Life

Nutrition experts say celebrity diet rules can be hard to swallow

Just in time for the party season, lingerie entrepreneur Michelle Mone unveiled 29 secrets she says lost her 6st. But here three experts say that many of her tips should be taken with a pinch of salt

Michelle Mone has shared her "29-rule plan", a series of diet recommendations, after she shed 11lb in the past year in preparation for her wedding
Claire Coleman

THERE'S no doubting Michelle Mone's business savvy. The 48-year-old Scottish entrepreneur co-founded a highly successful lingerie firm in 1996 and now has a peerage.

There's no doubting her successful weight loss, either, having lost 6st in seven years, 11lb in the past year alone, in preparation for her wedding to billionaire fiance Doug Barrowman.

She has just shared her "29-rule plan", a series of diet recommendations, claiming: "Changing into this lifestyle means that we all get to live longer and healthier... diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and body motor diseases (MS and Parkinson's) all get stalled and/or reversed!!!"

Describing her healthy eating plan, she said: "Basically it's a limited pescetarian diet with lots of legumes and vegetables. Meat substitutes can be used to bulk up meals. The key is to avoid, sugar, starches, and simple carbs at all costs."

But her approach has been slammed by experts. Zoe Harcombe, an obesity researcher and diet expert, says: "This diet is likely to be deficient in a number of nutrients, and having studied the evidence for calorie-deficit dieting, I would expect the weight to be regained."

With the help of NHS dietitian Catherine Collins, Harcombe and Ian Marber, an independent nutrition therapist who has spent more than 20 years working in the field, we've looked at some of Michelle's tips to work out which ones you should swallow whole, and which should be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

:: NO MILK

Michelle says: "Low fat milk – cows' milk is bad for you; lactose intolerance. Human

intestines aren't designed to process milk effectively... substitute for almond milk or soy

milk or coconut milk."

Experts say: "Lactose intolerance affects only approximately 5 per cent of people of northern European descent," says Harcombe. "Milk is too rich in many micronutrients, including vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus, for us to be avoiding it if we don't need to."

"It's not bad for you and not even high in fat – full fat milk is only 4.5 per cent fat – whereas Cheddar is 30-40 per cent," says Collins. "And it does provide useful amounts of calcium and protein."

VERDICT: Ignore advice unless you are genuinely lactose intolerant.

:: NO YOGHURT

Michelle says: "Natural yoghurt – small quantities only; lactose issue and full of natural sugar."

Experts say: As explained, lactose is generally not an issue and as for it being full of natural sugar, Harcombe points out natural yoghurt is "less than 5 per cent carbohydrate" so there's less than a spoonful in an individual pot. Collins adds: "Yoghurts can contribute calcium to the diet, and can be tolerated even by those who are lactose intolerant."

However, Collins warns: "Extra-creamy yoghurts often have cream as the second ingredient so are no better than a dessert and should be avoided by weight watchers."

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: NO EGGS

Michelle says: "Eggs – completely avoid – cholesterol issues; animal-based protein."

Experts say: "Eggs are a good source of protein which, when trying to lose weight, can help maintain fullness levels – which may help cut calories but only if you eat only when you are hungry," says Collins.

Harcombe adds: "Michelle says 'animal-based protein' as if it's a bad thing when it's the opposite. Only animal-based protein is complete – meaning it contains all the essential amino acids and in the right amount. Essential in nutrition means something we must consume – the body doesn't make it."

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: AVOID FRUIT JUICE

Michelle says: "Juices – avoid fruit juices as they are full of sugar; if used, need to be freshly squeezed and taken in moderation."

Experts say: "I agree," says Harcombe. "I would actually just say: 'Avoid fruit juices as they are full of sugar.' Full stop."

However juice can be beneficial to those whose fruit and veg intake is otherwise lacking, says Collins, who suggests keeping your intake to one 150ml glass a day.

VERDICT: Limit intake.

:: FRESH FRUIT IN MODERATION

Michelle says: "Fresh fruit – full of sugar so take in moderation."

Experts say: This splits the experts. Marber takes issue with the idea that fruit is 'full of sugar' saying it's "unhelpful and misleading scaremongering when fruit can actually be a source of antioxidants, fibre and minerals that can contribute to our five-a-day". On the other hand, if you're trying to lose weight, the relatively high sugar content of some fruit might mean you're better off getting your antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals from eating vegetables.

VERDICT: Follow if trying to cut calories.

:: LOTS OF VEG

Michelle says: "Fresh vegetables – eat as much as you like... complex carbohydrates are good for you and will also produce enough protein to live on."

Experts say: While our experts agree it's good to eat lots of veg, and concede they can be considered to contain complex carbohydrates, they don't agree with Michelle's reasoning.

"Carbohydrate doesn't provide protein. Carbohydrates provide carbohydrate; protein provides protein," says Harcombe.

VERDICT: Yes, eat veg in abundance, but don't rely on them as a protein source.

:: MODERATE AMOUNTS OF WHOLDGRAIN BREAD

Michelle says: "Wholegrain bread – eat in moderation. Avoid any bread that isn't wholegrain."

Experts say: "We should be choosing wholegrain bread where possible," agrees Marber. "It contains more fibre than other types." Collins adds: "Often, it's not the bread itself, it's the amount eaten and what people put on it that's the issue."

VERDICT: Watch what you put on your bread – and portion size.

:: FISH THREE TIMES A WEEK ONLY

Michelle says: "Fish and seafood is good for 3 servings per week max. Avoid fish that are high in mercury content – tuna, mackerel, halibut, swordfish."

Experts say: "The mercury caution is given to women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, plus nursing mums, and children aged 12 and younger," says Harcombe. "I don't think fish intake needs to be limited, as it is so nutritious." Guidelines suggest two portions of oily fish a week.

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: ANIMAL PROTEIN IS A NO-NO

Michelle says: "Lean meats – avoid meat as animal protein is bad for you; both white and red meat. Use protein substitutes eg chickpeas, quorn, tempeh, seitans, jack fruit, egg plant. Just as much nourishment to be derived compared to animal proteins."

Experts say: "Animal protein is superior to plant protein for the amino acid profile and how easy it is for the body to use it," says Harcombe. "It's false to say you can get 'just as much nourishment' from other sources.

"Moreover, she doesn't seem to know a protein substitute such as Quorn – just 11 per cent protein – from a legume, for example chickpeas – nine per cent protein – or a fruit, for example egg plant – aubergine as we call it – a paltry one per cent protein."

A chicken breast is about 31 per cent protein and is a good source of selenium and B vitamins.

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: LOTS OF OLIVE OIL

Michelle says: "Olive oil – very healthy; 3 table spoons a day."

Experts say: "Olive oil does contain a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements," says Marber, "but in terms of its content of omega-3 fatty acids, it's not that different from the rapeseed that she's so against [see below]."

VERDICT: Agree.

:: NO RAPESEED OIL

Michelle says: "Rapeseed oil —bad for you; carcinogenic!"

Experts say: "Rapeseed oil makers may like proof of that claim," says Harcombe. Marber says: "Absolute tosh. There's evidence to show cooking with rapeseed oil at high temperatures for years can potentially be a contributing factor to lung cancer, but that doesn't make it carcinogenic. It's a British crop rich in omega 3, we should be supporting it."

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: LOTS OF NUTS

Michelle says: "Natural nuts (Brazils, almonds etc) are good."

Experts say: They are insofar as they are a good combination of fat, proteins and carbohydrates, with various trace minerals as well. But high calorie content means, according to Harcombe, "nuts are best avoided by those trying to lose weight."

VERDICT: Ignore advice if dieting.

:: FRESH NOT TINNED TOMATOES

Michelle says: "Tinned tomatoes – fine. Fresh are better as they are a superfood and antioxidant."

Experts say: "There's no such thing as a superfood," says Marber. "And lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, is likely to be more bioavailable [the proportion which has a beneficial effect on the body] in tinned tomatoes than fresh."

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: LIMIT PASTA AND RICE

Michelle says: "Pasta and rice – maximum of three servings per week with no one serving greater than 40g (wholegrain pasta and brown rice or wild rice)."

Experts say: Wholegrains including pasta and rIce are a good source of fibre, says Collins.

VERDICT: Fair, if having starchy carbs, stick to wholegrain.

:: NO FRYING

Michelle says: "Fry nothing."

Experts say: While our experts aren't endorsing deep fat frying, they're not against frying per se. "Most 'from scratch' recipes start with onions and garlic fried in olive oil," says Harcombe. "I wouldn't discourage this."

VERDICT: Not clear cut.

:: NO TINNED SWEETCORN

Michelle says: "Sweetcorn – avoid tinned, go for fresh."

Experts say: "Why?" asks Marber. "As long as tinned sweetcorn doesn't have extra salt or sugar, it's fine." Research shows tinned corn has the same amount of fibre as fresh, and can even contain more antioxidants due to the canning process.

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

:: NO REDUCED-FAT CHEESE

Michelle says: "Reduced fat cheese – avoid completely, as an animal-based protein with similar properties to eggs and milk."

Experts say: As long as you're not lactose intolerant, there's no issue with dairy products and, like yoghurt and milk, cheese is a good source of protein, calcium and other nutrients.

However, Cheddar and many other hard cheeses are much higher in fat than milk and other dairy products, and reduced-fat lower fat cheeses can be benefical, says Collins.

VERDICT: Ignore advice.

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