Don’t Blame Your Age!

Clients sometimes say of their weight, lack of energy and ailments, ‘Well what can I expect at my age?’ I think it’s a shame that we’ve been conditioned to expect so little. It’s almost an abdication of responsibility – “there’s nothing I can do; it’s my age”. OK, we might suffer some wear and tear but our bodies have a remarkable capacity for renewal if we look after them. We don’t have to buy into the common pattern of junk food, inactivity and physical deterioration as if it was inevitable. If you commit to exercise and good food, perhaps you can stay younger for longer. It’s your choice.

You probably know people who are still sprightly in their older years and also young people who look and move as if they were decades older than they are. In my early 30s I was in a sorry state. Overweight and unhealthy, I felt lousy most of the time. Ten years ago I learned to eat well and transformed my life. I recently turned 50 but feel 19. Being 20 years older doesn’t matter to me; I feel young.

Find a good role model and emulate them. Jack LaLanne understood exercise and nutrition and lived a vigorous life to the age of 96. One of his sayings was, ‘Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.’

My grandfather was still fly fishing at 94.  Young at 94He was Italian and understood about eating good food.  When Channel 4 made a programme on the World’s Best Diets, Italy came second (just behind Iceland) and we saw a village of elderly people, full of vigour, eating only real food.  There is no paradox to the health of the French either; they eat well too.  Sadly the UK was way down with our love of processed food and you can see the results all around you in the population’s general lack of good health.

It’s always worth looking after yourself and never too late to get into good habits. Keep moving with a form of exercise that suits you, keep flexible and improve the way you eat. You’re worth it!

Top tips – you’re never too old to benefit from eating well.

Seven a day

There was quite a furore in the nutrition world recently over a pronouncement that rather than our ‘5 a day’, we should eat 7 portions fruit and veg. The headlines shouted that this could save lives by reducing cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The number 7 is arbitrary, as was the number 5, not a conclusion of good science. Lifestyle differences were possibly the dominant factor in the findings of the study in question. However, there is a sound underlying message; vegetables contain goodness. Most of us (¾) don’t get anywhere near 5 a day, let alone 7.

Here’s a link to a piece Zoe Harcombe wrote about the study.

The right amount of veg is not the same for everyone and depends on your metabolic type but if you think you’re probably eating too little, what can you do? In the winter, soup is a warming way to get quantity and variety. Start with a good knob of butter in a pan and cook chopped onions, carrots and celery for a few minutes before adding stock, tomatoes, beans, herbs and any other veg you like. Bring to the boil. After it has simmered for about 10 minutes it’s ready to eat. In the summer, have a salad with your lunch and another with your evening meal.

Juicing is an effective way to get lots of raw vegetable goodness (although you lose the fibre). Mix lots of different types of vegetables plus a very small amount of fruit just to sweeten it – half an apple is plenty. In England, we’re not advised to distinguish between fruits and vegetables and that’s a shame. It’s better for your health to go easy on fruit. In Australia, the advice is 5veg + 2fruit. Buy more fresh food rather than processed products.

Top tip – don’t argue about the numbers, just eat more veg.

Cooking – not rocket science

Eating real food brings many benefits to your figure and your health. People tell me they buy microwave ready-meals because they lack the confidence to cook from fresh. They think it takes ages or fear it’s complicated. We used to learn cookery by helping our mothers or in cookery lessons at school. Now in some younger families no-one knows how to make a meal from fresh ingredients. Cookery programmes on TV have increased in popularity as entertaining viewing but the people I speak to would never attempt to cook the dishes for themselves; they are too far removed from day-to-day real life.

Cooking need not be rocket science. You can prepare tasty, nutritious meals without even using a recipe. A friend of mine once said that cooking is common sense and the application of heat. He’s so right.

Find out where you can buy good quality meat and fresh fish locally to you.  Then why not have a go at these 2 meal ideas? No measuring, no fancy techniques and ready in ~20 minutes.

(1) Grill pork or lamb chops on medium heat, turning every 4 minutes. Meanwhile, boil some potatoes and put together a mixed salad (green leaves, carrot, celery, tomato, radish, etc). In a jug, mix some olive oil with balsamic vinegar as a dressing.

(2) Boil some brown rice in salted water. 6 minutes before it’s ready, put some white fish fillets above it in a steamer. Sort of prop the fish up round the side rather than lying it flat across the bottom, and put some sliced carrots in the middle. 2 minutes before the end, put in some sliced cabbage.

Done with beans, instead of carrots.

Done with salmon and beans for a change

What could be easier?

Top tip: Forget rocket-science; cook simply.

 

Soil – not just mud!

“We stand, in most places on earth, only 6 inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends.” (R Neil Sampson)

Usually the only magazines I buy are The Big Issue and a TV guide but recently I bought an issue of Country Life because HRH The Prince of Wales was guest editor. He has run Duchy Home Farm organically for 30 years and he understands farming.

One topic Prince Charles wrote about was soil. Research by University of Sheffield suggested that the nutrients in the soil will run out in 100 seasons if we carry on as we are. Other researchers think 60 years unless we start to reintroduce more sustainable practices now. Forty percent of the world’s agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded (meaning that 70% of the topsoil is gone). Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished. In some parts of the world over-intensive farming has created desert.

Growing plants use 60 minerals and trace minerals which they draw from the soil. Artificial fertilisers do not replace all these trace elements; they focus on three that make plants grow quickly and give high yield: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Sadly this means that the mineral content of our food is reducing. Animals and people need diverse minerals. As the soil becomes depleted, we can suffer from deficiencies that affect our health.

We often see farmers muck-spreading in Cumbria; it gives the land ‘heart’. Don’t moan about the smell, rejoice in the goodness going back into the soil!

S/W Ver: 85.83.E7P

Top tips – support our good local farmers.

Fluoride and the EU

Whist my main concerns regarding fluoride are for people’s health, that doesn’t seem to be a high priority for those who make decisions.  Money speaks loudest.  However here comes an impact on trade that could have a powerful effect.

A recent change in European food law forbids the use of fluoridated water in food or drinnk preparation.  Water is of course used in virtually all food preparation, supply, and importation so this is causing serious concern in international marketing circles. The deadline for using unauthorised sources of minerals – including fluoride – in foods under EC Regulation 1925/2006 expired in January this year. This closed the final loophole on which proponents of water fluoridation have relied to claim that it is subject solely to food law. Public opposition to fluoridation is growing rapidly around the world, with hearings before High Courts in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland now in progress.

This will effect any businesse or individual involved in food and drink preparation or trading, from the smallest trader to the largest supermarket, anyone who sells coffees and teas in a corner cafe, bakes bread in a high-street bakery, or sells imported food and beverages in a local supermarket.

Caterers in one community in Ireland have already taken action to protect their business.  The demand by Cork County Council, the largest in the Republic of Ireland, that fluoridation be abolished in Ireland, is supported by four County and forty other Town Councils, and moves to abolish the practice have full cross-party support in the Irish Parliament. The Councils argue that fluoridation constitutes a severe barrier to export trade in Irish food products, so the passing in the UK of the Health and Social Care Act last year brings our own Local Authorities directly into the centre of this controversy. The developments in Ireland are a clear warning of the implications for the continuation of this practice here in the UK.

Enforcement of the prohibition on importing any such foods by even a single EC Member State would trigger a landslide in confidence that could cause a dramatic fall in the export of UK foods from fluoridated water areas to the rest of the EC. So the recent resumption of fluoridation in West Cumbria is a wake-up call to Members in this sector of commerce in the North West.

 

Cumbria Business Growth Hub Join Cumbria Food & Drink Growth Network has organised an open meeting to discuss this issue, led by UK and EU legal expert Doug Cross (BSc. CSci, CBiol, FSB) at the Sheep and Wool Centre, Cockermouth, 10am to 12 noon on 3rd April.

To book your place(s) on this free event please email catherynn@cumbriachamber.co.uk or call 0845 226 0040. Cumbria Food & Drink Growth Network is part of the Cumbria Business Growth Hub aiming to help businesses in Cumbria unleash their potential. To find out how you can be involved and start benefitting, have a look online at www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk or join them on Twitter @FoodDrinkHub.

Fluoride

A piece has appeared in The Lancet this month on neurotoxicants.

It considers the increase in recent years of conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia.  Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence.

They have identified 11 developmental neurotoxicants including lead, arsenic – and fluoride.  They propose a global prevention strategy.

My previous post Fluoride – not my choice invites you to join Cumbria’s petition.

Fluoride – not my choice

I want to add my support to Paul Carr’s excellent letter to The Cockermouth Post on the public health issues related to water fluoridation in Cumbria (February edition).

I encourage people to drinkS/W Ver: 85.83.E7P water rather than fizzy drinks, juice, alcohol etc.  We’re blessed with very good water here and I don’t want people to feel that their water is tainted.

Fluorine is not a nutrient; it is a toxin and it builds up in your body over time (dependent on your age and kidney function). It’s added to water to improve teeth but with European coverage of only 2%, is it necessary? Too much may lead to fluorosis. Possible symptoms include:

  • Bone and joint pains

  • Muscle weakness

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Lowered thyroid function (fluoride is used in medication to slow over-active thyroids)

  • Lowered child IQ, dementia

Ironically, too much fluoride can also stain and damage your teeth!

Many of us do the best for our bodies by exercising choice.We can avoid pesticides and herbicides by buying organic. We can avoid chemicals by using natural care products. We can avoid additives by cooking our own food. We can filter chlorine out of our water (NB most standard water filters don’t remove fluoride). We can look after our teeth with simple regular brushing.

When I had anaemia once, it was my choice to take the iron my doctor prescribed. Doctors cannot force patients to take medication. They certainly cannot force a general group of people to take drugs that they do not need as individuals. Where is our choice with fluoridating the water supply? It’s like a blanket prescription made compulsory on the whole population, to help the teeth of a minority, at the cost of possible health detriments to everyone.

The world is so polluted we sadly cannot avoid all contaminants but I don’t accept that we have to meekly drink water that has been deliberately dosed with a toxic chemical. Communities around the world are halting this practice by campaigning. You can join Cumbria’s petition here:

http://councilportal.cumbria.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=24

Even if you don’t live in Cumbria, it’s worth supporting the campaign – if we lose, you might be next!

Plate Clearing

I love food and enjoyed some wonderful meals in December but have you noticed how large portions tend to be when you eat out? It’s a necessary one-size-suits-all approach; to the chef I could be a 6′, 25st bloke. He doesn’t know that I’m a 5’6”, 8½st woman. I’m often faced with enough food for two of me! But how much of it to eat?

I teach people: when you’re hungry, eat; when you’re satisfied, stop. So whenever I have a huge meal put in front of me, I don’t try to force it all down. This was hard at first. Like lots of us, I hate to waste food. I was brought up with a strong plate-clearing culture and sadly this can lead to over-eating. When you eat more than you need, your body has to work hard to process and eliminate the excess - or store it as fat. Food that you don’t need is already waste whether or not you eat it. It’s better to save it for another time or even to throw it away than to treat your body like a dustbin. To break the habit, leave something very small at first eg a pea or a chip.

Actually this delicious meal was the right size for me!

Actually this delicious meal at The Granville, Barford, was the right size for me!

Here’s my strategy when eating out. I always decline any bread that’s offered. I usually ask for a half portion of potatoes (which sometimes works but often is ignored). I’m not embarrassed to ask for a doggy-bag. If I can’t have one, I leave the rest which is a shame but better than treating my body disrespectfully. So enjoy your food when you eat out and when you‘ve had enough, stop eating and put down your knife and fork.

Top tip: Respect your body – don’t over-eat to clear your plate.

Diet not

I’ve seen a lot of adverts for diets lately; they’re designed to take advantage of the New Year motivation boost and the frustrations of having over-done things at Christmas (again). If you’ve ever lost weight on a diet, chances are you put it back on again later (possibly with a bit extra as well). Some people blame themselves for this, thinking that it’s a lack of self discipline. It isn’t true. Some believe that overweight people eat too much. That is sometimes the case but often that isn’t true either.

We’re told that all we need to do is eat less and exercise more. It sounds so plausible. As a scientist, I’m familiar with the law of energy conservation (energy in = energy out). When applied to the human body it’s more subtle and one key factor is the variability of the ‘energy out’ part of the equation. The body has a clever way of slowing down your metabolism to protect you against starvation when food is in short supply. Restrict the energy that goes in (e.g. go on a diet) and your body won’t carry on merrily burning the same amount of fuel as before, it will batten down the hatches and store everything it can.

Foods are not all the same and calories are not all equal. Some foods lead to fat storage, others boost the metabolism and promote fat burning. Limiting intake of bad foods is helpful. Limiting intake of good foods can lead to deficiencies of nutrients critical to good health. Rather than eating less of the same, many people would actually be better off if they focussed less on the amount but ate differently, ate better, ate well.

Dieting is not the answer.

Top tip – Don’t eat less, eat well!

Let’s Celebrate!

Food used to be at the centre of our lives. A home-cooked meal, eaten together was a time to talk and strengthen family relationships. We would spend a good portion of our income keeping ourselves well fed. We’d spend more of our time shopping, cooking and eating. This is still the way of life in France and Italy and is the secret of the famously healthy ‘Mediterranean Diet’. Fresh simple food, cooked with love and eaten with gratitude.

If this doesn’t describe your relationship with food, perhaps you could treat yourself to a change this Christmas. Most people get some time off work so you could make some delicious meals and spend time really enjoying eating.

I made my Christmas cake in November (to my grandmother’s recipe, complete with marmalade). S/W Ver: 85.83.E7PMince pies were last week’s job.A recent article by a cardiologist in the British Medical Journal confirmed that saturated fat does not cause heart disease so I had no qualms about using all butter for the pastry. They melt in the mouth. No sugar on top though – I didn’t want them all sickly like bought ones.

Christmas dinner is my favourite meal of the year. It takes some making and the secret is for everyone to help. Some can chop veg, some can peel potatoes, some can lay the table, others can wash up afterwards. My grandfather liked to make the starter (right up to the age of 94). Even children can do something.

I know there are some famous retailers offering to make your Christmas easier in exchange for lots of your money – just come and buy the lot. They’re missing the point. When you get people involved, the whole experience can be fun rather than a chore. The food I cook at home is tastier and better for me than pre-prepared food. If you’re a good cook who doesn’t use vegetable oil or add lots of salt and sugar to everything, the same could be true for you. As I celebrate remembering the time when God came in human form to save us, I’ll also celebrate the bounty of the earth and be thankful for the privilege of being able to eat well.

Top tip: Celebrate good food this Christmas.

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.

Christmas lights in Harrogate

Christmas lights in Harrogate