Nenad Bratkovic is a nutritionist, and the founder and leader of NutriKlinika, nutritional counseling for dietotherapy and sports nutrition in Zagreb, Croatia. He has a huge background in this field, working with people from all over the world, and as a specialist in nutrition he is a frequent guest in the media, called time and again to make comments and give his expert opinion, backed up by facts in order to educate viewers and readers about current topics, phenomena, and trends related to nutrition.
Mr. Bratkovic answered our questions, underscoring some important general features about good nutrition and healthy habits which can lead to a better quality of life. With his help we will try to explain the importance of healthy nutrition and give you some general advice about diet.
Can You briefly tell us why healthy nutrition is important? What exactly does it mean?
Healthy nutrition is a balanced and varied diet in which the priority is not given to one food group (for example meat or just fruits) but in the context of complete nutrition. Human nutrition depends on the life processes of construction and renovation of cells and tissues, and also on energizing processes. A lack of nutritious elements may trigger diseases and disorders of the organic composition and even death (chronic nutrient deficiencies).
Where do you advise people to search for information about healthy nutrition? Do you think that internet navigation can be one of the good sources, and how can we be sure about its relevance?
Personally I insist on direct contact. In my case that means coming to my office in the NutriKIlinika nutritional counseling center so I can fully understand the client’s experience with eating and food and give some examples during a dedicated educational session, answering questions and providing a professional service. However, if the client is not able to come, a first quality online counseling education can be provided.
In many cases the Internet is not a suitable place for information on diet since it is not possible to check the authenticity of the people who give advice about nutrition. An institute for nutrition counseling is intended for academically trained professionals, masters, and doctors of nutrition, and certified registered dietitians and nutritionists. It is not intended for other professionals such as sociologists, kinesiologist, etc.
One general piece of advice about healthy nutrition.
You should not consider only bread, rolls, potatoes, and pasta as carbohydrate foods. Remember as well fruits and vegetables at every meal. Use healthy fats, do not run away from them. Stay away from artificial trans-fatty acids and reduce the consumption of additional sugar in your diet. Base your diet on plant foods, but do not be restricted, the secret is in proper diversity. Use healthy animal food and avoid excessive consumption of meat products.
Is it true that all the vitamins and minerals that we need we can find in food?
Yes of course, but in a real situation life is very dynamic and often we need to use food supplements. But do it always under the supervision of experts!
What is the difference between an allergy and a food intolerance?
An allergy is an immune reaction of the organism while intolerances are not. Intolerances may be enzymatic reactions (for example a deficit or insufficient function of lactose).
Can you give some general advice for people who want to lose weight? Is there a quick way to lose weight, or is it always a long process?
Weight loss or weight reduction does not have a point in the short term, it must be sustainable and medically indicated and not just someone’s whim. The individual must stick with a proper strategy under the supervision of a competent nutritionist.
And advice for someone who wishes to put on additional weight.
An approach to weight gain is directly dependent on the individual’s hormonal status, which then needs to include anaerobic strength/resistance training. And follow an adequate intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. A weight-gain program limited to high calorie intake will not lead to results.
How dangerous is anorexia?
The eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, etc. are very dangerous to both psychological and physical health. Lately there is also much talk about orthorexia, a proper eating disorder.
Do you recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet? Is it healthy for children to be on a vegan diet?
Certainly for children it is NOT advisable to carry out a vegan diet (normally their parents’). A flexitarian balanced vegetarian diet is fundamented on plant foods with the consumption of milk products / or fish / or eggs, it can be balanced but only with proper education and regular monitoring and controls of health status.
Is it true that there is a food which helps to improve memory and concentration? Any advice for students and young people about how to feed themselves during exam periods or while working on an important project?
Reduce consumption of simple sugars. The emphasis on anti-inflammatory fatty acids: olive oil, fish oil and oily fish, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, flax. Do not consume fried foods!