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The Monthly Nutrition Bite - NOv'21

The Monthly Nutrition Bite November 2021

What’s in this one?

About – The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain

Comparison Pop chips or crisps?

Nutrition Tip – What’s the deal with coconut oil?

Recipes – Minty Green Quinoa & Brown Rice Salad; Nut and Seed Slice


The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain

Sleep is not one of the first things that come to mind when you think about the factors that contribute to weight management. However, studies have shown that insufficient sleep in both quality and quantity has a negative effect on weight management. Additionally, insufficient sleep also increases the risk of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and diabetes!

Let us explain why.

  • Our circadian cycle is our biological clock that regulates all our bodily functions. It is our sleep wake cycle. The circadian cycle causes a natural increase in sleepiness during the dark hours. If the circadian cycle is disrupted (e.g. sleeping during the day time and staying awake at night, having meals late at night, exercising in the evening or having an incorrect room temperature during sleep) it can result in hormonal and metabolic changes that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and even a reduction in life expectancy.
  • Insufficient sleep may promote the expression of genes related to obesity. Research has shown that insufficient sleep (less than five or six hours) and excessive sleep (more than nine or 10 hours) are associated with weight gain. In addition to this, weight gain can increase the risk of developing conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, osteoarthritis and obstructive sleep apnea. This results in a viscous cycle where poor sleep results in weight gain which increases the risk of conditions, which causes further sleep disturbances.
  • Sleep deprivation interferes with appetite control. Ghrelin is a hunger-stimulating hormone that is made in the stomach. This hormone signals hunger in the brain. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone that is made by fat cells. This hormone signals fullness in the brain. Under conditions of sleep deprivation, the body makes more ghrelin and less leptin. This results in increased hunger and cravings throughout the day, especially for carbohydrate rich and fatty foods. The resultant increase in caloric intake because of this increase in hunger may contribute to weight gain.
  • Sleep deprivation decreases your motivation to exercise. Daytime fatigue related to a lack of good quality sleep is going to prevent you from exercising and promote sedentary behavior. A lack of physical activity also further leads to sleep disturbances, creating another viscous cycle. 
  • Sleep deprivation increases the risk of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and diabetes. Beta cells of the pancreas (the cells that produce insulin) are constantly listening out for the signal that indicates that there is a spike in blood glucose (sugar). As soon as these beta cells sense the spike in blood glucose they release insulin, which drops your blood glucose levels back down to a normal level by allowing the glucose to enter your cells. Sleep restriction causes the beta cells to stop becoming sensitive to glucose, which in turn affects how much insulin is produced. When insufficient insulin is produced, the blood glucose levels remain high. Additionally, insulin resistance also results from sleep deprivation. This is when the cells do not respond to insulin, preventing the entry of glucose into the cells and causing blood sugar levels to remain high. This is what we call poor glucose tolerance, where your ability to deal with excess glucose in the blood becomes degraded. When you have poor glucose tolerance and your blood glucose levels remain high it increases your risk of diabetes. Interestingly, just one night of poor sleep can result in an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. And the low-grade inflammation caused by chronic sleep loss may also predispose you to insulin resistance and diabetes. 
The link between Sleep deprivation & weight gain


chip comparison

Reading labels is important to ensure that you pick the right food product for you.

Looking at these two packets of chips, the rice and multiseed pop chips might be the better option since they:

  1. Provide less calories
  2. Provide more protein, which would help increase satiety levels and prevent overeating.
  3. Contain less fat, resulting in fewer calories.
  4. Are high in fibre since they provide >6g fibre per 100g of the product. Always try choose the options that contain more fibre since fibre increases satiety, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. It also feeds the good gut bacteria in the colon, keeping your digestive and multiple other systems healthy.
  5. They are however higher in sodium (salt), which is something that you should be mindful of especially if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. However if you don’t like the taste of the rice and multi seed pop chips, the potato chips can still be enjoyed as a treat in moderation!

What’s the deal with coconut oil? 

The use of coconut oil is often promoted in the health and wellness industry, but is it as amazing as it is touted to be?

First things first, coconut oil is a refined product (as are all oils). It is made by extracting the oil from the coconut flesh, leaving behind the carbohydrate, fibre and protein. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fat is also found in all animal products (meat, poultry), animal by products (dairy, butter, lard, ghee) and palm oil (used in most processed, packaged foods).

Saturated fat increases the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol that the liver makes. When there is too much LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood stream, it builds up in the walls of our arteries forming a plaque which over time can restrict blood flow to vital organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys and liver. This can lead to heart disease or stroke. Saturated fats are also solid at room temperature due to their molecular structure. Saturated fats therefore make the cell membranes that line all the cells in the body more rigid rather than fluid, interfering with the movement of nutrients into and out of cells. Saturated fats should therefore be limited in the diet and the focus should be on unsaturated fats, which we get from plants sources (nuts, seeds, plant oils, olives, avos, hummus, pesto) and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, snoek, trout, fresh tuna, pilchards, sardines). These fats improve cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.

One of the touted benefits of coconut oil is that it increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This is true, however coconut oil also increases LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. And this increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels outweighs the benefits of the increased HDL levels.

With that being said, this does not mean that you necessarily have to completely cut coconut oil out of your diet. If you are someone that does enjoy using coconut oil, it’s just important to remember to use it in moderation and to limit your total intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of your total calories consumed per day. If you are someone that consumes a lot of animal products and are getting your saturated fat from these other sources in the diet then it might be best to use another unsaturated plant oil such as canola/ sunflower oil. If you are already at risk of cardiovascular disease, the recommendation is to limit your total intake of saturated fat to <7% from your total calories consumed in the day. One tablespoon of coconut oil comes close to that limit!

Something else that should be kept in mind is the smoke point of oils. When oils are heated to temperatures above their smoke point they start to break down and form free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to the cells in our body. Coconut oil has a low smoke point so there will be less breaking down of the oil if you choose to use oils that have higher smoke points such as canola/sunflower/ sesame/ avocado oil instead. See the table below showing the smoke points of different oils.

oils - kim's nutrition

Bottom line: Coconut oil is a saturated fat and excess amounts of saturated fats are proven to be detrimental to our health. Coconut oil is best consumed every now and again as an alternative to other unsaturated vegetable oils such as canola/ sunflower/ olive oil. It should be eaten sparingly to minimize your risk of developing heart disease. Unsaturated fats from plant sources as well as fatty fish are healthier fats to use. When looking at improving overall health, it’s also important to look at the diet as a whole rather than focusing on certain ‘superfoods’. One type of food does not provide all the nutrients that we need to be healthy. Focus on eating a varied diet consisting of mostly whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and then lean meats, fish and reduced-fat dairy if you do consume animal products.

Kim's Nutrition Recipes
Minty Green Quinoa & Brown Rice Sala
Nut and Seed Slice

Minty Green Quinoa & Brown Rice Sala



250g cooked Quinoa & Brown Rice
1 cup green peas (or snowpeas, green beans, any greens)
1 medium zucchini halved lengthwise and sliced
1 avocado, diced
100g reduced fat feta crumbled
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup shaved almonds
Spray olive oil

For Dressing
50 mL extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to taste


  1. Heat a dry, small pan on med heat and lightly toast almonds. Remove from pan & set aside.
  2. In same pan lightly fry zucchini in spray olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Cook the quinoa and rice in the microwave, as per the portion instructions. Alternatively, this can be cooked from scratch.
  4. When all components cool, combine quinoa/rice, all green vege, feta and mint leaves (reserving a small amount of feta and mint).
  5. Combine dressing ingredients in a small jug with a fork then mix into salad.
  6. Serve with the toasted almonds and an extra sprinkle of mint and feta.

Nut and Seed Slice



50g butter/ margarine
1/3 cup honey
½ cup plain flour
2 weetbix
½ cup dried cranberry
¾ cup sunflower seeds
½ pumpkin seeds
½ cup almonds (roughly chopped)
2 tbsp. chia seeds
2 tbsp. sesame seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C, and line an oven proof tray (20x30cm) with baking paper.
  2. Place butter and honey in a saucepan and melt over low heat.
  3. In a large bowl crush the weetbix then add all dry ingredients (except the dried cranberry and almonds).
  4. Add butter and honey mixture to dry ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  5. Add cranberry and almonds (roughly chopped).
  6. Press mixture into baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
  7. Allow to cool completely before slicing.


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