I am honoured to be able to present this fascinating, comprehensive interview with The Natural Nutritionist (TNN), Steph Lowe. I’ve been a massive fan of Steph for a long time now, and am truly delighted that she’s put together such a wealth of information into this blog post for you all.
Steph has a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, a post-grad degree in Human Nutrition and is just about to complete her Masters… and she’s a keen triathlete too! So I’d say she’s well qualified to offer some thoughtfully researched insights into how to eat well and cut through some of the common nutrition myths floating around. As an added bonus, Steph has also shared with us her recipe for Grain Free Tacos, complete with a dairy-free sour cream option (which I have made a few times myself and can confirm is truly divine).
Read on for Steph’s interview and the recipe. If you’d like to learn more about TNN or book a consult, Steph’s contact details are set out in this blog post. She’s been running some awesome Back to Basics 2-Week Detox Programs (no weird tonics or meal replacement shakes involved!) which are perfect if you’re ready for a system reboot.
Thanks again to TNN for sharing your wisdom. xx
1. Please tell us a little about yourself. What sparked your interest in nutrition and your career as a nutritionist?
I began my quest to become a Nutritionist on a mission to change the complicated, processed and obsessive food culture, largely created by industry over the last fifty years. It was clear to me that there was a distinct lack of education as to how simple good nutrition can be. My aim was (and still is!) to educate others that by simply bringing your nutrition back to nature, you can take a giant step towards better health.
As The Natural Nutritionist I now specialize in high performance weight loss and sports nutrition with natural fuelling and gluten free and refined sugar free food. I am an endurance athlete myself, so I believe it is my role to teach others how they too can optimize their training, racing and recovery with natural whole food.
I have been gluten free for over eight years now and my ebook, Free From Gluten (FFG) can help you quit too! FFG includes over 70 pages of education, practical advice and whole food based recipe and is about eating better, living well and fuelling your body as nature intended. Grab your copy here from Steph’s site: Buy Free From Gluten
2. One key message I have taken away from your work is that if we’re eating well, counting calories is not necessary. Why do you recommend we avoid being number crunchers when it comes to our food?
I’m so glad to hear that Mon!
Unfortunately, weight loss was once simplified as a measure of energy in versus energy out. Just like we once thought the world was flat, we also once believed the answer was to move more and eat less. In my opinion, the prevalence of obesity and chronic disease is enough evidence to disprove this “calorie deficit equals weight loss” theory. Not to mention the number of fad low-calorie diets that fail to work in the long run.
The best news is that it’s not about slogging away on the treadmill and eating a ridiculously low volume of food per day – it’s about wholefoods and eating to nourish your body with food as nature intended. Here’s why:
1. Calories are not created equal: Most significantly, calories are not created equal. Our macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fats) produce varying hormonal responses and therefore metabolic environments, which either promote or discourage fat storage. Weight loss is in fact little to do with calories in versus calories out, but the impact that your food choices have on your hormones*. It’s the same reason why weight loss becomes harder with age – our hormones decline and our food choices become even more important.
Carbohydrates, for example, are equivalent to protein in energy, but when eaten in excess can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. This is the recipe for fat storage. Long term this will create insulin resistance, the precursor to obesity and diabetes. You will notice the most common carbohydrates featured in my recipes are fruit, sweet potato, quinoa and rice malt syrup. There is a reason for this – they are natural, nutritious and fantastic for refuelling post exercise.
Fats, on the other hand, are more than double the energy of carbohydrates and protein, but offer satiety and hormonal control – the keys to long-term fat loss**. Snacking on a handful of nuts, cooking with coconut oil or having the occasional gluten free and refined sugar free sweet treat is a great way to get satiated, prevent the dreaded blood sugar-insulin roller coaster and keep cravings at bay. There is definitely no reason to eat sweet treats every day, even if they are gluten and refined sugar free, but the alternate is usually far worse wouldn’t you agree? If however, you do find yourself eating 10 serves of my Raw Sweet Potato Brownie in two days, have a week or two off treats all together. Eat wholefoods and eat more of them. The key is to be so satisfied that you don’t need a treat.
2. The thermic effect of food: In addition to food’s hormonal impact, the amount of energy required to break down our macronutrients – known as the thermic effect of food – varies significantly between macronutrients. Your body uses far more energy digesting protein and fibrous vegetables compared to simple sugars like pasta, white bread or packaged cereals. Digestion actually requires a large amount of energy, which can be accelerated with better food choices. The answer is to eat lean protein, non-starchy vegetables and essential fats with every meal and you can truly turn your body into a fat burning machine. Remember, essential fats are exactly that – essential. We do not produce them ourselves and must obtain them from our food. Fantastic sources are salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, grass-fed beef and free-range eggs, just to start.
3. Intuitive Eating: What I love about natural nutrition is that simply by focusing on food quality, the quantity will take care of itself. Become an intuitive eater – listen to what your body needs (within reason) and your whole relationship with food will change for the better. Remember, food is to nourish, share and enjoy and not something to count, worry about or deprive. If you are used to counting calories as a method of accountability, switch to a food diary. Eat real food and the results with follow.
* Lifestyle factors also play a significant role – adequate sleep and stress management are extremely important for weight loss, but that’s for another conversation.
**Excluding trans fats of course.
3. Saturated fat is a hot topic at the moment. Do you think it is safe to consume? Are some sources better than others?
Yes! Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) provide us with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These are essential for bone health, liver function, brain health and nerve communication just to start! In addition, SFAs support satiety and hormonal control, which we discussed is essential for fat loss, in addition to energy management, mood and weight control. Here’s a little background information for you:
SFAs are lauric, myristic, palmitic and stearic acids, and contain only single bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. As such, they are fully ‘saturated’ with hydrogen atoms, making them extremely heat, light and oxygen stable. This is a good thing! So it is this exact reason why SFAs should be used for cooking wherever possible. It is our body’s full time job to battle cellular damage, so please don’t add to the equation by consuming damaged oils (i.e. polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils or fats at high temperatures).
Unlike what you may have been told, saturated fats DO NOT cause heart disease! Since the 1950’s, we have been told that saturated fats increase our cholesterol, which in turn leads to cardiovascular disease – both of which could not be further from the truth. In my opinion, this is the biggest nutrition myth of the century, now with research to support it. In 2010, twenty-one past studies were included in a meta-analysis of 347,747 individuals. The results of this study clearly state there is “no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease”. You can access the research here.
In terms with sources, stick with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, shellfish or grass-fed beef and lamb fat. If you do consume dairy, choose full fat, unpasteurized and organic in order to obtain the health benefits that are otherwise destroyed by pasteurization.
4. Another hot topic is going gluten-free, which you are an advocate of. But it’s not always the case that “gluten-free” equals “healthy”. What are some of the common mistakes/misconceptions you have seen with the gluten-free approach?
The biggest issue is the influx of gluten free products available on the market these days. But as I always say, “food doesn’t come in a box, food products do”. If you keep it natural, 95% of the time you will be eating gluten free and at the same time, avoiding starchy, artificial and highly processed “Franken foods”. Every meal should be composed of the most nutrient dense options you can choose – full of protein, essential fats and predominately non-starchy vegetables. It’s that simple.
5. What foods will we always find in your fridge?
My key kitchen items are almond flour, coconut flour, coconut milk, LSA, rice malt syrup, coconut oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, quinoa and cinnamon. I’m a big believer in the saying “if you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food” and the same applies to your pantry. With the correct staple items, you should be able to throw together a simple yet nutritious meal, with a quick stop by your local fruit and veg shop and butcher!
6. Please share with us a favourite recipe of yours.
My favourite thing to do is create recipe that allows room for leftovers for lunch the next day! In my opinion, it’s always about being time-efficient, economical and waste-free. These Grain Free Tacos are simply delicious.
Recipe: Grain Free Tacos
by The Natural Nutritionist Steph Lowe
These Grain Free Tacos are not only gluten free, but sugar free, dairy free, and low in carbohydrate. Fresh, healthy and delicious.
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
• 200g grass-fed beef mince
• 400g can diced tomatoes (100% tomatoes)
• 1 sachet tomato paste (no salt added)
• 1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon
• 1 heaped tablespoon Italian herbs
• Sea salt, to taste
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 1 zucchini, grated
• 1 carrot, grated
• 2 tomatoes
• 1 yellow capsicum
• 1 avocado
• 1 handful coriander
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• The juice of 1 lime
Cashew Sour Cream:
• 1 cup soaked cashews
• ½ cup water
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• The juice of one lemon
• Sea salt, to taste
• 1 iceberg lettuce, washed and leaves separated
- To make the mince: heat oil in a large pan and lightly brown garlic. Add mince and lightly brown, stirring throughout. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, cinnamon, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, turn off heat and set aside. Add vegies, stir through and set aside to cool. Transfer into a medium ceramic bowl.
- To make the salsa: roughly chop tomatoes, capsicum and avocado and combine in a small bowl with finely chopped coriander, olive oil and lime juice. Transfer into a medium ceramic bowl.
- Make Cashew Sour Cream (by combining all ingredients in a food processor or blender) and spoon some into a small ceramic bowl.
- Serve lettuce leaves with mince, salsa and sour cream. Add a scoop of each to a leaf, fold into half and enjoy.
To find out more about Steph, click here.
To read about Steph’s programs and services, or to book a consultation, click here.