WORLD DIABETES DAY – could almonds make a difference?

Published on the 14th Nov, 2017 by Azmina

My eight years as Chief Dietitian to Diabetes UK has always given me a soft spot for supporting World Diabetes Day. There are an estimated 4.5 million people with diabetes in the UK, and research suggests that lifestyle changes, including being more physically active, managing your weight and eating a varied healthy diet, are crucial to help manage type 2 diabetes (T2D), and can even significantly reduce the risk of developing T2D.

People with diabetes are more prone to heart disease, and yesterday, I moderated a professional RDUK twitter chat on #CholesterolTips and heart disease, supported by the Almond Board of California (I like to call them ABC!). We had lots of engaging conversations about coconut oil, eggs, almonds, and the latest research on diet and cardiovascular disease.

19almondheartbowl156RTFLT (3)

South Asians and Diabetes Risk

People of South Asian origin are genetically more predisposed to non-communicable diseases like T2D and heart disease. (more…)

Could almonds be lower in calories than the Nutrition Label says?

Published on the 21st Dec, 2016 by Azmina

New data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that almonds provide fewer calories than we previously thought, and this depends on whether the almonds are whole, chopped or roasted.

David Baer, PhD, and his team from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducted a controlled human clinical trial (Gebauer et al) using a new method to measure the calories absorbed from almonds, taking bioavailability into account. The new method allowed the researchers to determine the number of calories actually digested and absorbed from almonds.

In a nutshell:

  1. Compared to the number of calories listed on nutrition labels, participants in the study actually absorbed 25% fewer calories from whole unroasted almonds.
  2. If they ate whole roasted almonds, they absorbed 19% fewer calories.
  3. Chopped roasted almonds provided 17% fewer calories, though the difference between the calories absorbed from chopped and whole roasted almonds was not statistically different.


10 Speedy low GI snacks

Published on the 29th Nov, 2015 by Azmina

stuffed mushroom

1. Stuffed flat mushrooms

Pan-fry sliced courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and spring onions in a dash of olive oil. Flavour with garlic granules and cracked black pepper. Meanwhile, warm the inside of a flat mushroom in a pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Turn the mushroom over to lightly brown the outside, stuff with the sauteed veg, and serve piping hot.  (more…)

The Government’s SACN Carbohydrate (& Sugar!) Report – are we demonising the wrong foods?

Published on the 17th Jul, 2015 by Azmina

Today saw the publication of the much awaited Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition “Carbohydrates and Health” Report. This Report examines evidence from robust research, and the key recommendations are that we should aim to reduce our intake of free sugars* to 5% of our daily calorie intake, and also up our fibre intake to 30g a day. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, we’re currently on about 12% when it comes to sugars, and around 18g in terms of fibre. So, we have a long way to go….

My view is that we need to cut down on sugar and that we need targets to aim for. The acknowledgement that we’re eating too much sugar is huge progress, particularly since it’s based on the evidence. However, it’s my hope that Public Health England (PHE), who will be responsible for translating this science into recommendations for the public, will consider the impracticality of cutting down sugar to just 5% of daily energy – the equivalent of about 5-6 teaspoons of sugar for an average woman (7-8 tsp for men). I hope that dietitians and qualified public health nutritionists who work with people on the ground will be consulted before PHE translates the SACN Report into Government Policy.

There’s been a media frenzy today about the limit on free sugars. Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on the crucial fibre part of the recommendation … (more…)

That Sugar Film – sensational or sensible?

Published on the 7th Jul, 2015 by Azmina

This documentary film, just released, covers 60 days in the life of actor Damon Gameau, who goes on a diet that includes 40 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar, which he suggests is the national average consumption in Australia. He doesn’t do this by drinking sugar-rich drinks or indulging in puddings and desserts; rather he chooses everyday foods that are perceived to be healthy, like cereals, dried fruit, honey, flavoured yogurts, cereal bars, smoothies, fruit juice, frozen yogurt, ready meals and pasta sauce.

sugar film


Forget the Fad

Published on the 12th Apr, 2015 by Azmina

Mindfulness helps you to achieve success…

You can only achieve your happy weight if you really want to! So, the very first step, is to make up your mind that this is what you really do want and then to take action that is likely to support you in getting the results. Patience, it is said, is a virtue. It took time to reach the weight that you are and it will take time to shed it, too. Tempting as they are, the quick-fixes that are on offer, can lull you into a false sense of security.

Think slim, see yourself at that ideal weight, feeling energetic, doing all the things and taking part in the activities that you would love to, with that increased sense of confidence, whilst enjoying your food as part of a new and healthy lifestyle. Just thinking about ‘going on a diet’ possibly conjures up food deprivation, preventing pleasurable sensations and more. Given that your mind will always look to find the easiest route to achieving a result, it’s no wonder that most so-called diets are so short lived! In effect, you are programming your mind ahead of time, to rebel against the diet, even before it’s started..

Get rid of the negative self-talk

Published on the 20th Mar, 2015 by Azmina

Old habits die hard

The more you use the methods that you’ve created to sustain your own way of life, especially over time, the more embedded they become. Old habits die hard, so you may have heard. Not so. Change can happen in an instant if you are determined to make the change. It’s deciding to make the change that appears to take longer.
In other words, the more you use that same and familiar method or pathway, the more habitual your response becomes.

If you want to change it, then stop conditioning it: Use it or lose it! Practise becoming the minder of your own mind. Learn to catch yourself saying what you’re saying and if it isn’t encouraging you towards the goal that you really want, change your internal chatter. (more…)

Think Slim to be Slim

Published on the 12th Mar, 2015 by Azmina

Want to know how to change your thinking?

Your beliefs are your reality. If you don’t like the reality you see, change your beliefs!
Think you gain weight by just looking at a cup of black coffee? How frustrating is it when someone you know can eat twice as much as you and still look like a stick insect? Without the ‘right’ thinking, approach and attitude, the best food plans in the world are unlikely to work! Lets look at the strategies to help those pounds roll off smoothly and steadily….

TWTBW Book Cover (more…)

The Sugar Debate – the plot thickens

Published on the 18th Jun, 2014 by Azmina

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in the debate around sugars and fruit juice, and have been trying to build a consensus of expert opinion from key nutritionists and dietitians, as summarised in my sugar debate blog. June and July are packed with sugar seminars, and the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) Draft Report on dietary recommendations on carbohydrates (including advice on sugar), is due out imminently.

fruit juice

My biggest aspiration about debates around sugar is that they need to be evidence-based and balanced. Government recommendations are devised from quality research, and nutritionists need to be constantly up to date so we can better inform the public and help minimise mixed media messages, which only lead to confusion and a lack of confidence in “the experts”. So, when I saw the programme for The Sugar Reduction Summit, I knew I had to be there. (more…)

5 things I learnt at the Global Yogurt Summit 2014

Published on the 7th May, 2014 by Azmina

I am passionate about the value yogurt brings to balanced nutrition and when I was invited to attend the 2nd Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt in (wait for it) San Diego, I didn’t need much arm-twisting.

san diego conv centre

San Diego Convention Centre

The programme was packed with eminent speakers including Angelo Tremblay (Laval University Canada), Nita Forouhi (University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine) and the distinguished Professor John Bienenstock (McMaster University). The morning started as you’d expect it, with a refreshing yogurt and berry parfait, just enough to get those digestive juices ready for an avalanche of evidence-based insights on yogurt and health.


Here I’ll share some key learnings and give you a flavour of the #YINI2014 twitter conversations during the 4-hour seminar. (more…)

The National Sugar Debate – building a consensus amongst nutritionists

Published on the 3rd Apr, 2014 by Azmina

From the start of 2014, the media frenzy over sugar has heightened… January started off with British Dietetic Association spokespeople contributing to major newspapers, and it’s still a hot topic with no sign of cooling down. Since the start of the year, I’ve been leading twitter chats, giving a presentation to media medics and providing quotes to newspapers and magazines to see if I can get some sort of expert consensus. Here’s a summary of my three months debating whether sugar really is the new tobacco.


12 January 2014 – you may remember the headline in The Sunday Times: “Obesity tsar calls for tax on juice”. Soon after that, I was asked for my opinion in The Guardian’s equally sensational headline How fruit juice went from health food to junk food”. My opinion then (and now) is that fruit juice is perfectly acceptable in the appropriate portion size of 150ml a day and that ideally you should drink it with a meal to reduce the impact on teeth. (more…)

Do you throw away your five-a-day?

Published on the 25th Mar, 2014 by Azmina

pic 1

my new machine

Surveys suggest that people tend to add fruit and vegetables to their shopping trolley, they proudly display fruit in a bowl, or store a variety of veg in the fridge, but by the end of the week much of it ends up not being eaten. In my quest to help people reach their five-a-day target, I decided to check out whether having the appropriate equipment (in my case, a Nutribullet) at home would make a difference.

When I first got my machine, I must admit, the box and cookbook were displayed in the kitchen for a few days, waiting for me to read the instructions and give it its first wash. But once I had overcome that hurdle, I decided to keep the machine on the kitchen surface with all the cups and blades nearby. I’ve learnt that in order to make any change to your eating habits, you need to make it easy for yourself, so I made sure everything was ready and within easy reach. That was step 1. So, did it make a difference?


5-minute brunch

Published on the 25th Aug, 2013 by Azmina

Fancy a healthy brunch or light lunch for two? Try this 5-minute wholemeal tortilla quesadilla:

tortilla brucnh
1. Stir-fry diced courgettes (zucchini) with ground black pepper and spring onions (scallions), 2 minutes.
2. Heat a little olive oil, sunflower seeds and garlic in a non-stick frying pan and lay a wholemeal tortilla on top, 1 minute.
3. Spread it with light soft cheese and throw in the fried courgettes, 1 minute.
4. Place a second tortilla wrap on top, drizzle with oil and grill, 1 minute.

Lose weight for good!

Published on the 2nd Jan, 2013 by Azmina

You don’t need me to tell you which foods are fattening; you probably already know that. You don’t need me to tell you to cut down on your portion size – you know that too. But you might not know what makes you reach for unhealthy foods, and what gets in the way of you keeping to your goals – that’s where I come in!

I’m a believer in the slow and steady approach to weight loss, and the more success I have in helping people avoid yoyo dieting, the more I am convinced that the trick is to find ways to make a healthier lifestyle fit around you, not the other way around.

There’s good published research to suggest that if you tackle your weight issues with good behaviour-change tools, you’re more likely to lose weight and most importantly, keep it off. Having practised behaviour-change strategies for years, I believe the Counterweight method is an effective way to lose weight. Here’s why, and what it could mean for you…

Why count on Counterweight?

This programme fits me like a glove because all my working life I’ve ensured my advice is based on good published evidence that encourages realistic weight loss. This philosophy promotes simple ways to change your eating behaviour, your activity levels and crucially, the thought processes that led you to becoming overweight in the first place! This is exactly the type of thinking that I practise and believe in; there’s no point in learning about fat and calories if we’re still holding on to those old habits that make us overeat.


Chilli & lemon popcorn

Published on the 31st Dec, 2012 by Azmina

Simply heat a saucepan with a lid (ideally a glass lid) and drizzle a few drops of oil into the pan.  Throw in 2 tablespoons of popping corn, cover and allow to pop over a medium heat. It takes about three minutes for the popping to stop. Add red chilli powder and a dash of lemon juice. All you need now is that Friday night DVD…


Christmas dinner can be healthy!

Published on the 24th Dec, 2012 by Azmina

You really can enjoy a festive feast and still fit into your little black dress this holiday season…

If you plan ahead, you can have tasty nibbles around the house that won’t go straight to your waistline. And the full traditional Christmas fayre is all there for the taking; just be aware of which bits of the meal you pile onto your plate first, and your portion size….  (more…)

World Diabetes Day: The 10% Factor

Published on the 13th Nov, 2012 by Azmina

Do you have Type 2 diabetes? If you’re overweight, losing only 10% of your weight could make a major contribution to your blood glucose levels and improving the quality of your long-term health.

eat a rainbow

There’s good evidence to suggest that a moderate weight loss of 5–10% of body weight will have a major impact on the long-term complications of obesity. Weight reductions of 5-10 kg have been shown to improve back and joint pain, and symptoms of breathlessness.

The science bit

The UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), published in the Lancet in 1998, was carried out over 20 years on over 5000 people with type 2 diabetes. The results showed that weight loss of 10kg in people who weighed 100kg could achieve greater reductions in HBA1C (the longer term predictor of your blood glucose control; lower HBA1C is better). They also had better fasting blood glucose levels than if they’d been treated with the glucose lowering drug metformin. The weight loss also reduced the need for blood pressure and lipid-lowering drug treatment (drugs to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride) in people with diabetes.

A comprehensive review of studies on 10% or less weight reduction was published in the International Journal of Obesity in 1992.  The studies indicated that 10% weight loss in obese people with non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) appeared to improve blood glucose control, reduce blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol levels. Modest weight reduction also appeared to increase length of life.

Even 5% loss of body weight can improve insulin action, decrease fasting blood glucose concentrations, and reduce the need for diabetes medications. Data from the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 demonstrated that weight loss (7% of weight loss in the first year) and increased physical activity (150 min of brisk walking per week) was nearly twice as effective as drug treatment with metformin in preventing diabetes in people who already had raised blood glucose levels.

Why weight?

In short, if you move from 100 kg to 90 kg or lose 10% of your body weight, you could enjoy the following benefits:

  • Improved blood glucose levels
  • Lower blood cholesterol and other blood fats
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • An improvement in back and joint pain
  • Reduced risk of angina
  • Less breathlessness
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved self esteem and confidence

For many people, losing 10% of your weight could also help to reduce your dosage of medication.  Might be time for a chat with your dietitian or diabetes specialist team? More weight loss tips.

Check out Azmina’s Diabetes Weight Loss Diet with Antony Worrall Thompson and her Little Black Dress Diet on ITV’s Lorraine Show, launched 12 Nov 2012.

Five a day made easy

Published on the 4th Aug, 2012 by Azmina

I regularly get asked about what counts as a portion of fruit and veg. It seems there’s still a lot of confusion out there. So, I decided to create some simple photographs to show you what a portion looks like. As you’ll see, it’s generally a handful – children need smaller portions, and conveniently they have smaller hands!

Is 7-a-day the new way?

What is GI?

Published on the 17th Apr, 2012 by Azmina

The fuss about Carbohydrate

Flick through a newspaper and it isn’t surprising to see the latest trend in carbohydrate – “avoid wheat”, “starchy foods are fattening”, or “pasta is the best food ever invented”. How do you know what’s best? Is this conflicting advice or do the experts agree? Well, let’s review some of the issues here. 

When you eat carbohydrate foods (such as bread, potatoes, pasta, cereals and sugary foods), the body digests it and converts it to glucose (sugar); this can then be used for energy. As the carbohydrate gets digested to glucose, the glucose level in your blood rises. In other words, each time you eat a carbohydrate food, the blood glucose level in your body rises. (more…)

Is it ok to snack?

Published on the 16th Mar, 2012 by Azmina

Snacking gets a lot of bad publicity – linked to weight gain and unhealthy habits. And it’s true that if you choose lots of unhealthy options, they won’t do your waistline any good. But I am someone who doesn’t like to deny people foods they enjoy. Eating well isn’t a life sentence; it’s about allowing yourself your favourite foods whilst being conscious of your choices.

So, are you a snacker? If so, examine what you’re reaching for. Here are my three top tips:

  1. Have healthy snacks accessible and get rid of those that don’t help you reach you healthy lifestyle goals.
  2. Stock up on lower calorie, lower fat versions of your favourite treats. Choose crisps that aren’t fried (e.g. popped crisps), popcorn (make your own so you can control the amount of salt or sugar), nuts that aren’t honey coated (e.g. mixed nuts and raisins), bites that fill you up (e.g. soya nuts), fridge goodies (e.g. olives, gherkins, cherry tomatoes).
  3. If you are hooked on choc chip cookies or the like, allow yourself to buy them but store them creatively. Put a couple in a separate container and allow yourself no more than two at one sitting (ideally not every day). That will help reduce the temptation to finish off the whole pack at once!

And think about eating more consciously. Engaging your brain means you’ll be more aware of what you’re snacking on, and how much you’re munching through. It also helps you to be aware of the fullness signals from your stomach, which in turn help you to stop overdoing it!

So, enjoy every mouthful and get rid of the guilt by making choices that nourish you but still taste yummy!

Red meat and risk of death – what’s all the fuss about?

Published on the 13th Mar, 2012 by Azmina

So, there’s been huge media frenzy over a large Harvard study just published in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’. News reports today talk about how red meat substantially increases the risk of deaths from heart disease and cancer. Let’s look at this in context….


Are you an emotional eater?

Published on the 27th Feb, 2012 by Azmina

Which fits for you:

  • The only thing I can’t resist is temptation! Food is a comfort to me.
  • Some days, when I’m feeling a tad under the weather or down in the dumps, I reach for the unhealthy snacks.
  • Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry.

We use food for various reasons, and hunger isn’t always at the top of the list.

Striking up a healthy and balanced relationship with food is a positive thing. To eat consciously and enjoy each mouthful is an art in itself and the occasional overindulgence is fine too. Mainly, get to know your body so that you stop when you feel full.


Are you getting your whole grains?

Published on the 18th Sep, 2011 by Azmina

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

September is whole grain month in the USA. So I thought I would give you the lowdown on what a whole grain is and how to get more whole grains onto your plate. You can also check out my easy picture swaps below.  (more…)

Ten Craving Curbers

Published on the 31st Jul, 2011 by Azmina

1. Make a refreshing drink with crushed ice, sugar-free cordial and sparkling water.

2. Munch on some fresh dates. They’re much lower in calories than dried dates and the extra chewing means extra mouth-feel and satisfaction. (more…)

What’s all the fuss about the Mediterranean diet?

Published on the 30th Jun, 2011 by Azmina

I’m a great advocate of Med-eating. Not only do I love my garlic-infused pasta, I’m also pretty convinced by the evidence on the health benefits. Typical Med foods are olive oil, fish, nuts, garlic, grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.

Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 studied almost 75,000 men and women over 60 in nine European countries over a period of 12 years. Those who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet had a lower overall mortality – basically, choose these foods and you could live longer. Note that this is about the whole diet, not just a token addition of some beans to your jacket potato. (more…)

To carb or not to carb?

Published on the 20th Jun, 2011 by Azmina

Are carbs good, bad or ugly? With all the confusing messages out there, it’s sometimes tough to know whether to ditch the carbs or to enjoy them with a clear conscience.

My view is don’t be tempted to go low carb; there’s really no need for you to do this for weight loss and it could be potentially harmful. If you cut out carbs, you could be missing out on a whole range of nutrients. And what do you replace the carbs with? Often low carbing means high fatting  – and eating more fat, especially saturated fat isn’t conducive to healthy eating. Low carb diets often also encourage you to avoid fruits and veg (or at least cut down on them) and this goes against a whole host of studies that support the benefits of fruit and veg for disease prevention. (more…)

Cheat’s Whole lentil and coriander soup (taken from the 10-day Gi diet)

Published on the 2nd Jun, 2011 by Azmina

This recipe uses canned green lentils as a speedy shortcut for a filling soup.

Serves one

Spray oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
100 mls sieved tomatoes
Quarter of a pint vegetable stock, made using fresh vegetable stock, vegetable bullion or half a stock cube.
Half a can of green lentils, drained
Generous handful of coriander leaves and stems, chopped

  1. Heat a non-stick pan, spray on the oil and add the onions and garlic.  Stir-fry for about 5-8 minutes till soft.
  2. Add the tomatoes, stock and lentils, and cook for a few minutes to heat through.
  3. Stir in the coriander and serve hot.

Nutrition Nuggets

Lentils are a fantastic low GI carbohydrate.  But getting the pressure cooker out to cook them isn’t always very enticing. Using canned lentils as in this recipe is healthy and less time-consuming. Add a drizzle of lemon juice or a few drops of chilli sauce if you want to give this dish some extra zing.

(c) The 10-day Gi Diet by Azmina Govindji & Nina Puddefoot, 2005

My 10 shopping list essentials

Published on the 30th May, 2011 by Azmina

  1. Semi-skimmed milk
  2. Fresh fruit
  3. Eggs (any, so long as they have the Lion quality brand)
  4. Vegetables, frozen or fresh
  5. High-fibre cereals e.g. granola (I mix it with some bran cereal & I don’t worry too much about sugar as it helps me have milk which I normally hate)
  6. Lower GI bread, e.g. granary or multi-grain
  7. Reduced fat humus (I use it for dips, on toast and on top of spray-fried egg!)
  8. Bulgur wheat (here’s a fab recipe)
  9. Canned beans (great for salads , speedy soups and instant curries)
  10. Pasta

Ten health boosters

Published on the 29th May, 2011 by Azmina

  1. Lacking in concentration?  Try starting your day with a high bran cereal mixed with a handful of raisins.  The B vitamins are crucial for transmitting nerve signals.
  2. Trans fats are often found in processed foods like take-aways, cakes, pies and biscuits.  These act in your body just like saturated fats, which can raise your blood cholesterol and can clog your artery walls, making you more prone to heart problems.
  3. More than 70% of the salt you eat is added to your food by the manufacturer, often without you even knowing it. So worry less about salt you add at hoem and more about salt the food industry adds.
  4. Men – Watch that waist.  Men typically carry more fat around their belly.  Note that a waist measurement of more than 37 inches (and 36 inches for Asian men) increases your risk of heart disease.  If your waist measurement is as high as 40 inches, it really is time to take some serious massive action.
  5. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of the anti oxidant beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A.  This vitamin is essential for healthy skin and night vision.
  6. The GiP diet encourages a variety of foods from all the food groups.  If followed, it should contain enough nutrients to meet your daily needs.  However, dieters often prefer to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement as well.  If you do so, ensure that you choose one that has no more than 100% recommended daily amount (RDA) of nutrients.
  7. The Inuit population has a high animal fat diet, yet they seem to be protected against heart disease.  Their fat comes primarily from cold water of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  8. Suffer from fatigue?  This could be a sign of low iron levels.  Look at labels and select those foods that have been enriched with the iron, like breakfast cereals.  Red meat, dark poultry meat, dark green leafy vegetables and lentils, and dried apricots are all good iron providers.
  9. Kids behaving badly?  Choosing healthy slow-release carbs in meals and snacks for children can help to improve their concentration as well as sustain steady energy levels.
  10. Losing your marbles?  There is good research to show that as we get older, Omega 3 fats may play an important role in memory.

Spiced bulgur wheat (taken from the 10-day Gi diet)

Published on the 30th Apr, 2011 by Azmina

You may not have tried bulgur wheat before but don’t judge this till you’ve had a go. It tastes nutty, it’s filling and you can throw in some leftovers if you want to make it more substantial. You just bung everything in the pot and leave it to cook for about 15 minutes.

50 g bulgur wheat
200 mgs vegetable stock (made with 200 mls of boiling water and half a stock cube)
Mug of frozen veg
Good pinch ground turmeric
3 whole black peppercorns
One cinnamon stick, broken
Good pinch garam masala (optional)
Quarter to a half-teaspoon hot red chilli powder, to taste

To serve:

Handful of fresh mint or coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
Half fresh lime, cut into wedges

  1. Put everything into a pan.
  2. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes till all the water is absorbed and the veg and wheat are cooked.
  3. Stir in the fresh herbs (if using) and drizzle with lemon juice.

Nutrition Nuggets

Bulgur is whole grain, low GI and really filling. Add some chopped peppers and extra veg for even more nourishment.

(c) The 10-day Gi Diet by Azmina Govindji & Nina Puddefoot, 2005