As I sat listening to six leading Australian health experts and educators battle it out in a lively debate at the ‘What Should I East’ forum at Melbourne’s Athenaeum theatre, one thing was clear – the world of nutrition is confusing for everyone.

It didn’t take long for things to get heated among panellists Sarah Wilson (journalist and founder of I Quit Sugar), Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos (author of the Mediterranean Diet), Lola Berry (nutritionist and cook book author), Dr Sue Shepherd (dietician and creator of low FODMAP diet), Professor Kerryn Phelps AM (author of The Cancer Recovery Guide) and David Gillespie (author of Sweet Poison and Toxic Oils) as they dissected industry hot topics close to their hearts.

No stone was left unturned, with Sarah Wilson and Lola Berry saying industry controversies have been a good thing because ‘they have exposed the need to be real and responsible’.

While there were many things the experts couldn’t agree on, there was at least consensus on the reason for this: nutrition isn’t a fool proof science, with studies providing each other wrong all the time.

Here are my 10 key outtakes from the experts…


1. ESarah Wilsonat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Processed food is a major problem, cooking at home is the solution, says Sarah Wilson:

If you wanna stick it up the food industry, just cook


2. One size does not fit all when it comes to nutrition

Different foods affect everyone differently, therefore an individual approach is required.   If you think you have a sensitivity to something, see a dietician.


Dr Catherine3. No super food will fix poor diet, says Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos:

 Your meals should have a 4:1 ratio of plant to animal food



4. Eat two serves of in season whole fruit per day, with fibre and water in tact

The panel got fired up on sugar with a clear divide on fructose, with David saying fruit shouldn’t be a major part of our diet and Sarah saying fruit juice is a dangerous way to consume sugar.  David further explains:

David GillespieOur bodies are poorly adapted to fructose because of  the significant increase in quantities in the last 20 years, our bodies are not mebolically adapted which is why it poses such a big risk.

The human genome hasn’t adapted at the pace of our food supply.

Lola, meanwhile is not fussed about fructose, using maple syrup and dates in her recipes, saying you don’t need to avoid fructose unless you’ve got an intolerance to it.   And Dr Phelps expressed concern about the anti-sugar message, with 95% of Australians not eating the recommended two serves of fruit (and five veg) per day.

Sarah also pointed out the big issue with sugar is less about the white table stuff, but the quantity we’re being duped into eating by the food industry.

5. Seed oils are not as healthy as they sound – 
David Gillespie (author of Toxic Oil and Sweet Poison) says:

Seed oils are man made poison

He’s talking about canola, soy, cotton, safflower, sunflower, grapes and rice bran all – all referred to as vegetables oils, but he points out that “no vegetables were harmed in their creation“.   The problem with these oils that are used in so many food products today is the degree to which they are processed, and how toxic they become when heated –  David believes these are a major contributing factor to increasing cancer rates.  The science minds on the panel didn’t agree, saying they are only toxic if heated and processed, and that these oils are one of many contributing factors to increased cancer rates –  with increased consumption of red meat, and environmental factors also to blame.

6. It’s not about hard and fast exercise – gentler exercise can provide same effects if not better results.  Do exercise you love, not dread, and keep your body moving throughout the day too.

7. Dr PhelpsIt’s not known if there is a safe level of alcohol consumption in terms of cancer risk, with Dr Phelps advising cutting it out altogether or reducing intake. She’s also not sure whether it’s safe for pregnancy.



8. Don’t be fooled into thinking organic and gluten free products are good for you – they often contain a lot of sugar.

9. The Australian food labelling system desperately needs to be addressed.

The Heart Foundation tick doesn’t take sugar into account, “the Heart Tick is a good way to know which foods to avoid,” says David Gillespie.

While the star system is grossly misleading and the problem lies in single nutrients, with Sarah Wilson saying

Why aren’t we aiming higher?  It’s dire that the Big Mac is getting the same star rating as olive oil.

We need to do something about it. There is a chronic disease epidemic, these measures are not good enough.


10. Everything in moderation.

It’s okay to break the rules when it comes to eating food – heck, even the experts do!    Sarah eats chocolate and drinks wine, David is known to pinch the odd hot chip (cooked in ‘man made poison’), while Lola falls off the wagon too, saying it’s important not to take the joy out of eating food:

Lola BerryHang ups about food can set up disordered eating.  I’ve been in that boat and it’s not a fun way to live.

Forget the marketing jargon, it’s a load of b*** s***.  Just eat real food!


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Zara is a healthy home coach and keynote speaker on a mission to empower 1 million people to takes steps towards a healthier home. Zara learned about the link between our homes and our health after going through two different types of cancer. Zara is passionate about shining the spotlight on what she believes to be the least understood health challenges of our time, and sharing the things she wishes she had known, that could have prevented the illnesses she has been through. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading health influencers, Zara was a finalist in the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer of the Year Awards. She has appeared on TEN News, Today Show and The Project, been featured in the Herald Sun, I Quit Sugar, and contributed Medibank’s Be. Magazine and Fairfax health online publications. Zara contributed to the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s first comprehensive report on breast cancer in young women in Australia.

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