The Best Answers to Your Clients’ Top 10 Nutrition Questions


by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.


With COVID-19 filling all of our newsfeeds, it can be easy to forget that we still need practical advice on how to work and interact with our clients.

Right now, it’s more important than ever for us to take an attitude of servant leadership – placing the needs of our clients as one of our top priorities.

This will help you to retain your clients through this difficult time, and to build a reputation as a credible source of information, which can help with business growth when the market bounces back!

Keep reading to learn the answers to some of the most popular nutrition questions your clients have…

1. What is the best diet?

The answer to this starts with the question: “for whom?”

An elderly person, a male athlete, a two-year-old, a pregnant lady, someone allergic to fish?

And for what outcome? Better for the environment, better for weight loss, better for energy, better for decreasing disease risk?

There are some diets that may tick all of the conventional boxes, but the key is always in personalisation…

The best diet (when all is said and done) is one which your client can follow easily, doesn’t feel restricted on, and gets long lasting positive health outcomes with.

If you’re interested in learning more about the first and most important steps when it comes to nutritional personalisation, you can check out our Nutritional Therapist certification here.

2. Isn’t sugar bad for you?

Any food substance we consume can be “bad” for us depending on the intake amount. And the same goes with sugar.

Besides intake amounts, it’s worth remembering that not all sugars are created equal.

The types of sugars we need to be wary of are “free sugars”.

Basically, “free sugars” are:

  • sugars that have been added to your food, OR
  • those sugars which are naturally present in honey, in syrup, or in unsweetened fruit juices.

The UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that “free sugars” should be no more than 5% of your daily calories.

For the average adult, that’s no more than about 25 grams of free sugars a day.

So as a first step, clients need to understand what contains free sugars…

We often think of cakes, cookies, and sweets, but that’s not the whole picture. Commercial smoothies with added fruit juices like apple and pineapple juice have a very high free-sugar content.

So yes, fresh juices and smoothies DO count towards a client’s daily limit of free sugars.

What about fruit?

Whole fruits don’t count as “free sugars”. But fruit juices do – even that freshly squeezed orange juice!

In general, what people really mean when they speak of sugar, is processed and added sugars. However, some online fads have extended this to mean high-value foods such as root vegetables, whole-grains, and starchy carbohydrates.

This is concerning. Mainly because many of these foods are full of vitamins and minerals important for our wellbeing, but also because they are high in fibre.

Root vegetables like carrots, whole-grains like oats and quinoa, and other starchy carbohydrates which are low-glycaemic like beans are packed with essential nutrients, phytochemical compounds, and fibre.

We love fibre, because through modulating our gut flora, digestion, and blood glucose it may help reduce our risk of certain diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. It also supports a healthy weight and good brain function.

So yes, certain sugars are in the “sometimes” food category, such as free sugars and sugars added to processed foods. But sugar-containing wholefoods like fruit, vegetables, and whole-grains can be beneficial for us.

And if your client keeps craving something sweet, you can help them by exploring our accredited Carb and Sugar Cravings training.

3. Isn’t fat bad for you?

For the short answer, refer to point two and remember that just like sugar, not all fat is created equal…

For the long answer, some fat is better for you than other fat. Fat has a high energy value per gram. Which means that it does not take a lot of fat to reach your calorie intake for the day. This is part of the reason why we traditionally promoted low-fat diets for weight loss or maintenance.

The other reason fat has such a bad rep is that it has been shown as a factor in metabolic syndrome, including heart disease and stroke.

However, just like sugar, what we now know that not all fat is created equal. Some individuals, such as those with familial hyper-cholesterolemia, don’t do well on a diet high in saturated fat, for example.

Other fats provide us with nutrients which are beneficial for our health, such as Vitamin D and E. And long-chain omega 3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA are needed for our brain and a deficiency in these can have negative effects on intellectual capacity, mood, and brain function in general.

Want to update your knowledge on fat’s impact on our hunger levels? Head along to our Fat Consumption and Appetite accredited training.

4. Why can’t I lose weight?

So often clients believe if they “eat less and move more” everything will be okay in the end.

Well, while this might be a great start, it is by no means all they need to do.

This is especially true if they want to lose weight in a way that feels more natural and less forced, without feeling starved or “hangry” all the time… in a way that works for, and not against, their body.

This way, the new weight can be successfully achieved and sustained in the long run.

There are numerous factors besides counting the number of calories consumed which affect a client’s weight. This includes sleep quality, stress levels, amount of exercise, food allergies, and so on.

If you want to learn more about helping your clients lose weight in a personsalised manner, check out our Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner program.

5. Are allergies increasing?

Yes, within certain populations we are seeing a rise in allergies. However, the answer is not quite as simple as this.

We don’t really have an accurate picture on allergy rates in the past. Self-reported allergies are what are often used in past and current research, and it is mostly agreed that this overestimates prevalence.

However, if we use hospital admissions for anaphylaxis (a severe life-threatening reaction to an allergen) we do see an increase.

Why is this?

  • As our understanding of what constitutes an immune-mediated response grows, the number of people with diagnosed allergies will also increase.
  • There may be certain genes responsible for allergies.  For whatever reason, these genes are not often switched on in developing countries. However, if someone with these genes grows up in a western environment, they are more likely to display an allergy.
  • Social media and other quick information sources are helping to spread awareness about allergies. The downside of this is that many people are self-diagnosing either themselves or their children with allergies. These platforms are also giving us a window into a much wider range of people’s lives. This means we are more likely to come across someone with allergies, and these people are more likely to share about their allergy on social media.

This increase is most likely down to numerous factors such as:

  1. An actual increase in the gene being switched on due to more people being exposed to triggers
  2. Our ability to recognise and diagnose allergies which are not all out anaphylaxis
  3. Increased awareness of people around us who have allergies, and increased self-diagnosis of allergies

Do you work with clients who need support with their food allergies and intolerances? Take a look at our Food Allergies and Intolerances diploma.

6. Why am I constantly bloated and gassy?

This is the question that many people who work in nutrition want to run away from. And for good reason…

There are so many things which could make a client bloated and gassy. Sometimes it is not just one thing for each person, but rather a combination of things, making it even harder to diagnose.

Essentially the mechanisms which make someone bloated and gassy are very similar. But the reasons this can happen are diverse.

When it comes down to it, gas and bloating are typically caused by either an excess in production of a particular type of gas, often due to bacteria in our gut, and/or a hypersensitivity to gas production.

This means that either someone’s gut has too much hydrogen gas (as an example), or they are very sensitive to the gas they do produce.

What might make someone over-produce gas?

Well, bacteria are one answer we’ve already mentioned. Helpful and harmful bacteria live in our gut.

What we eat can either promote the production of helpful or harmful bacteria. However both these types of bacteria produce gas as a byproduct of them feeding off the food we eat. So even an abundance of helpful healthy bacteria can be… well… unhelpful for some people.

Gut bacteria can also impact how our immune system functions. An abundance of harmful bacteria can trigger immune responses which may increase bloating in some people.

Hormones may also play a role in bloating. This is evidenced by the fact that more women report bloating, and that this can be matched to their menstrual cycle.

Bloating may also be down to gut motility – that is, the speed at which your intestines move food through your system. A slower system equals more bloating.

Another cause may be to do with the way your abdominal muscles handle gas load. A normal response with increased gas is to relax your diaphragm and increase interior abdominal wall tone. In those with bloating the opposite happens.

The real trick is figuring out which of these mechanisms are at play for your client, and what is triggering them.

For example, in some people, dramatically increasing their fibre can slow down gut motility enough to decrease bloating and gas. In people with secondary lactose malabsorption, the undigested lactose sits in the intestines getting broken down by bacteria which release gas as a byproduct of this process, which causes bloating.

This same process can happen for other undigested sugars.

This is not an exhaustive list either. However, it is the best current evidence we have on causes of bloating when there is no physiological medical reason for it.

If this is a common question your clients ask, then you might find our Advanced Gut Restoration Nutritional Advisor diploma will give you the steps you need to help them become gut-healthy again!

7. Can food really improve mood?

Surprisingly, yes it can. What you eat absolutely can affect how you feel.

It won’t cure your client’s depression, but it may help with decreasing the severity alongside medical and psychological intervention.

Why is this?

There are probably many nutritional factors which influence brain function, but two possible mechanisms in action include the health of someone’s microbiome, and their fatty acid intake.

Fatty fish, for example, is high in two healthy fatty acids which improve brain health – DHA and EPA.

Nuts and seeds might also help for this reason, as well as their high tryptophan levels. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin which is given the friendly nickname of the “happy hormone” because it boosts our mood.

Fermented foods may improve our gut health by providing us with helpful healthy gut bacteria. These gut bacteria support the production of serotonin and other mood boosting hormones which then act on the brain via the gut-brain axis.

Foods such as oats, fruit (particularly bananas), and vegetables are the main nutrient sources for these helpful bacteria, so they can theoretically boost mood, too.

Another good option are foods which are high in Vitamin B6, which also are involved in producing mood boosting hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Most of the foods mentioned above, oats, wholegrains, fish, and vegetables, are high in Vitamin B6 too.

If you’d like to explore the emerging science of the gut microbiome and how it impacts mood, take a look at our 2 hour accredited training on the Brain and Gut Microbiome.

8. Scientists seem to constantly be changing their minds – can we really trust nutrition science?

Most things in science are theory, not fact. They remain the favoured theory until there is further research to suggest otherwise.

This is exactly why we should trust science. Science does not actually deal in absolutes or final facts. Instead, it takes observations and builds theory through consensus from multiple studies. This makes it flexible enough to change if the evidence suggests it needs to.

Unfortunately, this flexibility is what makes people distrust science. They see it as scientists being wrong, rather than our knowledge growing and developing.

When it comes down to it, the methods used in peer reviewed research, the objectivity, and the flexibility of nutritional science make it far more reliable for truly understanding the industry when compared with passionate, dogmatic bloggers.

If you’re set to hone in some serious research skills to help your clients with the most robust evidence, have a peek at our Advanced Research Techniques Level 6 certification.

9. How much is about nutrition and how much can be attributed to exercise?

Nutrition will almost always outdo exercise. You can exercise until the cows come home, but if you’re not eating well, you will not lose weight easily and your disease risk will still be high.

On the other hand, you can be sedentary and still be relatively healthy if you eat really well and don’t sit ALL day i.e. you have incidental activity such as taking the stairs, tidying up the house, and so on.

However, it will certainly get your client where they want to be even faster if exercise is incorporated into their diet plan, too. Many clients will feel more energy, find that they want to eat healthier, and get over plateaus quicker when they exercise as well.

Exercise will help maintain and in some cases increase muscle mass – and as we discussed earlier, this will help to boost energy expenditure when you are at rest. Exercise also helps with reducing lifestyle-related disease risk.

So, all around, it is a useful addition to a healthy diet.

If you want to learn more about how you can help your client add exercise into their program, so that they see better results faster, you can head along to our Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor certification. Or, for something a little shorter try Exercise and Longevity.

10. Are there really such things as “superfoods”?

If by this your client means magical wonder foods which cure cancer… then no, they don’t exist.

However, if they are referring to foods which are dense in certain nutrients shown to provide a range of health benefits and to help lower disease risk… then yes, these “superfoods” exist.

In scientific papers we actually call them “functional foods”.

“Functional foods” refer to natural foods packed with nutrients that can have health-promoting properties, such as reducing one’s risk of disease, or improving any aspect of physical or emotional health.

Besides essential vitamins and minerals, food compounds studied by this area of research include phytochemicals, prebiotics, probiotics, and fatty acids like butyrate and long-chain omega 3s.

What are some examples of superfoods?

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Berries
  • Red beans
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

This is not an exhaustive list. The idea is to show you that superfoods really are just regular healthy foods.

Hopefully this list of 10 FAQs gets your brain juices flowing on how you can incorporate some of these answers into your work. Let us know if there are any burning questions you get that we missed!

And if you’re ready to expand your client base and begin building your multi-service practice, click here to check out our professional certifications!