people with diabetes in Ireland was 191,380 and this figure is expected to rise to 278,850 by 2030!!

Type 1 diabetes is not preventable or reversible and its onset is generally within a few weeks or months of birth.  Daily injections of insulin are required in order to control blood sugar.

A person with Type 2 diabetes has insulin resistance, meaning their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t react properly to insulin.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being over 40, family history of diabetes, being of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin or being overweight or obese.  And now recent studies have shown that sedentary lifestyles negatively impact on insulin sensitivity, which can lead to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

We know that the prevalence of obesity is rising in not only Ireland, but across the globe, and we don’t need research findings to state the obvious that physical activity and reducing sedentary lifestyles help maintain a healthy weight.  But we do need research to help understand what is increasing our weight from a diet perspective.  Lisa Te Morenga from the University of Otago in New Zealand looked at over 60 studies for a link between dietary sugars and body weight.  Miss Morenga found in studies with no strict control of food intake, those who ate a lot of sugar tended to consume more calories and gained more weight while a reduced intake of dietary sugar was associated with a decrease in body weight.  Interestingly, sugary drinks were found to be the biggest contributor of dietary sugars.

Shockingly, fizzy sugary drinks add calories without making you full.  This is because fructose makes up 65% of the sugar in these drinks and fructose doesn’t activate the fullness hormone, leptin.  This is one of the reasons why several other studies have linked the consumption of sugary drinks with increased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Fizzy Drinks

Lets go back to the Glucose Sales team and Insulin Inc. to explain Insulin Resistance.

As discussed in last months blog, insulin (aka the Glucose sales team), which is produced in the pancreas (aka Insulin Incorporated), is the hormone released by the body after eating in order to shift the glucose from the blood into the cells for storage.  In the case of insulin resistance, the muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin and can’t easily absorb glucose from the blood stream.  In other words, the cell owners are answering the door less often and buying less glucose from the sales team.

This leaves high levels of glucose floating around the blood which alerts the brain and so louder alarms go off at Insulin Inc. forcing more members of the sales team to enter the blood in the attempt to push a hard sell.  The sales tactic works in that the blood glucose levels remain within a healthy range and Insulin Inc meet their sales targets, but it is exhausting and the team eventually runs out of steam.  Over time, insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 diabetes, diagnosed when blood sugar levels are consistently high after eight hours fasting.

What causes Insulin resistance?

The exact causes of Insulin resistance are not completely understood, but scientists believe the major contributors are excess weight and physical inactivity.

Some experts believe obesity, especially excess fat around the waist, is a primary cause of insulin resistance as studies have shown that belly fat produces hormones that can cause serious health problems such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Physical Inactivity is associated with insulin resistance in many studies to date.  I urge you to have a look at this article on a recent research paper showing the negative effect on insulin sensitivity from 5 hours of uninterrupted sitting!

Click HereUninterrupted Sitting – Health Effect

Muscle cells are the biggest buyers of glucose in the body by far.  After exercising, muscles become more sensitive to insulin and take up blood glucose without hesitation.  In fact, exercise allows muscles to absorb glucose without even requiring insulin, meaning less pressure and demand on the pancreas. It stands to reason, the more muscle a body has, the more glucose it can burn, the more control over blood glucose levels.  Speaking of standing, cell sensitivity to insulin is improved with standing.  Read the below article, if you haven’t already, from last month’s blog to find out more.

Click HereHealth benefits of Standing!

So that concludes the sugar saga spanning over two months of Nutrition Corner blog posts. I really hope it has infomed you to make better food choices and at more appropriate times, whilst sitting less and moving more!

I will finish this month’s blog with some news on positive changes on the horizon regarding food labelling and eating out.

Food Labelling  -Good News!

New EU legislation will improve allergen information on food labels and make sure that caterers are able to to provide information to consumers about allergens in the food they serve.  The changes will come in from December 2014 across the EU.  It is looking like there will be a minimum print size for information written on food labels and manufacturers will emphasise allergens using bold lettering.


The other change on the horizon is how to change a single man into a married one, a priest and a wedding should do the trick.  These particular changes wont be coming in from December 2014!!

John Pic

Next month we will look at cholesterol and the myths surrounding it and talk about Fats – the good, the bad and the ugly

Go on, give your staff at Insulin Inc. some well earned annual leave by starting a gradual exercise habit today, a daily walk is taking a step in the right direction.

Thanks again for reading.


Post Christmas Blog – Sugar and Anti-Oxidants

How is everybody after the most wonderful time of the year! Can’t have enough of those delicious mince pies courtesy of Delicious, but the jury is out now whether it is custom to eat mince pies in January as well as December!  I suggest weaning off them this month and go cold turkey for January.  Speaking of cold turkey, who’s fed up of that!? Brussell sprouts though, they should be eaten all year round and you will find out why later in the blog..

I hope ye all had a great holiday and are ready to attack those Christmas free radicals with some anti-oxidant rich foods.  We will list the top ten super antioxidant foods in this month’s blog, along with top five tips for a healthy diet and lifestyle combo for 2014 and all the years that follow.  We will also talk about sugar in the diet and its connection with energy levels and food choices. 

 So here is the top ten antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables to get stuck into asap..

Top Ten Fruits

Top Ten Vegetables






Brussel Sprouts


Alfalfa Sprouts






Red Bell Peppers







Sugar : A Tale of Two Cities Now for the Sweet Section…


The City of Sun :  Lets first look at the brighter side of sugar, we see that it is a carbohydrate, naturally present in fruits and vegetables.  It is present in fruits and vegetables because plants use the sun’s energy and carbon dioxide to produce sugar and water, as a food source for growth.  And what is the name of this incredibly important reaction, Photosynthesis.  Not surprisingly, judging by their names, the two plants that are outstanding in their field at producing and storing sugar are Sugar beet and Sugar cane.  These two are harvested to give us table sugar, called sucrose, which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

Glucose, the stuff used by our bodies as energy for our cells, is extracted from the carbohydrates that we eat and is constantly being transported to the brain because our brains are choosy when it comes to food, they only want glucose and they want it all the time.  The reason for this constant calling is because the brain cells cannot store glucose, unlike the rest of the bodies cells.  This is why our blood always contains sugar, because our brain never stops.  No one can doubt the importance of our brain to us, and so follows the importance of sugar to us also.

The City of Sin :  When in the wrong hands, sugar can be deadly.  Who here reading this has experienced feelings of fatigue, feeling spaced out and unable to think straight after cheap pizza and chips with coke or an over-indulgence of jelly beans.  To then crave more sugar in order to lift you back up from the daze.  My sister told me a funny story over the christmas holidays about her 1 and a half year old daughter who got her hands on too much sugar one day, resulting in a crazy run-around baby closely followed by a mute, just wanting to lie down baby.  This is a good time to try and explain what is going on in these cases.

There is a time and a place for eating lots of sugar, and willynilly throughout the day is not one of them.  Directly following exercise is, and we will explain this in a bit.

Lets look at the the level of glucose in the blood and go from there.  The body wants to keep this level at 4mmol per litre of blood (equal to 1 gram of sugar per litre or a teaspoon of sugar in circulation throughout the entire bloodstream) to keep it running smoothly.  In order to do this, the body employs a glucose sales team who work for Insulin Inc.  The glucose sales team are ready and waiting at their company headquaters, aka the pancreas.  Once the digestive system releases glucose from food into the bloodstream, the brain sounds an alarm in the pancreas and the sales team get to work.  They visit the bodies cells, especially the liver and muscle cells, and sell glucose to the cell owner.  This is turing into a bit of a tongue-twister!  The act of selling glucose is performed by insulin binding to the insulin receptors on the cell, which then open the cell’s door to glucose, thereby removing it from the blood.  This act of glucose storage in cells is vital, as it is from these stores that the body can release glucose to feed the brain if blood sugar becomes low from not eating all day for example.

The sales-team work at their best when there is a manageable influx of glucose after eating, simply because the pancreas does not need to release extra insulin to manage the job successfully.  For example, on eating an apple where the sugar is in its natural form alongside plenty of fiber, the digestive system breaks this down and releases glucose gradually due to the fiber slowing down the digestive process.  The same can be said for  a balance meal, with carbohydrate, protein and fat.  The fat and protein slow down the release of glucose into the blood and so the insulin team can cope with the demand and not require all their staff and effort at once.

What happens after drinking a 500ml bottle of coke containing more than ten times your blood’s sugar content, or eating a packet of skittles or anything loaded with sugar and not much else?  Alarm bells ring louder in the pancreas as the brain detects a huge wave of glucose entering the blood at a speedy rate.  The sales team recruit the entire office to get out and shift the glucose into the cells.  This results in a much higher then usual insulin level in the blood and even when the glucose has been stored away, the insulin levels remain high, because the liver may be unable to remove the circulating insulin fast enough.  The sales-team are working overtime, which results in a blood sugar dip below the bodies ideal level.  This has a knock on effect, since it interferes with the usual steady supply of glucose to the brain, and can result in fatigue,  poor decision making or in my niece’s case, not wishing to engage in conversation or activity!

And how do most of us react to this drop in blood sugar level, by eating more sugar.  Thus causing a repeat of the above and subsequent poor blood sugar control throughout the day.

I mentioned earlier about a licence to eat sugary foods after exercise.  This is because exercise uses up the glucose stores in our muscles and therefore the muscles crave glucose following a bout of activity.  On eating within one hour after exercising, the muscles replenish their glucose levels without having a negative effect on the blood glucose levels and brain function.  Some may say, eating after exercising is undoing all the good.  But exercise offers so much more then just calorie expenditure.  We will discuss all this in up and coming blog entries.



How to avoid the honey trap :  We will look into this more so in February’s blog.  Keep your blood sugar levels steady by avoiding refined carbohydrates eaten on their own, e.g. a plate of chips or toast and jam with tea for breakfast.  This is why beans belong to toast so that the glucose is released at a steadier rate due to the protein content of the meal.  Next months blog will look at ways of controlling your blood sugar levels and will go into more detail on food choices to keep energy levels from fluctuating.

Top 5 tips for a Healthy Lifestyle in 2014

1.    Exercise your Mental Health.  Using self-help informative sources such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfullness can really make a difference.  If this option does not help, speaking to friends, family or GP is a must.

2.  Watch your Posture.  Im not just talking about how you stand or sit, but more about how much you sit.  More and more studies are sifting through showing the health dangers of prolonged sitting.  These studies are showing better blood glucose levels in people who sit less and stand more, aswell as other health benefits.  We will look at this incredibly interesting topic in the blogs to come, but for now, listen to your bum, when it becomes uncomfortable, don’t ignore it and turn the other cheek, stand up, move around a little and sit back down again.  Repeat regularly.  Stick a sticker on your computer to remind you!!

Check out this interesting link on the topic of sedentary lifestyles – click here

3.   Five a Day and keep hydrated.  We hear it daily but do we practice it daily.  Get prepared, ensure you buy enough fruit and vegetables in the weekly shop to make this daily challenge achievable.  Have a bottle of water with you at all times, if possible.

Try This: Make vegetables tastier, myself and my girlfriend Aisling tried Kale crisps for the first time last weekend.  Stick some kale drizzled with olive oil and some salt in the oven for ten minutes, delicious and an easy way to tick off the top anti-oxidant vegetable on the list.

John Kale

4.   Cut down on smoking and binge drinking.  I just had to include this very common New Years resolution in my top 5 tips.  Smoking is the single most destructive thing you can do to your body, full stop.

With regards to binge drinking, ever notice after a heavy night, your food choices the next day are not exactly brilliant, this is somewhat down to poor blood glucose control as the liver is unable to regulate insulin and maintain normal blood sugar levels because it is busy detoxifying alcohol.

5.   Relaxation and Diaphragmatic breathing.  We all breathe, but some better than others!

Todays lifestyles can be very hectic and exhausting, which can lead to stress. And stress is something everbody can do without.  Relaxation is very important for a healthy mind.  Even taking 15 minutes out of your day to relax and focus on your breathing can have a positive effect on stress.  Try the shoe trick to work on your diaphragmatic breathing, I think this 1 minute you-tube movie was a clever way to show deep breathing, to watch it click here 

If you are struggling to grasp this technique, throw away the shoes, pop three or four pillows under your hips and lie back with knees bent and feet on the floor.  Just breathe and you will notice your tummy expanding with every inhalation and dropping with every exhalation.  Aim for 11-14 breaths per minute.

So that concludes the “Delicious” Nutrition Corner entry for January 2014.

I wish all of you the very best for this year and hope you find this blog and all the up and coming ones useful.

Cheers for reading.


John’s First Nutrition Post 

How’s things? My name is John Phelan, I’m 31, although not for too much longer, from Waterford but live and work as a Physiotherapist in Edinburgh and I am an Associate Nutritionist under the Nutrition Society.

Recently moved to Edinburgh to move in with my girlfriend on Paddy’s Day this year, our decision was not clouded by alcohol! We are still having a great time together!

Love her, the outdoors and my bikes, in that order…

John p


Q; What can you bring to the table at Delicious bakery?

A; I can bring forward my growing interest in public health to the blog through nuggets of helpful information.  I feel the ingredient most important in effective health promotion is one of understanding nutrition and understanding how the body works.

More importantly, this message of understanding nutrition needs to be delivered in an exciting and interesting fashion in order to both entertain and educate the reader.

Armed with this new level of understanding, the reader is better equipped to make healthier diet and lifestyle decisions, independently.

Q; Why Delicious?

A; Coeliac Disease is something that is very prevalent in both Ireland and the UK, with one person in every 100 diagnosed with coeliac disease in Ireland alone.  These high prevalence rates should push the further development of new and exciting gluten free products, opening more opportunities for everybody to share information, tips and suggestions for tastier gluten free diets.  I want to get involved in this movement.

Q; What can we expect to see on the Blog’s Nutrition Corner in the future?

A; Various topics discussed every month in an understandable, non-jargon, entertaining way.

– Dietary advice with reasoning.

–  Introduction to gluten free grains and ideas on how to fit them in to daily diets.

– Pictures and videos of various situations as they arise.


Lets introduce the topic for December : Anti-oxidants

The body’s trillion or so cells face formidable threats from lack of food to infection from a virus or bacteria.  Another constant threat comes from nasty chemicals called “free radicals”.  Think of these free radicals as a bunch of thieving criminals running riot throughout the body.  They break entry to our body through the food we eat (fried fatty foods) and the air we breathe (cigarette smoke/exhaust fumes).  Some even gain access through the action of the sunlight on our skin and eyes.  Not only that, the body itself generates free radicals as the leftovers or byproducts of turning food into energy.

The free radicals come in many shapes and sizes and chemical configurations, as would any group of gangsters.  What they all have in common though is a voracious appetite for electrons, stealing them from our body’s cells at every opportunity.  This electron theft can radically alter the victim’s or cell’s structure or function.  For example, it can cause a cholesterol molecule, an LDL cholesterol, that is the bad type, to change its structure and make it more likely to get trapped in the wall of an artery leading to the build up of fatty deposits or whats called artherosclerosis of the arteries.  Even our DNA, the building blocks of our cells, can be altered by these free radicals, linking them to the development of cancers.

We cannot completely stop these critters from getting in, but we can make them feel unwelcome.  Our body has an army of defenses to fight this constant battle.  Our body both produces its defenders and recruits them from food.  These defenders or free radical fighters are often lumped together as “Anti-oxidants”.

Anti-oxidants don’t use weapons against the free radicals, instead they act like charities and generously give electrons to the free radicals, thus converting them from a life of crime to law abiding citizens of the body.  For example, Gluthatione peroxidase, a prolific player on the Anti-oxidant side can reduce Hydrogen peroxide, an infamous free radical, into water, a giver of life! Lovely hurling Gluthatione!

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of different substances that can act as anti-oxidants.  The most familiar ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene (body turns this into vitamin A) along with minerals selenium and manganese.  They are joined by gluthatione, co-enzyme Q10, flavanoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens and many more.

Health Benefits?

Anti-oxidants came to public attention in the 1990’s, when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery clogging artherosclerosis and may contribute to cancer, vision loss and all inflammatory diseases.

Is there anyone out there looking for something or someone to blame for the emergence of wrinkles on their forhead and slowness in their step, then point the finger at free radicals.  Oxidative stress, the term used to describe the effects of free radical damage to cells, is responsible for the process of aging.

Research studies at this time showed that people with low intakes of anti-oxidant rich fruit and vegetables were at a greater risk of developing these chronic conditions then were people who ate plenty of fruit and vegetables.  So then  clinical trials began testing the impact of single substances, especially vitamin E and beta-carotene as weapons against heart disease, cancer and the likes.

Of course nutritional science lived up to its reputation of being far from straight forward! The trials were mixed, but most did not find the hoped-for benefits.  One study even found that taking beta-carotene supplement may actually increase the chance of developing lung cancer in smokers.

These mostly dissappointing results have not stopped food companies and supplement sellers from banking on anti-oxidants.  They are still added to cereals, sports bars, energy drinks and other processed foods, and promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss and a host of other conditions.

At the end of the day, the 5-a-day mantra still holds true, people who eat fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease, and there is evidence that some types of vegetables and fruits in general, may lower risk against some cancers.  It is unlikely that high levels of synthetic anti-oxidants added to foods can accomplish the same feat.  This suggests that these health benefits come from other substances in fruits and vegetables or come from a complex mix of natural compounds including anti-oxidants.  Again I repeat, nothing is simple in the world of nutritional science!

Next month we will look at foods rich in natural antioxidants to help fight off the christmas free radicals and also look at the link between energy levels and blood sugar levels.

My girlfriend will be starting her gluten-free diet and I may have to join her! Will be keeping you all informed of how that goes.  By the way, if you have any of your own tips and ideas on gluten free living, please share them on the blog, and we will do the same.

Thanks for reading,  Happy Christmas to all and roll on 2014.

John Phelan

Associate Nutritionist and Chartered Physiotherapist.

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