With a bachelor’s degree in genetics and a masters in human nutrition, Victoria has dedicated her life to the study of the human body. In addition to her studies, she is a certified life coach (Master Life coach, NLP (neuro linguistic programming) practitioner and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) practitioner) and fitness trainer.
She has spent a great deal of time specialising in gut health, also a GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) practitioner, focusing on gut healing and its relation to brain function.
She believes that combining a holistic approach focusing on physical and mental tools to enhance health and wellbeing, are the key to making life changing improvements.
What is your opinion on organic and natural food consumption in the Middle East?
People seem to be moving towards a more ethical way of eating, as well as eating to boost their health and minimise exposure to chemical residues, so I definitely see a movement towards choosing organic with my clients. Over the past 5 years or so, the availability of organic foodstuff is much more prevalent. Now you don’t even need to go to the supermarket to choose your organic foods, you can order online and have them delivered the same day, so the hurdle of having to make a special trip to the store has been removed, making choosing organic so much easier for the consumer.
Why is it so important from a nutritionist’s perspective?
I always advise my clients to eat real food, to avoid foods that have a long list of ingredients, many of which seem impossible to pronounce. “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!” Lots of the chemicals used in conventional farming can have an impact on our health when we eat them
The intake of pesticides and insectides or pollutants like chemicals plastics (BPA) put an extra burden on our liver as it has to work extra hard to remove them from the body. In an ideal way we are eating foods and delivering the nutrients to our body in the way that nature intended, through real whole foods.
Many of the chemicals found in conventional farming or even through the use of things like plastic (BPA) interfere with the normal functioning of the body by effecting our hormones, promoting fat storage and cause things like obesity and increased inflammation. Many act as endocrine disruptors by attaching to estrogen receptors. For example Bisphenol-A ( BPA) leaches into food through plastic packaging, canned goods or even used to coat receipts from the till/cash register (this is why I no longer take receipts). Phthalates is another obesogen and makes plastic more flexible so is found in many toys, shower curtains, food containers, paint and beauty products which is why it’s important to always choose for organic beauty products. Atrazine is a chemical found in herbicides that leads to weight gain as well as many other health issues, it has been banned in Europe but is still in use around the world in countries like the US so be careful where you buy your produce from and ideally go for organic whenever possible.
We’ve heard about the dirty dozen. Can you tell us your thoughts on this?
Each year a non-profit organisation, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), tests fruits and vegetables to see which contain the most and least pesticides, creating the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists. This is a great list to follow to help decide which vegetables should be avoided if they are not organic. It’s interesting to know that strawberries and spinach have taken the top two spots on this list for the past 3 years in a row. In fact strawberries have been had the most chemical residues on them for the past four years, with the average strawberry having 7.8 pesticides on it and the dirtiest containing up to 23 different pesticides on it. It’s not always financially viable to buy everything organic so I advise my clients to ensure if they are buying anything form the dirty dozen list that they make sure it’s organic, otherwise choose produce from the clean 15 instead. It is also interesting to see that kale was a new addition to this year’s dirty dozen list, coming in in third place.
The fruits and vegetables on this list are tested after they have been washed and peeled, showing that normal washing of produce isn’t enough to reduce pesticide residues.
Why is it so important to avoid pesticides? It is especially important to avoid overloading exposure to pesticides for children as there is some research connecting pesticide ingestion and issues with brain development in early childhood and pregnancy. There is also research to suggest having a diet with more organic produce and fewer pesticides may lower cancer risk.
How dramatically can organic food improve the health of a person?
Choosing organic is the ideal situation for all but there are definitely some who will benefit more than others by choosing organic products, this includes those who have a heavier toxic burden. For anyone with an autoimmune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, hashimoto’s, lupus, psoriasis etc cleaning up the diet is of great importance and reducing exposure to chemicals like pesticides will be of great help.
What do you think is the future trend in organic food?
There is a better understanding of gut healing and how getting more organic probiotic and prebiotic foods is essential to boost the health of the microbiome (the microbes such as good bacteria and yeasts and their genes that we house in our body). Each of us has a unique microbiome, similar to the uniqueness of a fingerprint. We can grow up in the same house and eat the same foods and still have very different microbiomes due to stress and medications. The good news though is that we can all improve our microbiome which is actually a game changer in terms of our health it plays a major role in immunity and inflammation, mood regulation, nutrient assimilation and absorption. So having organic probiotic foods such as kefir/kimchi/sauerkraut will be on the rise, along with gut healing tonics such as organic bone broths.
Of course vegan alternatives to foods such as cheeses, butters, milk and protein powders/bars will continue to be on the rise, with cleaner options becoming available. More people are becoming conscious of eating a more heavily plant based diet, even if it is not exclusively plant based so I would imagine we will see many more options popping up in the next year.
Interviewed by Menaka Ramakrishnan, Buyer Manager