Organic and Sustainable foods – a Dietitians View     

According to the Soil Association organic farming encourages wildlife and cuts the use of pesticides and antibiotics. Organic standards define how an organic product must be grown, farmed or made.

Demand for organic foods is partially driven by consumers’ perceptions that they are more nutritious. There is divided opinion on whether there are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic food. Organic foods are usually more expensive than conventional foods and consumers often appropriately ask are the price differences worth it?

Nutrient differences in organic food

The Soil Association reported that mineral content and vitamin C levels were higher in organic fruit and vegetables compared to conventional products. A recent meta-analysis1 (results of multiple studies) indicated antioxidant concentrations such as polyphenolics including flavanols were substantially higher in organic compared to non-organic crops. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

Less pesticides/Contaminants in organic foods

Food is regularly tested for pesticides to ensure that amounts are below levels safe for human consumption. The same study cited above1 also showed lower concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the same non-organic crops across regions and production seasons.

Health Effects of Organic Foods

Several researchers claim measurable health improvements from the consumption of organic foods. This includes reported lower levels of eczema when infants are given organic dairy products. The Soil Association also reported that sperm counts of groups of men eating organic foods was higher than those eating conventional foods.

Sustainable diets are also trending. The British Dietetic Association have recently published a position statement on sustainable diets that includes a quote from Tara Garnett: “What, and how much we eat directly affects what, and how much is produced. We therefore need to consume more ‘sustainable diets’ – diets that have lower environmental impacts and are healthier.” This complements what other writers suggest, a new era of `holistic sustainability’ that will include restoring soil health, improving air pollution and reducing food waste. Some experts are suggesting that this new (?) `holistic sustainability’ will only come about by taking action ourselves, i.e., grow more of our own fruit and vegetables without chemicals and composting. In our case, we might also remember that we are still an agricultural community with local producers to support.

Happy Spring Season and Happy Gardening.

1Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.

Marcin Barański, Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Nikolaos Volakakis, Chris Seal,  Roy Sanderson, et al.


Sour Dough Bread

SOURDOUGH BREAD                from Rosemary Bonney, Dietitian

It was with some surprise that a recent dietetic review indicated that consumption of sourdough bread compared to yeast risen bread could have long term health benefits.

In France the baguette is the most popular bread eaten made from a sour dough starter. Here, in the United Kingdom, yeast is used as the leavening agent. The article cited the French population have a lower incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and coeliac disease compared to the United Kingdom. The question raised is the simple French baguette part of the reason, to explain this enigma?

In France, many people still buy their bread from the local boulangerie where the baguette is made following the traditional slow method of production, using a starter bacterial culture dough mixture called levain. The translation of levain into English is sourdough. Fructans, gluten and phytates in the flour are broken down and B vitamins, including vitamin B12, as well as lactic acid, are released in the process. During baking the cultured bacteria is killed and the final product is a sour-dough tasting bread, the same process as used to make the French baguette. The French therefore are eating baguettes which are low in fructans and lower in gluten, which may prevent dormant genes for coeliac disease from being expressed or the Sourdough bread is low in fructans and lower in gluten.

The incidence of coeliac disease in England is thought to be about 1% of the population. The development of coeliac disease is thought to be partly triggered by gluten in the environment and partly due to hereditary factors. In recent times, more people are being diagnosed with coeliac disease and seeing dietitians to help follow a strict gluten free diet to support their condition. The incidence for coeliac disease in the French population is lower than here, at only 0.24% of the population. Could this low incidence be due to the French baguette having lower amounts of gluten in it? The article suggests that the French are eating baguette which is low in fructans and may reduce indigestible fibres that they consume, lower in gluten which may prevent the dormant genes from coeliac disease being expressed or the symptoms associated with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

The low FODMAP (fermentable Oligo di monosaccharides and polyols), designed in Monash University, Australia, in 2005 has helped many people with irritable bowel syndrome to combat their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and constipation. The principle of the diet is to avoid a list of foods and ingredients for around eight weeks and then these foods are reintroduced, group by group to find out which foods may be causing the symptoms. One of the products to be excluded includes wheat bread products which contain fructans and gluten free bread is advised as an alternative.

In May, 2018, the low FODMAP diet list was updated with two slices of sourdough bread made from wheat flour added to foods that can be eaten. It is not yet recommended by dietitians in England as there is no equipment available to test breads for fructans in the UK. There is clearly a need to continue research as to whether sourdough bread can help patients to treat their disease especially if they are considering a gluten-free diet when they are not coeliac and as a possible preventative measure to reduce incidence of coeliac in the general population.

For those of you who want try eating more sour dough bread instead of yeasted bread why not make your own sour dough. For those of you with less time Penny’s bread is always available to order for delivery on Friday from our local village shop.

Do You have IBS?


Do you have IBS?

Are you one of the 20% in the population affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a medical term used to describe a collection of gut symptoms including abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating or change in bowel habits including constipation and/or diarrhoea. Lethargy, nausea, backache and bladder symptoms are common in people with IBS, and may be used to support the diagnosis.

It is important to have a GP confirm a diagnosis of IBS and rule out other conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

What steps can be taken for IBS?

  • Eat three regular meals a day.
  • Smaller portions may ease symptoms.
  • Limit alcohol to 2 units/day (2 alcohol free days/week).
  • Limit caffeine containing drinks to no more than 2 mugs/day.
  • Reduce fizzy drinks.
  • Drink at least 8 cups fluid/day.
  • Cut down on rich/fatty foods such as pizza, creamy sauces and crisps.
  • Limit fruit to 3 portions/day.
  • Get professional advice on appropriate dietary fibre depending on symptoms.
  • Keep a food/symptom diary.

Probiotics supplements such as yoghurts or fermented milk drinks taken daily for at least four weeks may improve symptoms. If they do not appear to help then you could try an alternative brand. Give your bowels time to adjust to any changes.

If symptoms persist after following general lifestyle and dietary advice speak to a healthcare professional with expertise in dietary management. A professional may suggest trialling a diet restricted in short chain fermentable carbohydrates.


 SALT from Rosemary Bonney, Dietitian


Our bodies need a small amount of salt for vital processes such as muscle contractions and maintaining fluid balance. We are told that eating too much salt is bad for us, but why it is bad and how we can eat less is not always clear. This month I will look at the risks of eating too much salt and ways to reduce our salt intake.

Eating too much salt increases the chance of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) which is a risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. A lower salt intake can help counteract the rise in blood pressure that naturally occurs with age.

The UK guideline recommends no more than 6g salt per day.  The average daily salt intake in the UK is about 8.1g (one and a half teaspoons).  Some of the salt we eat comes from the salt we use in cooking, and some from the salt we add at the table.  About 75%, however, is in processed foods like meat products, crisps, biscuits, ready meals, pasta sauces, bread and some breakfast cereals.  Salt is also found naturally in many foods like meat and vegetables and we can get all the salt our bodies need from natural sources and we don’t need to add it to our food.

The following guidelines on food labels can help us reduce our salt intake:

  • A food high in salt has more than 1.5g salt per 100g
  • A food with medium salt content is between 0.3g and 1.5g salt per 100g.
  • A low salt food is 0.3g salt or less per 100g.
Some examples:
High Salt Choices Salt g Low Salt Choices Salt g
Ready-made curry meal (onion bhaji, 2 curries, pilau rice, naan bread)

Baked beans, 2 slices toast, spread

2 rashers back bacon

40g smoked salmon

40g crisps







Thai red lentil dahl (onion, tomatoes, garlic) rice and naan bread

Muesli, blueberries, semi-skimmed milk

Porridge oats

1 large egg

20g almonds









General steps to reduce our salt intake include less processed foods, being aware of food labels and choosing lower salt options.  Early intervention will help all of us reduce the risks of developing high blood pressure. As with any diet modification, planning and preparation will help to keep us on track. For further advice contact a Dietitian.  An excellent selection of lower salt recipes can also be found on the Consensus for Action on Salt and Health (CASH) website.

The Liver


I cannot believe that as you read this we are into March.  I have just recently returned from an amazing conference on the liver and thought I would share a few gems.

Liver facts

The liver is the largest organ in the body and weighs about 1.2-1.5kg. It is divided into a left and right lobe. The liver is supplied with blood from two sources, the hepatic artery and the hepatic portal vein. It has around 500 functions including:

  • filters and cleans blood
  • fights infections and disease
  • destroys and deals with poisons and drugs
  • makes vital proteins for blood clotting if we cut ourselves
  • produces bile to assist in digestion of fats and removes waste products
  • stores glucose in the form of glycogen which can be used when the body needs it most
  • stores sugars, vitamins and minerals including iron
  • gets rid of waste substances from the body
  • produces and maintains the balance of hormones
  • produces enzymes/proteins needed for chemical reactions in the body such as tissue repair
  • repairs damage and renews itself

Liver damage develops over time. Any inflammation of the liver is known as hepatitis whatever its cause. Sudden inflammation is known as acute hepatitis. Inflammation longer than six months is known as chronic hepatitis. In chronic liver disease, liver function declines due to cell damage and inflammation. Treating the cause of the inflammation may prevent the formation of further damage. Cirrhosis is when healthy liver tissue is replaced by scare tissue eventually preventing the liver functioning properly. It is often called the `silent killer’ because even at this stage people have no signs or symptoms of disease. Fatty liver disease is divided into Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). ALD is associated with excess alcohol an NAFLD is associated with impaired glucose tolerance and high cholesterol. Both will show the same disease symptoms. A healthy liver develops fatty deposits known as steatosis leading to inflammation, fibrosis and cirrhosis (scarring).

UK and Finland are the only countries in Europe where liver disease as a major cause of death is still increasing year on year.

Good nutrition and reducing alcohol intake can help support our liver to function well. By eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise, sensible drinking should not cause liver problems. There has been a lot in the `press’ recently about what is sensible drinking? (see December issue). To eat healthily means getting the right balance between different foods. For most people a well-balanced diet means is low in fat, sugar and salt and high in fibre. It also means watching portion sizes. It is important that our diets meet our personal nutritional needs and circumstances. It we are unwell and losing weight the rules change. In this case it is important to eat foods that are high in calories, protein and fats to maintain a healthy weight and avoid muscle wasting. If we are told to lose weight then it is important to do so slowly and safely. It is important to enjoy our food and to discuss any problems with your doctor or dietitian.