Do the maths and see how your health’s adding up
Health recommendations are constantly changing and it can be hard to keep up – so we’ve rounded up the stats and facts you really need to be aware of to stay in shape.
How much protein should you eat a day?
Aim to eat a minimum of 1g of protein a day per kilo of your weight. “If you weigh 60kg (9st 6lb), you should eat 60g of protein each day,” explains nutritionist Judy Watson. “From a 100g piece of chicken you will get 30g of protein. From 100g tuna, you will get 25g. Adding a handful of nuts and a glass or milk or a yogurt will bring you up to 60g. Aim to eat some protein with each meal to balance your blood sugar levels and crush cravings.”
How much cholesterol is too much?
4 is your ideal upper level of cholesterol, combining two types – HDL and LDL. “You should also aim to have your LDL under 2mmol/l and your HDL above 1 mmol/1,” says Emily Reeve, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation. “LDL (low- density lipoproteins) are known as the bad type of cholesterol. They carry cholesterol from your liver to the cells that need it. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) carry cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver to be broken down.
“Too much LDL can cause fatty material to build up in your artery walls, encouraging heart disease. The risk is particularly high if your HDL levels are low, meaning your body’s not removing cholesterol effectively.” Speak to your GP about having your cholesterol checked – it is part of the NHS Health Check offered to 40-74 year olds every five years.
Is eating five-a-day still necessary?
You’re still on target if you’re getting your five-a-day fruit and veg, says Judy. “The official guidelines still say five-a-day, but we know there are more health benefits from eating above this number. Aim for seven to ten portions if you can.” Recent research found that eating ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day could reduce your risk of heart disease by 24 per cent, stroke by 33 per cent and cancer by 13 per cent.
How much salt should you eat in a day?
6g of salt is your daily maximum. “That’s one heaped teaspoon,” says Judy. “The best way to monitor your salt intake is to avoid take-aways and supermarket meals and cook your own meals from scratch. Check the labels of anything that is processed. Only buy bread containing less than 1g salt per 100g (about two slices).”
How long should it take you to fall asleep?
The number of minutes it should take you to fall asleep at night is 15 if you are getting enough sleep, says psychiatrist Dr Craig Hudson, author of Feel Great Day and Night: the natural approach to treating insomnia.
“Most people need between six and eight hours a night, but falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is a sign you’re not getting enough. A classic mistake is to try and pack too much into your day, persuading yourself you don’t need much sleep, when you do.
“Stinting on the shut-eye you need can cause you to gain a pound a week for every lost hour of sleep per night. You’re also likely to suffer hangover-like symptoms of headache and poor concentration because you’ve been sleep-deprived.”
If it’s taking you longer than 15 minutes to get to sleep, try having a tryptophan-rich snack such as half a banana and a few almonds before bed. Your body will convert the tryptophan to the sleep hormone melatonin to help you nod off faster.
How much exercise should you be doing?
You should aim to take at least 21 minutes of exercise every day, or 150 minutes a week, according to government guidelines. A 12-month study of 6600 people found that moving from no exercise to this level (which includes brisk walking) increased life expectancy by 3.1 years.
How much fibre should you be eating?
Your recommended daily grams of fibre is 25g. “To put it in context, you’ll get 10g fibre from your five-a-day, and 4g from a slice of wholemeal bread or half a cup of brown rice, oats, or lentils,” says Judy. Fibre not only helps to keep you regular but is important for managing cholesterol, blood sugar levels and your weight.
How much sugar is too much?
The maximum number of grams of sugar you can safely consume in a day is 30. “This is the same as about 8 tsp of sugar,” says Judy. “Read every label carefully – you’ll get 9 sp from a 300ml can of cola, a carton of fruit juice, or a Mars bar. And you’ll get five teaspoons from some tins of soup!”
What's a healthy waist size?
If your waist measures 31.5 inches or more, you have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Your risk also goes up if you’re over 40, have ever had high blood pressure, and have a family member with type 2 diabetes. “Measure your waist at the midway point between your lowest rib and your hip bone. This is likely to be level with your tummy button,” says says Diabetes UK Senior Clinical Advisor, Libby Dowling. For help losing inches visit www.yours.co.uk/1inch
How much fat is too much?
The number of grams of fat recommended daily for women is 70g. “But note that only 20g of that is from saturated fats, the rest should be from healthy fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds,” say Judy.
Know your fats
Salmon fillet (100g) = 13g fat, 3.1g sat fat, 7.7g healthy fats
Almonds (28g) = 14.2g fat, 1.1g sat fat, 12.4g healthy fats
½ avocado (75g) = 10g fat, 2g sat fat, 8g healthy fats
How high is healthy blood pressure?
If your “bottom” blood pressure number is 90 or above, your blood pressure is too high and may need to be treated with drugs if you cannot manage to bring it into a normal healthy range with diet and exercise alone. “Ideal blood pressure is in the range of 90/60 to 120/80. Persistent high readings over 140/90 may lead to an increased risk of strokes, so always see your doctor or nurse if you’re concerned,” says Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa of your-doctor.co.uk
- For more health tips, pick up the latest issue of Yours magazine