Quote of the month

From a Cumbrian country fair kid's food competition.

From a Cumbrian country fair kid’s food competition.

 

Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food

Michael Pollan

Author of In Defence of Food

and Cooked

I saw this one in Wild Zucchini, Cockermouth, beautifully written on the blackboard and incorporating pictures.

What price meat?

Did you see Michael Mosely’s two part documentary on meat? The first part considered health and, at the risk of me massively over-simplifying an hour-long programme, seemed to conclude that eating fresh meat is fine but processed meat may increase your chance of cancer.

The second part considered environmental effects. This, I felt, focussed far too much on production of green house gasses and ignored other environmental impacts. The man at a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in America cheerfully said his was the green way to raise cattle. He completely ignored the fact that his animals lived in a barren, grey wilderness reminiscent of a concentration camp. There was not a single plant, insect, butterfly, bee or bird to be seen. This is not my vision of green farming.

Any environmentally friendly, sustainable farming system needs to include protection of biodiversity and care for the land itself. Grass stabilises the land and prevents desertification, so grass and grazing animals naturally bring environmental benefits. The manure that the animals produce fertilizes the land so that it retains its nutrients. Contrast this with the CAFO animals whose dung is a problematic waste to be disposed of and whose food is corn grown using artificial fertilizers in a cycle that depletes that land and pollutes the water.

Large areas of some countries are given over to growing crops like corn and soy, in huge mono-culture farms, just for animal feed. The natural diet for cattle is grass. Corn and soy cause health problems for the animals and change the profile of the meat to higher omega 6 content and lower omega 3 so the meat is less good for us – there was no mention of this.

Take a look at www.sustainablefoodtrust.org/true-cost

Top tip: Buy grass-fed, local meat.

 

110% ?

It’s been a great summer of sport with the Such3Commonwealth Games, golf (what a fab Ryder cup), cricket and the European Athletics Championships. My husband gets annoyed when sports people say they’ve given 110%.  If you put 100% into something, by definition, that’s everything you’ve got. There is no more. When it comes to eating well, how far are you prepared to go? Do you need or want to eat 100% good things?

Recently, I went to a delightful concert with tea and cake at Higham Hall. A gentleman who had heard one of my talks watched with interest to see whether I would indulge. Knowing that a cream scone once in a blue moon wouldn’t do me too much harm, I had one (well, half of one). I ate it mindfully and enjoyed it very much.

Golf put MWLike sports people, the % effort you put in depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you have serious health problems, then it’s worth putting serious efforts into supporting your body by eating all good, nutrient-packed food. If you’re healthy and feel great, you might take a more relaxed approach.

What if you’re in-between with a few niggles, an expanding girth, declining energy, but nothing drastic?   First, think about your physical state and the importance to you of it being better. Second, estimate current percentages of natural food and processed food you eat. Marketing is so subtle and devious that you might not even be sure which foods count as good and which as bad. Low-fat fruit yoghurts are a classic processed food posing as a healthy choice. Third and last, decide what you are willing to do to improve your life. Choose a level that gives you some benefits and that you can sustain.

Top tip – You decide how far you want to go.

Holidays

Everyone I speak to at the moment is about to go away somewhere exotic.Boat shutterstock_56507482 free There are huge physical and psychological benefits to be had from going on holiday. It’s wonderful to be looked after; for someone else to cook and wash up for you, to make your bed and clean the floor. Holidays let us recharge and give us space and time to remember why we love to be alive. They’re a time to treat ourselves. We buy things we wouldn’t normally buy. We sleep in, stay up late and enjoy the luxury of doing what we want in between. Relaxation, walks, swimming, new people to meet and exciting places to go, quality time with loved ones – so far so good.

Food and drink is where it can all come unravelled. It’s so easy to go mad and stuff yourself silly, particularly on an ‘all-inclusive’ deal. In these credit-crunch days we want our money’s worth. The holiday word is ‘indulgence’. If you did a pre-holiday diet, the splurge can be partly fuelled by the deprivation you suffered beforehand. This ‘on or off’, ‘all or nothing’ mentality gives your body problems. Instead of just eating more, how about using mindfulness to get more pleasure from what you eat? You’ve more time than usual to notice how good your food looks and smells. Savour the tastes and textures. Eat more slowly and let your senses soak it all in. Fabulous!

If, like me, you’re spending the summer at home, you can take the same approach with home cooking, picnics, parties and BBQs. Even a simple salad for lunch can be an amazing experience when you give it your full attention.

Top tip: For maximum enjoyment of food – eat mindfully.

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.