Sugar Free Date Muffins

Makes 24 muffins

  • 300g dates, chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • 10ml (2 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 30ml (2tbsp) oil, macadamia, walnut, carotino or canola
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) vanilla essence
  • 250ml (1 cup) plain fat free yogurt
  • 2 small apples, peeled and grated
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fat free milk
  • 500ml (2 cups) cake flour
  • 15ml (3 tsp) baking powder
  • 5ml (1 tsp) salt
  • 250ml (1 cup) oat bran
  1. If you are using the compressed block type of dates, break the dates apart. Place them in a bowl. Pour the hot water over them and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 decrees celcius. Line two 12-hole muffin pans with paper cups or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the oil, vanilla essence, yogurt, grated apples and milk, and mix until just blended.
  5. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt on top of the egg mixture. Add the oat bran and mix well.
  6. Mash the soaked dates, or puree them if they are still too firm to be mashed by hand. add them to the batter and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pans or paper cups.
  8. Place them in the oven and reduce heat to 190 degrees celcius, then bake for 25 minutes.
  9. Take the muffins out of the oven and leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes. Turn them out and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  10. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrients per muffin

GI 61
Carbohydrates 22g
Protein 3g
Fat 2g
Calories 149
GL 13
Fibre 2g

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Marinated Strawberries

Serves 4

  • 1.5 tsp powdered gelatine
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 400ml single cream
  • 2 tbsp fructose
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 500g strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 3ml fructose
  • 7ml balsamic vinegar
  1. Soak the gelatine in 60ml of the milk until soft.
  2. Warm the remaining milk, cream, fructose and vanilla until the fructose has dissolved.
  3. Pour into four 175ml containers of your choice, cover and chill overnight.
  4. About 1 hour before serving, sprinkle the strawberries with the fructose and vinegar, toss to combine and chill.
  5. Divide the strawberries among the containers just before serving.

Nutritional Information

Calories 370kcal
Total Fat 22g
Saturated Fat 14g
Carbs 21g
Salt 0.17g
Fibre 1.5g

Discover Fructose

Fructose is a type of sugar found naturally in fruit. It looks and tastes like ordinary table sugar (sucrose) and can be used in exactly the same way. Gram for gram fructose contains the same number of calories as regular table sugar but it’s one and a half times sweeter, which means you can use less for the same level of sweetness. So in terms of calories there’s a slight saving to be made. What is more, fructose has a GI of 23 compared with sucrose which has a GI of 65. This means that fructose is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps to keep the blood sugar levels stable. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because fructose seems like a healthier version of sugar you can use more of it – you still need to use it sparingly. Although we’re born with an innate preference for sweet things, if we eat too many sweet foods our taste buds become desensitized to sweetness and as a consequence we crave more and more to get the same ‘fix’. As anyone who has given up taking sugar in tea or coffee can testify, we can teach ourselves to enjoy less sweet foods. It takes a few weeks to retrain your taste buds, but if you stick at it you’ll soon start to enjoy the true flavour of foods.

Beetroot & Lentil Salad With Creamy Goat’s Cheese

This quick salad of warm beetroot, creamy goat’s cheese and fine textured lentils makes a substantial vegetarian lunch.

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Serves 4


  • 500g cooked beetroot , drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tbsp honey and mustard vinaigrette
  • 55g rocket, washed and stems removed
  • 55g watercress, washed and stems removed
  • 100g goat’s cheese


  1. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees celcius, gas mark 6. Cut each beetroot into 4 wedges. Place in a large roasting tin, drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar, and season. Roast for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes, until the beetroot wedges are warmed through.
  2. Tip the lentils into a bowl, add the warm beetroot then spoon over the vinaigrette dressing. Mix well.
  3. Divide the rocket and watercress between 4 plates and arrange the lentils and beetroot on top. Crumble the cheese over and serve immediately.

Cook’s tip Wearing disposable vinyl gloves when preparing the beetroot will prevent your hands from staining red.

Nutritional info

Energy 317 ckal

Sugars 14.9g

Fat 17.2g

Saturated fat 5.5g

Salt 0.9g

Watercress, strawberry & orange

Per serving

42 calories 0.6g fat

Serves 4 Prep time 10 mins

  • 100g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 x 200g bag fresh watercress
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  1. Chop the strawberries and place in a bowl.
  2. Break the oranges up into segments and mix with the strawberries. Add the orange juice to the fruit and sprinkle with the chopped chives.
  3. When ready to serve, toss the watercress in the cider vinegar and arrange in a serving dish. Sit the strawberries and oranges on top.

Chef’s Tip

Add the vinegar to the watercress at the last minute – if left to stand, the vinegar will break down the watercress.

Papaya, cottage cheese & chives

Per serving

58 calories 0.8g fat

Serves 4 Prep time 15 mins

  • 1 papaya, peeled and deseeded
  • 1 eating apple, diced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 200g low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • mixed salad leaves to serve
  1. Peel the papaya and the apple and dice into pieces. Place in a bowl and add the lemon juice.
  2. Mix the cottage cheese into the fruit and add the chives. Pile on to the salad leaves and serve immediately.

Chef’s Tip

Papaya is loaded with enzymes that will help with the digestion of your food. Always eat fruit and salad first before your other, heavier food to maximize the use of the enzymes.

White bean, celery, blueberries & pepper Salad

Per Serving

63 calories 0.6g fat

Serves 4 Prep time 10 mins

  • 1 x 200g can white beans, drained
  • 2-3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 100g blueberries
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp apple juice
  • 1  tsp wholegrain mustard
  • mixed salad leaves
  1. In a bowl, mix together the beans, celery, blueberries and red pepper.
  2. Combine the vinegar, apple juice and mustard and pour over the salad. Toss well and spoon on to mixed leaves.

Chef’s Tip

Roast the pepper in advance for a smoky flavour

Fat-burning training – The HYPOXI Method

Fatty tissue is the most important protection and storage organ in the human body. But when we have an excess of it it becomes less of a necessity and more of an unhealthy, unsightly issue that we need to take care of.

The cross muscles (voluntary muscles) in our body are the only organ able to directly metabolise fat, but only by training under the following conditions:

  • Low intensity
  • Moderate, consistent movement
  • Sufficient oxygen supply
  • Sufficient exercise duration

With the HYPOXI method we make sure that you are training under all these conditions to ensure optimal fat-burning.

HYPOXI Head Quarters in Austria are continuously doing medical research to make sure our clients are receiving the treatment that promises the best results, and studies have proven that 30 minutes is the most efficient duration for fat-burning training.

Gabriela Baumann, Master Trainer of HYPOXI, Austria, says: “We have found that the post-exercise consumption (PEC) is longer after a 30 minute workout. The studies have revealed that 90 per cent of all clients achieve best results with a 30 minute Vacunaut session.”

When exercising within the conditions of the HYPOXI method, your brain tells your body after only 3 minutes that it can use fat as energy source for the moderate training. The percentage of fat used for energy slowly increases throughout the workout and reaches a peak at 25 minutes. When the workout stops at 30 minutes, the amount of free fatty acids and triglycerides continues to be used as energy source and slowly decreases throughout the following 6-8 hours. When you keep working out for 40 minutes, the fat-burning reduces much faster after the session.

This is also why you have a 4 hour carb curfew after your HYPOXI and Vacunaut session. If you eat carbs (like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, confectioneries, sweets or soft drinks and alcohol) your body will stop using fat as energy source and rather use the carbohydrates, as it is a higher quality energy source. Within the 4 hours it is allowed to eat protein and non-starchy vegetables and salad. After the curfew try to eat slow releasing (complex) carbs, like whole grain foods.

In the past, our Vacunaut sessions was 40 minutes, however, when we learned about these new studies we decided to put it to the test ourselves. We have put a number of clients on 30 minutes and were very excited to see that we were achieving even better results! Now that we have proven the studies to be true, we will be initiating Vacunaut sessions of 30 minutes  for all clients at Bodysmart, just like in all international HYPOXI Studios.

At Bodysmart our motto is being RESULTS DRIVEN so our main aim is that each and every client achieve their weight loss goal!

Vegetable Chestnut Pie

Vac packed chestnuts make a great festive addition to this easy tasty pie. Use your leftover veg to make sure nothing goes to waste!

PER SERVING (excluding accompaniments)
414 calories 2.2% fat

Serves 4 Prep time 10 mins Cook time 45 mins

  • 400g veg (beans, carrots, sprouts, peas)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 tbsps vegetable gravy granules
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 200g cooked chestnuts
  • 6 sheets filo pastry
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat a non-stick pan. Dry-fry the vegetables, mixing well.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and dry-fry for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the milk and sprinkle over the gravy granules. Mix well, cooking over a low heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add mushrooms and chestnuts and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to thicken, then transfer to an overproof dish.
  4. Cover with layers of filo pastry, spraying lightly with oil spray in between each layer. Season well with black pepper and place in a preheated oven at 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Watch how to create this recipe at

Eliminate your hidden food allergies

The most common reason for weight gain caused by fluid retention is allergy. The word ‘allergy’ simply means an intolerance that cause a reaction in the immune system.

Your body is like a tube. The digestive tract, which has a surface area the size of a small football field, is the gateway between the outside world and your body. It’s guarded ferociously by your immune system. If a substance that isn’t on the guest list, so to speak, tries to gatecrash and get through your digestive tract and into the bloodstream, your immune system goes haywire.

The reason why food intolerance can lead to weight gain, and difficulty losing it despite going on reduced-calorie diets, is complex but is starting to be unraveled. The most common kind of food intolerance leads to the production of IgG antibodies, which activate an immune reaction when you eat an offending food. This, in tern, increases inflammation in the body, raising certain known markers for inflammation such as TNF-a and C-reactive protein (CRP). Increased inflammation also increases water retention and bloating, as well as other classic signs of food intolerance, including aching joints, headaches, blocked nose, irritable bowel syndrome and skin problems. However, these systems are often delayed by 24 to 48 hours, so it isn’t easy to know what you react to just by observing how you feel after eating a particular food. Nor is it easy to work out what you’re intolerant to just by observing how you feel by the short-term elimination of the food, because some people get withdrawal symptoms when they eliminate certain foods. To make matters worse, some potential offending foods, especially wheat and milk, have an immediate pay-off by producing opioid-like chemicals called gluteomorphins and caseomorphines that make you feel good. So, if anything, you are naturally drawn to these foods. The same is true with sugar, which, in the short term, promotes energy, but actually encourages inflammation and weight gain in the long term.

The more foods you eat that provoke IgG antibody reaction (tested in a simple allergy test) the worse it is for your health and your weight. Your immune system should not produce large amounts of IgG antibodies and, if it does, you are likely to suffer from some degree of general malaise and symptoms that just don’t seem to shift, as well as resistant weight loss.

For example, a recent study found that obese children had much higher IgG antibody levels than normal-weight children. “Anti-food IgG antibodies are tightly associated with low grade systematic inflammation and with the thickness of carotid arteries’, the study authors report. The researchers conclude that having IgG antibody reactions may be involved in the development of both obesity and atherosclerosis, and that a diet based on eliminating IgG-positive foods might be the way forward. Inflammation also affects the gut, potentially making the gut wall more leaky or permeable, which, in turn, may increase food intolerances.

The more often you are reacting allergically, the more more resistant you become to insulin. This is because the body releases masses of immune messengers called cytokines to deal with the allergy, and cytokines make you less responsive to insulin. Also, repeated allergic reactions mean that more garbage ends up in your bloodstream as your immune cells fight off the invaders.

As antibodies, cytokines and other immune cells move in to deal with allergic in invaders, they make a lot of mess that has to be cleaned up by your liver, your body’s detoxifying organ. Eventually, the liver’s detox capacity gets overloaded. When this happens, your body dumps the toxins in the least harmful place: your fat cells. The more intoxicated your fat cells become, the more weight you gain and the harder it becomes to shift those extra pounds. This is why people with allergies find it harder and harder to lose weight. Also, this continual process of overintoxication can turn a mild allergy into something severe. Many people don’t find out about their allergies until it’s really obvious.

Discover whether you’re allergic

Allergies can be responsible for many symptoms, especially digestive problems, from bloating to constipation, and diarrhea to abdominal cramps. These are almost always accompanied by mental and physical symptoms, such as mood changes, chronic tiredness, depression, increased appetite, sleepiness after meals, inability to concentrate and a host of minor ailments, from itches and rashes to asthma and sinus problems. Check yourself out with the questionnaire below.

Your instant allergy check

  1. Can you gain weight in hours?
  2. Do you get bloated after eating?
  3. Do you suffer from diarrhea or constipation?
  4. Do you suffer from abdominal pain?
  5. Do you sometimes get really sleepy after eating?
  6. Do you suffer from hay fever?
  7. Do you suffer from rashes, itches, asthma or shortness of breath?
  8. Do you suffer from water retention?
  9. Do you suffer from headaches?
  10. Do you suffer from other aches and pains, from time to time, possibly after certain foods?
  11. Do you get better on holidays abroad, when your diet is completely different?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a real possibility that you have an allergy. If you answered ‘yes’ to four or more, it’s pretty much guarenteed.

Top Tip

Do you get bloated after eating and have to undo a button or two? If so, it is very likely you are eating something you are allergic to.

Pinpointing the allergen

It may seem odd, but more often that not the foods a person is allergic to are those they really crave. If you’re craving and eating something frequently, as though you’re mildly addicted, there is a chance you’re allergic to that food. Through my work with a number of allergic and overweight clients, it became clear to me that they were bingeing only on certain food groups. When they were instructed to eat as much as they liked of anything except the suspected allergen (the food provoking an allergic reaction), they often ceased to binge. And, when they avoided the allergen completely, they often lost 1.3 – 1.8kg (3-4lb) and occasionally as much as 3.2kg (7lb) almost overnight.

This sort of short-term weight loss can only be the result of excess fluid retention, and nothing to do with fat. You can’t burn 450g (1lb) of fat in 24 hours, even if you are starving – and much less 3.2kg (7lb)!

One of the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction can be a sudden fluctuation in blood sugar level that, in turn, affect appetite. So could allergic reactions trigger bingeing? In honesty, nobody has a definite answer to this question, but my observations of a number of clients certainly show that sometimes allergies do play a role in yours.

There are two ways to find out what you are allergic to. The first we could call ‘educated trial and error’. You need to avoid suspect foods for 14 days and note what happens by taking the pulse test, explained below.

The Pulse Test

Most people are free of symptoms within 14 days of avoiding an allergy-provoking food. And most will react on reintroducing the food within 48 hours, although some may have a reaction delayed by up to 10 days. Delayed reactions are much harder to test. For some people, symptoms improve considerably when they leave out the offending foods. For others, noticeable changes are slight.

One simple way to help identify possible suspects is the pulse test. The pulse test demands that you avoid all suspect foods for 14 days, then reintroduce them one by one, with a 48-hour gap between each item to be tested. Take your resting pulse, sitting down, before you eat the food, then take it again after 10 minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes. Write all this down on a chart. If you marked increase in pulse rate more than 10 points, or have any symptoms of ill health within 24 hours, including immediate weight gain, bloating, fatigue, headaches or joint aches, for example, avoid the food and wait 24 hours before testing the next food.

Although day-to-day changes in symptoms are hard to pin down to specific causes, avoidance of suspect foods for 14 days often lessens symptoms, which then increase significantly on reintroduction. So you’ll be able to pinpoint which foods or drinks make you worse. It is very important to observe symptoms accurately, because you may have preconceived ideas about what you do or don’t react to, perhaps because of what somebody told you, or because you dread being allergic to certain foods that you’re addicted to.

IgG allergy testing – the gold standard

Because the body sometimes delays its allergic reaction to a food, avoidance/reintroduction tests don’t always pick the allergy up. This happens because you may not suspect the food, and so not test it. Or you may suspect only one food, yet be allergic to a range of them, so you’ll continue to have a background of reactions and may thus have difficulty losing weight.

The best and truly accurate way to find out what you are allergic to is to have what’s called a Quantitative IgG ELISA test. This is the gold standard of allergy testing. “Quantitative’ means the test shows not only whether you are allergic, but also how strong your allergic reaction is. Many of us live quite healthily with minor allergies. But stronger allergies can create all sorts of problems, including weight gain. “ELISA” is the technology used. You don’t need to know all the details, but, trust me, it’s the most accurate system. If it’s done properly it is at least 93 per cent reproducible. It’s used by almost all the best allergy laboratories in the world.

To convey why it’s so good, I need to explain a bit about the human immune system.

Your immune system can produce tailor-made weapons that latch onto specific substances to help escort them out of your body. They are like bouncers on the lookout for troublemakers. The bouncers are called immunoglobins, or Ig for short. There are different types. The real heavies are called IgE, although most allergies involve IgG reactions. IgE reactions tend to be more immediate and severe. However, most ‘hidden’ allergies that may be insidiously causing weight gain are IgG-based. In an ideal world you test for both, but I normally start by testing a person for IgG sensitivity to food. If you’d like to find out more about the science behind IgG-based food allergies and intolerances go to

All that’s needed for testing is a pinprick of blood, which is absorbed into a tiny tube and sent to a laboratory. The lab then sends back an accurate readout of exactly what you are allergic to. Your body doesn’t lie. You either have IgG bouncers tagged for wheat (for example) or you don’t. Your diluted blood is introduced to a panel of liquid food ‘testers’ and, if you’ve got IgG for that food, a reactions takes place.

The good news about IgG-based allergies is that if you avoid the offending food strictly for three to six months, the body forgets that it is allergic to it. The reason is that there will no longer be any IgG antibodies in your system to that food. This doesn’t hold for IgE-based reactions, however.

To give you an example, I have an IgE allergy to milk. I react within 15 minutes. Even if I avoid diary products for a year, I still react if I consume some. I used to have an IgG to wheat. I avoided it for three months and now I no longer react. In my case, weight gain wasn’t the problem, it was migraine headaches. I had them every other week from the ages of 6 to 20, until I discovered that wheat and milk were triggering them.

Fenton R, like myself, had regular headaches, sinusitis and fatigue and had been plagued by acid indigestion for 20 years. He was also gaining weight year on year. Doctors were unable to help him, suggesting he drank too much fizzy pop and should exercise more. And indigestion tablets helped for only 20 minutes before the problem returned with redoubled force.

He decided to have a food intolerance test. The results came back showing he was intolerant of eggs, cow’s milk, yeast and wheat. He took all the rogue foods out of his diet, for example by switching to soya milk, , and within two days the indigestion began to ease. Now it has gone completely, along with all the other health problems that had dogged him – including an excess 12.7kg (2st.) in weight.

“It feels as though a shroud has been lifted from me. Not only have I lost the weight, but also have 100 per cent more energy. It used to be an effort to go up the stairs. I used to get headaches most days, and they have gone. I used to get sinus twinges almost every day, and that has cleared up. I used to sweat a lot, and thought I was just a sweaty person. But now I can walk and run and just don’t sweat. My skin used to be cold all the time but now it’s nice and warm. I feel more relaxed as well. It had got to the stage where I couldn’t even think clearly, but now I can do so again.”

The usual suspects

The most common foods or food groups that people are allergic or intolerant to are shown below, in order. Of all these foods, by far the most common allergy-provoking substances are dairy products, followed by yeast, eggs and wheat. This doesn’t necessarily means that these foods are bad for you, it just depends on whether or not you are allergic or intolerant to them.

The most common food allergies are:

  • cow’s milk
  • yeast
  • eggs
  • gliadin grains such as wheat (also rye and barley)
  • nuts
  • beans
  • white fish
  • shellfish

Cow’s milk

The most common food allergy is to cow’s milk. It’s present in most cheeses, cream, yogurt and butter and is hidden in all kinds of food; sometimes it is called ‘casein’, which is milk protein.

Logically, its status as an allergen isn’t suprising, since it is a highly specific food, containing all kinds of hormones designed for the first few months of a calf’s life. It’s also a relatively recent addition to the human diet. Our ancestors, after all, weren’t milking buffaloes. Approximately 75 per cent of people (25 per cent of Caucasion origin and 80 per cent of Asian, Native American or African origin) stop producing lactase, the enzyme that’s needed to digest milk sugar, once they have been weaned. Is nature trying to tell us something? However, it’s not the lactose – the sugar in milk – that causes the allergic reaction. It’s the protein.

If you react to cow’s milk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will react to goat’s milk or sheep’s milk. However, many people do. It’s often best to eliminate all dairy food for the first three months, then try goat’s milk or cheese or yogurt.

As dairy is the most common allergen, it is used very little in the recipes in this book. If you do have difficulty tolerating it, you may find that you are all right with sheep’s- or goat’s-milk products. There are easier to digest though they have a distinctive, tangy flavour, much stronger than cow’s milk. However, if you’ve had an allergy test and it’s confirmed that you’re allergic to all dairy, avoid all of it, including yogurt and butter. In most cases, if you strictly avoid your allergy-provoking foods for three months, you body can ‘unlearn’ the allergy. So it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

There are many alternatives to dairy now, including soya and quinoa ‘milks’. Try them out and find one you like.


After milk, yeast is the second most common culprit in allergies. Some people think they are allergic to wheat because they feel worse after eating bread. If you’ve noticed this – perhaps feeling sluggish, tired or blocked up – but feel fine after pasta, you may not be allergic to wheat, but to the yeast in the bread.Yeast is not only in bread as baker’s yeast but it’s also in beer and, to a lesser extent, wine. Beer and lager are fermented with brewer’s yeast. If you’ve noticed that you feel worse after beer or wine than after spirits – the ‘cleanest’ being vodka – then you may be yeast-sensitive. If you have been allergy-tested, you’ll know whether you are allergic to brewer’s or baker’s yeast. Most people who are allergic to yeast at all are allergic to both. Wines are yeast-fermented. Champagne has very little yeast. However, the only guarenteed yeast-free alcoholic drinks are pure spirits. Since you won’t be drinking much alcohol, it’s best to stick to spirits for the first three months so that your body has a chance to unlearn the allergy.

If you’re allergic to yeast, you’ve also got to be on the lookout for hidden yeast in stock cubes and processed foods. As the Holford Diet features wholefoods and fresh ingredients, and avoids yeasted breads, this should be far less of a problem for you. I also recommend using yeast-free vegetable stock cubes by Marigold.

A word about alcohol: as well as causing allergies in some, alcohol irritates the digestive tract, making it more permeable to undigested food proteins. This increases your chances of developing an allergic reaction to anything, and it’s why some people feel worse when they eat foods they are allergic to and drink alcohol at the same time. For example, you might be mildly allergic to wheat and milk and feel fine after either. But when you have both, plus alcohol, you don’t feel great.


This is the grain that more people react to than any other. It contains gluten, a sticky protein also found in rye and barley and oats. Gluten sensitivity occurs in about one in a hundred people, but it is medically diagnosed in fewer that one in a thousand. However, there is something in gluten, called gliadin, which some people react to specifically. The only way to know for sure exactly what you are allergic or intolerant to is to have a food intolerance test. If you have had an allergy test you’ll know whether you are sensitive to gluten, gliadin or wheat.

If you are gluten-sensitive, then you cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Excellent alternatives are rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and corn (although some gluten-sensitive people do react to corn). Quinoa and millet cook in much the same way as couscous. From the GL point of view, quinoa is the best. These days, you can find rice, corn and buckwheat breads and pastas in larger supermarkets and good health-shops.

There’s no gliadin in oats. If you are gliadin-sensitive, then you can eat oats, but not wheat, rye or barley. Oats also contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds.

If you are only wheat-sensitive, it’s relatively easy. Just eat rye, barley or oats. For example, you can eat rye bread, oatcakes and oat-flake cereals, but not Weetabix or wheat bread.

In the big scheme of things wheat’s prominence as an allergen shouldn’t be surprising. Grains are the second most recent addition to the human diet, and weren’t eaten by hunter-gatherers. They were eaten by farmers for something like the last 10,000 years, but only in certain parts of the world. For example, no gluten grain naturally grows in North-America, so Native Americans have been exposed to gluten for only about the last 200 years at most.

A worrying trend in the US, where ‘low-carb’ diets are the craze, is to remove the carbohydrates from wheat products so you’re just eating the protein portion. As this is principally gluten, it’s a recipe for disaster for anyone with a hidden gluten allergy.


Some people are allergic to egg white, but not egg yolk. If you are sensitive to eggs, when you come to reintroduce them, it’s best to start by reintroducing egg yolk. If you don’t react withing five days, then reintroduce egg white. Eggs are in quite a lot of processed foods and bakery items, so check the label carefully.

Nuts and beans

These are part of the same food family, along with fruit pips. In essence, they’re all seeds. The most common individual allergens in this group are, in descending order, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, haricot beans and soya beans. You can react to one and not the others, but if you do react to a member of this family there’s a greater chance that you’ll react to another member of the pip/bean/nut family. Coffee, from the coffee bean, and chocolate, from the cocoa bean, are also members of this family.


Another major allergen is fish, but most people who are allergic to it react to white fish, not the oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring that are so rich in omega-3s. If you’re also allergic to those kinds, however, take a tablespoon of chia seeds with breakfast every day, together with a good-quality supplement, to keep your essential fatty acids topped up.

Shellfish allergies are very common, with prawns and abalone two of the worst villains. You may be allergic to mussels, scallops, whelks, oysters and squid, which are molluscs – or to lobsters, crayfish, prawns and shrimps, which are crustaceans. Octopus is in a world of its own! Be careful here, though. If you’re allergic to squid but not to octopus, be aware that some people sell squid labelled as octopus to make a bigger profit, because they can buy it more cheaply.

How the Holford Diet caters for you

If you suffer from food allergies, you don’t have to feel deprived on the Holford Diet. It is always sensible to vary your diet as much as possible, and the menu plans and recipes are designed to include a wide range of ingredients. Such a varied diet, together with the introduction of exciting new foods such as quinoa, soya products and lesser-used legumes such as flageolet and cannellini beans, ensures that there is plenty to tempt your taste buds, even if you do have to avoid certain items.

When you have an allergy test, the best laboratories will give you clear instructions on what not to eat and what you can eat, as well as giving you the back-up of a nutritionist to answer any of your questions. By avoiding foods that cause symptoms, you will probably find improvements in your health that you didn’t ever imagine. I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “I didn’t even know I could feel this good.” The Holford Diet and supplements will also help to further reduce your allergic potential.

After three months of abstaining from the allergen, you may then find that you can tolerate it in small periodic ‘doses’. For some people the allergy disappears completely. Others have to be careful about certain foods for life. Once you have more than a sneaking suspicion that you are allergic, it is best to have an allergy test.

Once you’ve identified what you are allergic to, and eliminate it, the next step is to improve your gut health. I recommend having a heaped teaspoon of glutamine powder in water last thing at night to help heal the gut, plus a probiotic supplement containing dairy and sugar-free acidophilus and bifido bacteria to help restore gut health. These are only necessary for a couple of weeks after eliminating your offending foods to restore gut health and reduce your allergic potential.


  • Find out if you are allergic to something you’re eating and avoid it. You can do an avoidance/reintroduction test but, quite frankly, it’s better to have a proper ‘quantitative IgG ELISA’ test.
  • After three months you can reintroduce the foods you tested positive for, although ideally not eating them every day.
  • Even if you are not allergic to it, reduce the amount of cow’s milk you eat and drink, substituting goat cheeses, soya produce and the like.
  • Even if you are not allergic to it, reduce the amount of wheat you eat, substituting other grains such as oats, rye and rice.
  • Limit alcohol. Ideally drink no more than three small glasses of wine, half-pints of beer or lager, or single spirits a week.
  • Drink the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day.

Patrick Holford’s The Low-GL Diet Bible

Silverbeet, mushroom and capsicum frittata

Silverbeet, also known as swiss chard or chard, is a leafy, dark green vegetable. This frittata is just as good eaten at room temperature as it is hot from the oven. Serve with a salad of mixed grape, cherry and teardrop tomatoes.

  • 500g silverbeet, trimmed, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat dairy-free spread
  • 1 medium brown onion (150g), chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium red capsicum (200g), chopped finely
  • 2 trimmed sticks celery (150g), chopped finely
  • 100g button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 2 large carrots (360g), grated coarsely
  • 1/4 cup (40g) polenta
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3 egg whites, beaten lightly
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) no-fat milk
  1. Preheat oven to moderate.
  2. Line 20cm x 30cm lamington pan with baking paper.
  3. Boil, steam or microwave silverbeet; drain on absorbent paper.
  4. Melt spread in large deep frying pan; cook onion and garlic, stirring, until onion softens. Add capsicum, celery and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until vegetables just soften.
  5. Stir silverbeet, carrot, polenta and basil into vegetable mixture. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes. Add eggs, whites and milk; stir to combine. Spread frittata mixture into prepared pan; bake, uncovered, in moderate oven about 35 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Serves 4

Per serving:
6.7g fat
193 cal
1.6g saturated fat
8.3g fibre
19.3g carbohydrate
medium GI

Pan-Roasted Beetroot, Soft Goat’s Cheese, Mint & Broad Bean Salad

This is a colourful, lively dish. Buy good-quality young goat’s cheese for a fresh flavour.

Preperation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2 as a light dinner
Per serving: 446 calories; 17g protein; 34g fat (of which 11g saturated fat); 19g carbs (of which 16g sugars); 4.5g fibre; 1.3g salt

1 tbsp olive oil
8 small ready-cooked beetroots, cut into quarters
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
100g broad beans or soya beans (fresh if in season, or frozen)
a bunch of mint, leaves only, finely shredded
75g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
200g soft goat’s cheese
a small handful of basil leaves

For the dressing
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Pre-heat a frying pan with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Put the beetroot into the pan and season with salt. Cook on a high heat for six minutes until the beetroot is charred on the edges, then add the balsamic vinegar, thyme leaves and a pinch of sugar. Turn down the heat and allow the beetroot to colour for three to five more minutes.
  2. Remove the beets from the pan, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and add the ingredients for the dressing to the pan juices. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  3. If the broad beans are frozen, put them in a heatproof bowl, pour a kettle of boiling water over them to defrost them and drain. Put the beans back into the bowl and lightly crush with the back of a fork, keeping some whole. Then add the shredded mint leaves and hazelnuts and pour one half of the dressing from the frying pan.
  4. Scatter the warm caramelised beets over a big platter, crumble over the soft goat’s cheese and scatter over the crushed broad beans and mint mixture. Pour over the remaining warm dressing and decorate with the basil leaves. Serve. This can also be used as a starter for four people.

Hamburger Patties with BBQ Sauce

Serves 8


  • 1 x 410g tin brown or sugar beans, drained
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) vinegar
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce
  • 2ml (½ tsp) crushed garlic
  • 200g lean topside mince
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 slice bread, crumbled (brown or white)
  • 250ml (1 cup) oat bran
  • 5ml (1 tsp) instant beef stock powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 5ml (1 tsp) canola or olive oil
  • 4 – 8 hamburger rolls

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large apple, grated finely
  • 1ml (¼ tsp) crushed garlic
  • 5ml (1 tsp) canola or olive oil
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) tomato sauce
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 125ml (½ cup) water
  • 20ml (4 tsp) brown sugar
  • 10ml (2 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce
  • 5ml (1 tsp) salt
  • 10ml (2 tsp) prepared mustard
  1. For the patties, mash  together the beans, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and garlic, or process in a food processor.
  2. Add the minced meat, chopped onion and celery, breadcrumbs, oat bran, beef stock powder, pepper and egg, and mix lightly to a firm consistency.
  3. Shape into 8 hamburger patties.
  4. Lightly grease a frying pan with 5ml (1tsp) oil, ensuring that the oil is evenly spread all over the pan. Use an egg lifter to spread the hot oil in the pan.
  5. Fry the patties for 5 minutes on each side.
  6. Serve on unbuttered rolls with tomato, lettuce and BBQ sauce. ?

BBQ sauce

  1. Sauté onion, apple and garlic in the oil until transparent.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Serve on the hamburger patties.

Nutrients per patty & sauce

GI 43 – Fat 6g – Carbohydrate 23g – Fibre 5g – Protein 11g – 199 Cal

Nutrients per patty & sauce &  ½ roll:

GI 54 – Fat 6g – Carbohydrate 37g – Fibre 6g – Protein 14g – 270 Cal

Salmon & Spinach with Tartare Cream

Ever-versatile salmon is as popular on our shopping list as chicken. Make the most of it with this impressive recipe.

Serves 2


  • 1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 skinless salmon fillets
  • 250g bag spinach
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat creme-fraiche
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a pan, season the salmon on both sides, then fry for 4 mins each side until golden and the flesh flakes easily. Leave to rest on a plate while you cook the spinach.
  2. Tip the leaves into the hot pan, season well, then cover and leave to wilt for 1 min, stirring once or twice. Spoon the spinach onto plates, then top with the salmon. Gently heat the crème fraîche in the pan with a squeeze of the lemon juice, the capers and parsley, then season to taste. Be careful not to let it boil. Spoon the sauce over the fish, then serve with lemon wedges.

Nutrition per serving:

321 kcalories, protein 32g, carbohydrate 3g, fat 20 g, saturated fat 5g, fibre 3g, sugar 3g, salt 0.77 g

Which Salmon?

So versatile – the possibilities for cooking it are endless. For a more environmentally friendly and often leaner fish, choose salmon farmed in open sea conditions (or even better, wild).

Know how – Quick sauce

Folding lemon juice, capers and chopped parsley through crème fraîche makes a quick sauce for salmon, trout and white fish.

Citrus Prawn Cocktail


65 calories | 0.7% fat

Serves 4 | Prep time 15 minutes


  • 50g fresh rocket leaves
  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 2 tbsp extra light mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • juice of half a lime
  • 160g cooked peeled prawns
  • black pepper


  1. Shred the rocket and place in the base of 4 glasses. Add the orange segments and squeeze the juice over. Mix together the mayonnaise with the chilli sauce adding sufficient lime juice to give a coating sauce.
  2. Season with salt and black pepper and add the prawns. Toss in the sauce and place on top of the rocket. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Why So Many Diets Fail

After we had such great response to our first blog article Fad Diets Exposed, we realise the public is hungry for the truth. Here we share a section of Patrick Holford’s book The Low HL Diet Bible to shed more light on the subject.

Why so many diets fail

Dieting can be like negotiating a minefield of misconceptions. Many methods for losing weight have no basis in science whatsoever. So, if your dieting life has been one long string of depressing failed attempts, it’s hardly surprising. Maybe you should have tried fat burner pills from Sculpt Nation much sooner.

Here, I’d like to debunk some of these ‘methods’ and expose them as myths (the biggest of all being that the best way to lose weight is a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet). That way, you’ll have the knowledge to prevent a life of yo-you dieting and long-term health problems.

Myth number 1: the only way to lose weight is to eat less fat and less calories

Hard-wired into our culture is the false idea that the best way to lose weight is to eat a low-calorie diet. Losing weight is beneficial to your health. But eating a low calorie diet is not the only way to do this. Some people have even looked into companies such as Cars Bought for Cash to sell their vehicles that they take to work or use for short distances. Instead of this method, alternatives like walking or taking public transport may make the difference to your weight loss.

We all know the simple equation: calories in, minus calories out, equals your weight. Since fat has more calories per gram/ounce than protein or carbohydrate, the easiest way to cut the total number of calories you eat is to eat less fat. That’s what you are told. However, in reality, there are number of methods that can be carried out to help you lose fat, not least of which being the process of cryolipolysis. Medical institutions such as Ice Aesthetic, who can be found at, use controlled freezing methods to help their patients lose weight in certain areas of their body.

Low-fat, low-calorie diets have become the orthodox approach to weight loss, jealously guarded by doctors and dieticians the world over. But orthodoxy doesn’t necessarily mean right, just that it won the battle of the diets. In fact, it’s wrong. As you will see, whichever way you look at it, low-GL diets work better. Let’s examine the evidence, both by looking at the big picture, then at what the latest science shows us about burning fat.

Let’s start with the big picture. America leads the world’s obesity epidemic. In fact, obesity has recently overtaken smoking as the number-one preventable cause of premature death. Flying the low-fat, low-cal flag in the 1970s they set out to reduce the total percentage of calories eaten from fat. In 1977 fat averaged 42 per cent of calories. Their campaigns were extremely successful, and by 1997 fat averaged 32 per cent of calories. Did the decrease in fat intake stop the obesity epidemic? No. It’s accelerated.

So, what about the UK? Government diet surveys conducted between 1985 and 2000 show that, like the Americans, we have been successful, both in cutting the percentage of fat and the total intake of calories. People are eating less. Calorie consumption has gone down, changes haven’t halted our escalating epidemic of weight gain one iota. Just watch a movie from the 1980s and notice people’s size. Something is going seriously wrong in the twenty-first century, and clearly the blame cannot be laid at the level of fat intake.

Not only have we been told that eating fewer calories is the best way to lose weight but we’ve also been told that a calorie is a calorie and that’s all that counts.

Myth number 2: a calorie is a calorie is a calorie

It’s not easy to control rigidly how many calories a person eats, but you can do it with animals. So, let’s look at what happens to animals given identical diets in terms of calories and all other nutrients – with only one difference: GL. In the chart on page 38 you’ll see what happened to one group of rats. Half were given a high-GL diet, the other a low-GL diet. They couldn’t cheat. They had exactly the same number of calories – and there weren’t any sweetshops around the corner.

In this strictly controlled study by one of the world’s leading experts on weight loss, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the University of Sydney, the low-GL rats gained no weight. But the low-GL rats gained weight week on week, and pound on pound. By the end of 32 weeks, the high-GL group were not only 16 per cent heavier but they gained 40 per cent more body fat on the same number of calories!

Another study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that mice with a low-GL diet lost almost twice the body fat in nine weeks as mice given identical calorie-controlled diets, the only difference being that one group was on a high-GL, the other a low-GL diet. The low-GL dieters was substantially leaner and slimmer.

Same calories, very different results. Yet, of course, this is nothing short of heresy for conventional calorie theorists.

But, you may be asking, does the same thing happen to us? After all, rats and humans don’t always respond in a similar way. The answer is yes. Here’s a couple of examples.

Researchers in the human nutrition department at South-Africa’s University of the Orange Free State assigned 15 volunteers to a low GL diet and 15 others to a normal calorie-controlled diet for 12 weeks. Both diets contained identical number of calories. The two groups then switched diets for 12 more weeks. During the first 12 weeks both groups lost weight, but those on the low-GL diet lost more weight. During the second 12-week period, the group that switched to the low-GL diet lost 40 per cent more weight than the group that switched to the normal diet. Yet the caloric content of both diets remained the same.

Another recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine put volunteers on to one of the three diets: a conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet, restricted for calories and high in fibre and monounsaturated fats; and a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet, similar to the Atkins Diet, but emphasising vegetarian sources of protein rather than meat and dairy products. Both the Meditarranean diet and the low-carb diet were effectively lower-GL diets. Despite similar calorie intakes the participants lost 4.5kg (10lb) on the low-carb diet, 4.3kg (9.5lb) on the Mediterranean-style diet and only 2.7kg (6lb) on the low-calorie, low-fat diet. The fact is that low-fat, low-calorie diets were not as effective for weight loss as the low-GL diets.

Despite all this evidence, some so-called experts still say ‘a calorie is a calorie is a calorie”, as far as weight loss is concerned. Whichever way you slice it, this is simply not true. You can lose weight by changing the quality of what you eat, even if you don’t change the quantity. Of course, if you change both the quality and the quantity by eating fewer calories of lower-GL foods, that will trigger the most rapid weight loss.

But that’s not all. We now know that people who eat low-GL food eat significantly less anyway, simply because they feel much more satisfied. One study compared hunger between those on a conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet with a low-GL diet. Those on the low-GL diet reported much less hunger.

So, if you eat a low-GL diet, you not only lose weight but you also tend to want to eat less. It’s a double whammy in your favour.

But calories can’t just vanish. If two people eat the same number of calories and one, eating the high-GL diet, stores some of the calories as fat, what happens to the calories in the low-GL dieter? Think about those animals that lost more weight on the same calories. A calorie is a unit of energy and, if it’s not going into fat, it must be burnt off as energy. This either means that the body’s metabolism speeds up, ‘burning’ up the calories, or the person becomes more active and burns them off through exercise, or possibly both. We’ll never know in those animal studies because they didn’t fit the animals with pedometers! But, either way, it’s good news.

Myth number 3: you can’t change your metabolism

Your metabolism is the way in which you turn your food into energy or into storage as fat. We are programmed to respond differently to the food we eat. This programming is partially inherited: some people’s metabolism rapidly turns food into fat, for example. But your metabolism is primarily down to what you eat and how active you are.

Because of this, you can change both the efficiency of your metabolism and your metabolic rate – the speed at which you burn calories. Crash diets usually lower your metabolism and your metabolic rate – the speed at which you burn calories. Crash diets usually lower your metabolic rate dramatically, for instance, whereas intensive aerobic exercise can increase it tenfold, and leave it raised for up to 15 hours.

By changing the kinds and combinations of food you eat, and exercising, you can reprogramme yourself to burn fat more rapidly. And the less fat and the more lean tissue you have, the more calories you burn off just keeping your body alive. In other words, your metabolic rate has increased, and you’ve changed from fat-storer to fatburner. This is what a low-GL diet, together with exercise, will do for you over the long term.

The dramatic drop in metabolic rate is one of the main problems with low-calorie diets, not only because you burn fewer calories but also because you feel tired and sluggish. This means that dieters find it increasingly difficult to lose weight the lower their calorie intake, because they don’t have the energy to exercise and raise their metabolic rate. Low-GL diets cause half the reduction in metabolic rate compared to a typical low-fat diet and consistently increase energy levels.

This was shown in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers assigned 39 overweight or obese adults to one of two diets. One group was on a low-GL diet, the other group followed a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet. They were then followed for two years while on these diets. Each person had their metabolic rate measured once they had lost 10 per cent of their body weight. The group on the conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet had almost twice the reduction in metabolic rate compared with the low-GL group.

Myth number 4: if you eat a high-protein diet you lose calories in urine, so you will shed more weight

When you’re on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, your body switches from using carbohydrates as its primary fuel to using fat and protein instead – including the body’s fat reserves. As the body burns fat, ketones – a by-product of the process – are excreted in the urine. This is called ketosis.

Supposedly, since fat and protein constitute a less efficient fuel than carbohydrate, you can eat more. The thinking is that the body will excrete some of the calories of this inefficient fuel as ketones.

Nice theory, but wrong. It is true that people do lose more weight on high-protein diets. But the reason is that they eat less on those diets. And the reason they eat less is that high-protein diets help to stabilise blood sugar.

This high-protein-diet camp, led by the late Dr. Atkins, was one of the first to say that sugar makes you fat. But its solution was to say that carbohydrates are bad and protein is good, so you should eat a high-protein, high-fat diet that’s very low in carbohydrates. Now, a high-protein meal has a low-GL, which in turn balances our appetite and helps us lose weight. But a meal with some protein and some low-GL carbohydrate works in the same way. There is absolutely no need to avoid or massively restrict carbohydrates to lose weight, provided you are eating the right low-GL kind, plus protein.

Let’s take a look at three weight-loss trials published on the Atkins-type high-fat, high-protein diet versus a conventional low-fat diet. The first showed that, after six months, those on the high-fat, high-protein diet lost 5.8kg (12lb 11oz), compared with 1.8 (4lb) on the low-fat diet. That’s a rather unexciting 225g (8oz) a week. However, after 12 months, there was no significant difference.

The other trial showed no real difference in weight loss between the high-protein approach and conventional dieting, with an average weight loss of 4.5kg (10lb) after six months. That’s less than 225g (8oz) a week.

The third compared the Atkins Diet with the Slim-Fast plan, WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley’s Eat Yourself Slim diet and fitness plan in a community based sample of otherwise healthy overweight and obese adults. Weight and body fat changes were measured over six months.

Results showed that all diets resulted in weight loss, averaging 5.9kg (13lb) over 6 months, or a rather unimpressive 225g (8oz) a week. The Atkins Diet resulted in significantly higher weight loss during the first four weeks, but by the end was no more or less effective than the other low-fat, low-calorie diets. A review of all the high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet studies done to date concluded, ‘Weight loss was principally associated with decreased calorie intake.”

In other words, an Atkins-type diet works, but the results aren’t spectacular and are principally due to eating less in general. Moreover, there are problems, and even serious dangers, associated with eating high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets.

The problem with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets

High-protein diets are usually high in meat and dairy. High meat intake is strongly linked to increased risk for cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, pancreas and kidney, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. They also recommend, “If eaten at all, limit the intake of red meat to no more than 80 grams a day.” High-dairy diets also dramatically increase the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. High-protein diets are also proven to tax the kidneys and can tip older people with less than perfect kidneys into kidney failure. Since high-protein diets first became popular, kidney problems have increased. Another problem with high-protein diets is bone mass loss. What’s more, high-protein diets are often designed to produce ketones, which are toxic by-products of running your body on protein.

In excess, ketones can be very toxic and in extreme cases ketosis can be fatal. Reports suggest that 58 deaths have been associated with very low-calorie, very high-protein diets. Moreover, recent research has proved that the amount of calories lost through ketosis is negligible. One study put people on a ketone-producing very low-carb diet (5 per cent of calories as carbs) versus a non-ketone producing low-carb diet (40 per cent of calories as carbs) for six weeks. This second diet is closer to the Holford Diet. Both lost weight – 6.3kg (1st.) vs 7.2kg (16lb) respectively – but those on the ketone-producing diet had an increase in markers for inflammation and felt worse. So, if you don’t lose more weight, it makes you feel worse, and the risks are high, why do it?

These high-protein diets promise more than they deliver in other ways too. As I’ve said, I think the switch to ketosis triggers weight loss by stabilising blood sugar, and it’s known that ketosis also suppresses appetite. A low-carbohydrate diet also kick-starts weight loss because you use up your short-term stores of glucose, which are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, bound up with water. In fact, for every pound of glycogen, you store 1.3-1.8kg (3-4lb) of water. The net result is an immediate weight loss of up to 2.25kg (5lb) – just one reason why people claim spectacular short-term weight loss. But it’s not sustainable. The glycogen and water will come back, as will your appetite. Many people on high-protein diets lose weight, get bored, then gain it all back again.

A diet lacking in carbohydrates such as fruit and green leafy vegetables will leave you deficient in antioxidants and vitamins, unless you are very careful about what you eat and take supplements. You won’t get enough fibre, and could get constipated as a result, which can lead to digestive problems. Additionally, many people feel ill as they go through sugar withdrawal and switch to ketosis. Nausea and tiredness continue for some people, making it hard to stick to the diet.

Nowadays, there are many variations on the original low-carb Atkins Diet, from America’s South Beach Diet to Australia’s Total Wellbeing Diet, supposedly based on good science.

The South Beach Diet is really the Atkins Diet with an emphasis on polyunsaturated fats and low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates. In a sense, this might be a step in the right direction if the advice on those fats and carbohydrates were up to date. Like Atkins, South Beach emphasises a ‘ketogenic’ diet of minimum carbohydrates for the first two weeks. Ultimately, this doesn’t seem to result in more fat loss, but it may cause greater initial weight loss as the body sheds water. (If you avoid carbohydrates, the body has to break down glucose for energy, which is stored as glycogen. Glycogen is stored with water.) This benefit is immediately attractive and may add to the diet’s short-term popularity; however, the weight will come back because it’s not a loss of fat. The only published trial I could find on the South Beach Diet appeared in a 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, and it reported an average weight loss of 6.1kg (13lb 9oz) over 12 weeks, or 500g (1lb 2oz) per week.

The Australian Total Wellbeing Diet, researched and developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and Dairy Australia, is another high-protein diet that has hit the headlines. It recommends scoffing no less that ten portions of meat and two portions of fish, plus six eggs and a few servings of cheese in a week. This makes a total of 300g (10 oz) protein a day, just like the Atkins Diet.

The Australian Wellbeing Diet is said to be based on solid research. The reseach in question involved 120 people put either on the Total Wellbeing hight-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks. The trial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found no difference in weight loss at all! What it did find, although this isn’t mentioned in the conclusion, was signs of kidney stress (decreased creatinine clearance) and potential bone mass loss (increased bone mass turnover) in only 12 weeks! I guess that’s not something the high-protein diet brigade want to shout about.

The bottom line is that high-protein diets, especially those based on meat and milk, can be dangerous. They potentially increase the risk of bone and kidney problems, and breast and prostate cancer. And as we’ve seen, the weight-loss results are little different to conventional dieting in the long run. In my opinion the high-protein approach to stabilising your blood sugar, and hence your weight, is certainly not worth the risk.

Myth number 5: don’t eat protein with carbohydrates; those foods fight

Food combining diets seperate protein foods from carbohydrate foods. Nature doesn’t. Beans, lentils, nuts and seeds all contain both. And the healthiest nations of the world are the nut, bean and seed eaters.

Despite all this, a number of food-combining diets abound, based on the principles of Dr. Hay, a physician writing back in the 1930s. He emphasised eating wholefoods and lots of fruit and vegetables; he also advocated eating fruit separately from other foods, since, if trapped in the stomach after a steak for example, fruit can ferment. So far, so good.

Dr. Hay also recommended never eating carbohydrate-rich foods with protein-rich foods. So, for example, fish with rice or chicken with potatoes is out. The only study I’ve seen recommending that overweight or obese people follow this kind of diet showed a 3.5 per cent average body-weight change over 12 weeks. Although subjects in this trial were not advised to eat less or change the kind of food they ate, there was no measure indicate whether this weight loss was solely due to food-combining or changes in the quantity or quality of food.

It is now known, however, that combining protein with carbohydrate slows down the release of sugars from a meal to the bloodstream, helps stabilise blood sugar levels and hence helps to control weight. Since the majority of overweight people have blood sugar problems, it would seem that combining protein with carbohydrate would be better, not worse for you. So, in my book, fish with rice is in, not out. This is the staple diet, along with fruits and vegetables, of many island and coastal people around the world, many of whom are exceedingly healthy and slim.

Dr. Hay’s approach, if followed strictly, is probably best for those with digestive problems and worst for those with blood sugar problems. I remain to be convinced that the benefits reported by those on food-combining diets aren’t largely due to changes in the kind of foods eaten, rather than their non-combination.

Myth number 6: it’s eating fat that makes you fat

We’ve already seen many examples of low-fat diets causing less weight loss than low-GL diets, and how cutting fat intake hasn’t worked. Yet most people still believe that the fat you eat turns into fat in your body. It isn’t just fat that makes you fat. All sugar or carbohydrates and all alcohol, as well as all fats, are turned by the body into glucose. (Protein, too, can be turned into glucose, but not easily.) Glucose, remember, is the fuel our bodies run on, and any excess is turned into fat. So, too much fat, protein, carbohydrate or alcohol can all lead to fat gain and weight gain. But the culprit is sugar and refined carbohydrates, not fat.

What is more, looking at fat alone, as far as your body is concerned there’s a world of difference between, say, 100 calories of saturated fat from meat and 100 calories of essential fat from seeds or fish. Saturated fat can only be burned for energy or stored as body fat. But essential fats are used by the brain, the nerves, the arteries and the skin, and they balance your hormones and boost immunity into the bargain. Only if there’s any left over does it make sense for the body to burn it or store it. Although the research is in its infancy, it appears that omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (which is what’s found in oily fish), and monousaturated fats (as in olive oil), as well as possibly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs – as found in coconut), are easier for the body to burn and less likely to be converted to body fat than animal-based saturated fats. So you are more likely to gain weight eating a diet full of animal-based saturated fat or damaged fat in fried or processed foods than you are eating essential fats in fish and seeds.

One big reason for this is that the body craves essential fats, precisely because it needs them to function. This craving means we are drawn to fats in general, and, as we’re surrounded by saturated and processed fats the minute we enter the average supermarket , we may well en up eating them. Yet, afterwards the body still keeps craving fat – so we eat more fatty foods. But, if you eat essential fat-rich foods such as fish and seeds, you’ll fully satisfy the craving and will end up eating less.

Does eating fat make you fat? Of course it does, in excess, but fat isn’t the main culprit. As we saw earlier, the number of calories we eat from fat has dropped, but it hasn’t curbed the obesity epidemic.

Low-fat diets arose out of the belief that fat is the prime culprit in weight-gain. But, as with high-protein diets, there are two potential problems with this approach. First, most low-fat diets are high in carbohydrates, so sugar and refined foods replace fatty food. This encourages a blood sugar problem that, in turn, makes it harder to maintain weight control. For this reason, very low-fat, high carbohydrate diets can often cause fatigue, mood swings and sugar cravings.

But the worst aspect of a low-fat diet is that it cuts out essential fats. Ann Louise Gittlemann is the former director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Centre in Florida, which emphasised low-fat eating. In her book, Beyond Pritikin, she notes certain conditions in people placed on low-fat diets, such as allergies, yeast problems, mood swings, a lack of energy, and dry skin, hair and nails, that she believed were caused by the lack of essential fats.

Although most of us could do with cutting back on fat, the real emphasis should be on reducing foods rich in saturated fats and devoid of essential fats (meat and dairy produce), and instead eating foods rich in essential fats (seeds, their oils and fish).

Myth number 7: the best way to lose a lot of weight fast is to eat a very low-calorie diet

I’m dead against very low-calorie diets and calorie counting. Not only does it encourage obsessive eating but also the maths are patently wrong.

Consider this simple example. A banana is approximately 100 calories. So, if you eat a banana fewer every day for a year you’d lose 36,000 calories. A pound of body fat is equivalent to around 4,000 calories. That means you’d lose nearly 4.5kg (10lb) in the first year, 22.7kg (3.5 st.) by the fifth year, and 45.3kg (7st.) after 10 years – and vanish completely after 15 years!

The calorie equation for exercise is equally ridiculous. Cycle vigorously for 15 minutes each day and you will lose 4.5kg (10lb) in the first year. Quite possibly. But 45.3kg (7st.) after 10 years? No chance. However, according to calorie theory, merely a banana every day undoes all that hard work anyway.

According to Dr Michael Colgan, nutritionist to many Olympic athletes, some athletes burn off more than 7,000 calories a day, but eat only 3,500 calories. Going by calorie theory alone, these athletes should completely disappeared by now.

An investigation by Dr M. Appelbaum of people living in famine in the Warsaw ghetto during World War One came up with the same contradiction. With an average calorie intake of 800 calories a day, and requirement of around 2,500 calories, a deficiency of 1,241,000 calories would have built up over two years. The average body has 13.6kg (2st.2lb) of fat, representing 120,000 calories, to dispose of. Even if all the fat were lost, what happened to the other million calories?

If you still believe it’s all down to calories, listen to this. The Sunday Times put two similarly overweight people on diets, one on an earlier version of the Holford Diet (called the Fatburner Diet, which had approximately 1,500 calories), and one on the Cambridge Diet (330 calories in those days). The volunteer on my diet lost more weight after six weeks.

The missing link in the low-calorie approach is metabolism – the process of turning the fuel in food into energy that the body can use, and burning off unwanted fat. As we’ve seen, people’s metabolism can vary considerably. Having a slow metabolism means youll turn more food into fat.

If you start out this way, a low-calorie diet can simply exacerbate the problem. With crash diets below 1,000 calories a day, the body sees this reduction in food as a threat, and slows down the metabolic rate dramatically. According to Dr John Marks from Cambridge University , “As weight falls, the metabolic rate always falls too.” In the short term you can lose around 3.2kg (7lb) of body fluid and, if you’re lucky, an absolute maximum of 900g (2lb) of body fat a week, which together could account for as much as 4.5kg (10lb) in two or three weeks. But the minute you go back to what you were eating before, the fluid returns. And so will the fat, because your metabolic rate has slowed down, meaning that you now need to eat less food to maintain a stable weight.

This ‘rebound effect’ is good business for mortuaries. A report by the National Institutes of Health, using the findings of a 22-centre study called the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, illustrated that people whose weight showed variability over six to seven years had a higher death rate. It’s also good for food-replacement programmes (using special drinks or bars in place of food), whose customers try crash-dieting on average three times a year.

The bottom line is that the body is intelligent. If you try to starve it, it will turn down your metabolic fire. If you work with its natural design you’ll burn unwanted fat easily.

Very low-calorie diets do more, however, than make you feel bad and gain weight afterwards. They can be dangerous, and are now required to provide at least 400 calories and 40g of protein per day for women and 500 calories and 50g of protein per day for men, to unsure the dieter’s body will not be breaking down muscle tissue or vital organs to meet calorie requirements. These diets do not encourage the re-education of eating habits. And they leave you very hungry.

The solution in the eyes of the people designing these diets is wheat bran, which fills you up while at the same time supposedly triggering weight loss. But does that make diets want to stick to the regime? To find out, I put ten people on a diet of 1,000 calories per day, plus high fibre, for three months. Only four lasted the course, with an average weight loss of a measly 1.4kg (3.25lb). The high drop-out rate is a reflection of how difficult it is to stick to a low-calorie diet for a long period of time.

In another study we put ten slimmers on high-fibre tablets – claimed to induce weight loss – for a period of three months. Five completed the three months with an average weight loss of 680g (1.5lb). Not very impressive.

However, some special kinds of fibre do assist weight loss, and having a high-fibre diet by eating wholefoods – not by adding wheat bran – is definitely good for you.

Myth number 8: stimulants help you to lose weight by reducing your appetite

It’s true that stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and the body’s own adrenalin all help to reduce your appetite. They do this by releasing stores of sugar held in your body. So, sure, you can lose weight by just drinking coffee – in the short term.

However, long-term use of stimulants messes up your blood sugar control. When your blood sugar dips, this leads to fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, sugar craving, weight gain and, of course, dependence on stimulants. The best way to control your appetite, and your cravings, is to eat a low-GL diet.

Myth number 9: slimming pills work

Every year there is a new pill or potion that claims to do it all for you – starch blockers, fat blockers, appetite supressants, slimming pills. Avoid them at all cost. You can’t cheat the body without paying a price.

Starch blockers inhibit the digestion of carbohydrate. The theory is that if you can’t digest it you can’t gain weight. But having a whole lot of undigested carbohydrate in the digestive tract is bad news. It feeds the wrong kind of bugs, causing bacterial and yeast infections as well as terrible gas.

Much touted as an answer to weight loss is a supplement called chitosan, sometimes called the ‘fat attractor’ or ‘fat magnet’, which inhibits the digestion of fat. It apparently works because it has a positive charge and attracts fats, which have a negative charge. Once bound together with chitosan, the fat is less likely to be absorbed and passes through the body, so it is claimed, and cholesterol levels decrease.

However, three studies have found no significant differences in either weight or cholesterol levels in people taking chitosan or a placebo. One study involved 30 overweight people who took chitosan or a placebo for 28 days while eating their normal diet. There was no difference in weight or cholesterol. The second study, involving 51 obese women, found that the chitosan group had slightly greater cholesterol reduction that the placebo group, but no difference in weight loss after eight weeks. Another study, with 68 obese men and women, found no improvement in weight or cholesterol.

The latest fat blocker to hit the market is a patented fibre extract from the prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) called NeOpuntia. Although some studies do show that it binds to fat, and also lower cholesterol, I’ve not been able to find any evidence to date that it causes weight loss.

Drug companies are also cashing in on the weight-loss market with drugs that stop you from digesting fat. An example is Xenical, the drug name for a chemical called orlistat. This drug does actually work, in the sense that it does reduce fat absorption. The immediate potential side effects are gas with discharge, oily or fatty stools, oily discharge and an inability to control bowel movements. If that doesn’t put you off, more worrying are the effects on essential fats, so vital for heart, brain and skin, but whose absorption is also reduced when taking Xenical. Since essential fats are probably the most commonly deficient nutrient in the West, the last thing you want to swallow is something that stops you from using the little essential fat there is in your diet. Also, it probably isn’t a good idea to have undigested fat in you digestive tract.

Some slimming drugs are basically stimulants that suppress appetite and wire you up, inducing anxiety and hyperactivity. Similarly, if you drink 15 cups of coffee a day, it would also work in the short term. In the not-so-long term, stimulants mess up your body’s metabolism as well as your physical, mental and emotional health. Even if it sounds ‘natural’, avoid any herb or supplement whose active ingredient is caffeine – and that includes guarana.

Myth number 10: there’s nothing wrong with being overweight

The health risks associated with weighing more than you should accumulate as soon as you are as little as 3.2kg (7lb) overweight. With over half of people in Britain overweight and 20 per cent obese, that’s a lot of extra health risks.

And these are serious risks: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, osteoporosis, cancer, polycystic ovaries and arthritis. One study showed that about 40 per cent of heart disease in women is linked to overweight, whereas others connect it to higher risks of breast cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and other complications. Diabetes is strongly linked to obesity – your risk of developing diabetes goes up 77 times if you’re obese. With over 200 million obese people in Europe alone, that’s a lot of sick people.

In fact, every year obesity causes the premature deaths of 30,000 people, costs Britain’s National Health Service 1 billion Pounds and is responsible for the loss of more than 20 million working days. According to Dr Susan Jebb of the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge in the UK, “Obesity is a serious medical condition that reduces life expectancy by increasing the risk of many chronic and potentially fatal diseases.”

And with a thousand people becoming obese every day, we need to wake up to the fact that there’s a disaster in the making here – but only potentially. It only looks like a slippery slope: there is a way out.

Why the Holford Diet works where others fail

You can lose weight on a low-calorie diet, a high-protein diet, a low-carb diet or a no-fat diet. But you are stacking the odds against you. Why? Because…

  • You get short-term weight loss as your body burns its essential store of glycogen – that’s 2.25kg (5lb) gone, but it all comes back!
  • None of these diets satisfy your appetite better than the Holford Diet, so you have to fight hard to stay on them.
  • All of these diets are highly restrictive in some way – who wants to live without carbohydrates or fats?
  • None of these diets have been shown to trigger as much weight loss in the short term or long term as the Holford Diet.

In a trial comparing my original diet to Unislim (a low-calorie, high-exercise regime, with weekly support meetings), on average, the volunteers on my diet lost four times more weight than the other dieters: 6.3kg (1st.) in three months. Every single trial by third parties has proven highly successful, with many reports of additional benefits ‘concentration improved’, ‘no wobbly feeling’, ‘never felt hungry’, ‘easy to stick to’, ‘extra energy’, ‘thoroughly detoxified’. In these trials, not one person failed to lose weight. When GMTV compared the effects over six weeks of WeightWatchers (based on low-fat, low-calorie diet) with the Holford Diet, the WeightWatchers’ dieter lost 4kg (9lb) and the Holford dieter lost 4kg (9lb). The Holford dieter, however, had none of the benefit of weekly support group meetings as had the WeightWathcers’ dieter. The benefits of the Holford Diet, with its increased feeling of good health and well-being, are enough to encourage dieters to continue.

Although the Holford Diet might mean slightly fewer calories than you are eating now, slightly less fat and slightly more protein, the major emphasis is on quality, and there will be plenty of it – all delicious.


  • The major cause of the obesity epidemic is an increase in sugar and refined carbohydrate, not an increase in fat.
  • Different sources of calories have different effects on weight loss.
  • Eating a low-GL diet triggers the most rapid weight loss.
  • If you eat too few calories your metabolic rate slows down to conserve your fat, so you have to suffer to lose weight and will inevitably develop rebound weight gain.
  • High-protein diets stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce your appetite, but they don’t work better than conventional diets and they’re not good for you in the long run.
  • Low-fat diets are bad for you because the body needs essential fats and keeps craving fats until it gets them.
  • The best diet for long-term weight loss is a low-GL diet, in which low-GL carbohydrates combined with protein and essential fats – in short, the Holford Diet.