About learntoeatwell

I'm an ex-international competitor in archery with a scientific background and a passion for food and health. I used to eat a diet considered very healthy; low in fat with lots of fruit and veg. Sadly, I put on weight and was tired and hungry all the time. A Metabolic Type Test put me on the right track and is the foundation of my Nutrition Coaching programme which combines information about foods with coaching support for behavioural change. Eating differently, my own excess weight melted away, my energy came back and I've felt great ever since. My passion now is to help other people learn to eat well and enjoy the benefits of managed weight, more energy and better health. Wishing you well Jackie

Magnesium

The days are shorter, the sun slants at a shallower angle and we won’t be able to make vitamin D until next March/April. At this time of year I usually remind you that a vitamin D supplement is a good idea. And since with all micronutrients they work together, something you’ll need for your Vitamin D to work is magnesium (plus vitamins K2 and B6).

Magnesium is important for your heart, for your brain, for energy production, for insulin sensitivity and so much more. It’s essential if you take calcium. Deficiency is linked to: acid reflux, anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD and depression, constipation, fatigue and insomnia, muscle problems like cramp, fibromyalgia and post exercise soreness (the dreaded DOMS).  I heard in July from Dr David Unwin about how it helped a patient whose fitting had not responded to medication and turned out to be magnesium deficiency caused by other medication.

Having suffered with for years, I was thrilled that it also helps with Raynaud’s. As soon as there was a cool, damp day (even in summer), I’d touch something cold and the circulation in my fingers would just switch off. I’ve even had to warm up cutlery before eating and have occasionally been in so much pain with it that I cried. But since I started taking magnesium a year ago, my fingers have stayed pink.

Most people are deficient but it doesn’t show up with a simple blood test because your body will keep levels constant, even scavenging from your bones and muscles for the sake of your heart.

The main food sources are kelp, wheat (only wholegrain), nuts, soya (best only eaten fermented) and coconut. You could also take tablets, soak in an Epsom salts bath or spray an oil mixture on your skin.  There are different compounds of magnesium available as supplements.  Dr Mercola discusses their merits here.

Check out The Magnesium Miracle by Caroline Dean or her blog.

Top tip – Boost your health with magnesium

NB There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t take magnesium

  • if you have kidney failure,
  • very slow heart rate,
  • bowel obstruction
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • and check with your doctor about any medication.

Quote of the month – our little effort

I don’t know what the future’s going to be but this is my little effort.

Sir Clough Williams Ellis

We went to Portmeirion while on holiday this year and saw how this inspirational man used a “light opera approach to architecture” to demonstrate that you can develop a naturally beautiful location without defiling it.

We still don’t know what the future’s going to be and it looks rocky just now but we can all contribute our own little effort to make a better world.

Real Food Rocks

Saturday 20th July dawned (just about) dark and wet. It didn’t look good for Real Food Rocks at Brathay, Ambleside. The promise of sessions with some of the country’s leading food and exercise visionaries had more than doubled expected ticket sales and bookings had to close at 700.  David Unwin and his wife Jen organised the event, bringing top quality speakers and vendors (check out the Horned Beef Company and Hunter & Gather avocado oil mayonnaise), music and family fun. Was it a gamble holding a prestigious nutrition event in the lake district in summer?

I arrived early and got a seat in a room already almost full, to which were added a couple of dozen standing, more sitting on the floor and some listening to Dr Michael Moseley from outside through the open window. This set the pattern for the day but I managed to squeeze my way in to hear Ivor Cummins, Jenny Phillips, Dr David Unwin (an award-winning GP from Southport who is putting his diabetic patients into remission with diet) and Emma Porter whose low-carb recipes I am enjoying very much.

Here are just a few of the key messages from the day:

Michael Moseley

The Mediteranean Diet (the real one with lots of fats and oily fish, not the one on the NHS website which looks suspiciously like the standard, bad dietary recommendations) helps with severe depression.

Disappointingly, he told us that when his son did medicine at university recently, in the 5 years there was nothing at all on diet or exercise due to lack of time!!! The students organised their own study group. Change is coming as a grass roots movement but the NHS is as hard to turn round as a tanker.

Michael’s wife Dr Claire Bailey (GP) demonstrated fermented food for good gut health. There are as many brain cells in your gut as the head of a cat. Michael said they have a smart cat.

Commenting on exercise, he revealed that the 10k steps a day is not evidence based but came from Japan and was started by a company that makes pedometers!

Ivor Cummins

Ivor talked about ‘healthspan’ rather than lifespan. Bad lifestyle choices can rob you of your health as many as 10years too early. Good lifestyle choices can increase your healthy time by 10years.

Choosing to address your diet, exercise and stress can give you 20 extra quality years.

David Unwin

David spoke affectionately about the many different animals he has owned from the mallard ducklings he nearly killed with a vitamin deficient diet of porridge to a cow.

He was told he must feed the cow magnesium so that it would not have fits because cows really need to eat wild flowers like buttercups not just nitrogen-rich green grass (see the Horned Beef Company). This turned out to also be the remedy for a patient’s severe fitting which had been not helped by drugs. Modern medicine often fails to consider nutrition even though we know how to look after livestock.

Emma Porter and Dr Ian Lake

Emma and Ian spoke about real food and carbohydrate restricted diets for type 1 diabetics so that less insulin is needed. (This must be done in partnership with your doctor.) Other results are boundless energy, weight loss, mental clarity, better teeth and stable blood sugar. Dr Ian Lake pointed out that although the short term results are fabulous, there are no long-term studies of a low-carb diet. However he said we do know for sure that if your follow the usual high carb guidelines you will come to a sticky end. Emma and Dr David Cavan have written The Low-Carb Diabetes Cookbook – it’s not just for diabetics.

Jenny Philipps

Jenny spoke about metabolic health. Her key messages were quality (real food), intermittent fasting and using David Unwin’s sugar equivalent infographics to choose low impact foods. If you are metabolically healthy, you’ll be fine eating the odd piece of cake. If your health is poor, it’s very important to avoid high sugar foods.

And the dodgy weather?  The sun came out, the scenery glowed and a good day was had by all.

Top tip: Real Food Rocks!

Eggstraordinary!

Happy Hens, Great Eggs

Eggs nutritional gold in their own little packages.
They're good value, easy to prepare, versatile, 
satisfying and delicious.  We certainly eat a lot of them
36 million a day!


Does anyone remember the slogan 'Go to Work on an Egg'?
The original Tony Hancock adverts are on YouTube.
It's much sounder advice than breakfast cereal ads today.

There was a time when we were advised to eat fewer eggs;
now the Food Standards Agency says they're good for
everyone, even raw.
The British Lion mark was launched in 1998 and shows when
hens have been vaccinated against salmonella.

So what’s in them?
  • Protein - including all the essential amino acids
     and against which all other 
    protein sources are measured.
  • Fats – including mono-unsaturated
    and essential long-chain omega 3 fatty acids.
    They famously contain cholesterol
    but this will not affect your blood levels.
  • Vitamins - A, B2 (riboflavin), B5, B9 (folate), B12
    and D.
  • Minerals - rich in selenium, phosphorous and iron.
  • Other - choline (the only other food rich in this essential
    nutrient is liver)
    - lutein and zeaxanthin (needed by your eyes).
    
How good your eggs are depends on how the hens
have lived.

Could you keep your own hens?
If that’s not an option and you haven’t any
hen-keeping friends, buy the best of what’s available
Organic eggs are the most expensive at ~30p each.
They have the best animal welfare standards and are 
always free-range.  Hens are naturally inquisitive
creatures, happier when free to forage outside.

Free-range eggs have better animal welfare than hens
kept inside and a superior nutritional profile with double
the amount of vitamins and omega 3 fats.


Sainsbury’s sells woodland eggs from hens free to forage
among trees as wild ones would.

Barn eggs come from hens kept inside, up to a maximum
of 6000, with space to move around.  They eat only the
food provided.

Omega 3 eggs have feed supplemented by flaxseed
oil and/or fish oil.

The cheapest eggs come from hens in cages.

Beware marketing tricks – is the idyllic farm in the picture
a real farm?  Each egg has a number stamped on it
where it came from.
When factory hens are crammed together there’s a greater
likelihood of disease so they get daily antibiotics.  This
adds to the danger we’ll lose the use of these
life-saving drugs one day.

14 year old Lucy Gavaghan's petition resulted in a huge,
national shift away from hens in cages.  Barren, battery
cages are now banned under EU law, so all Lion Marked
eggs come from enriched cages.

Caged hens are fed just on grains without all the good
plants and little critters they would grub up if they were
outside.
Having said that, even cheap eggs (~12p each) are
good for you and far better than many of the processed
foods for sale.

Local farm eggs are often for sale in your local butcher's
or supermarkets and could come under any of these
categories.  You might see signs on country lanes too.
Some of these eggs are superb but if they do not bear
the Lion Mark there are no guarantees of quality.

Find out more at egginfo.co.uk

Top Tip – Eat eggs laid by happy hens!

Quote of the month – top books

Britain’s biggest seller is cookbooks. The second is diet books. How not to eat what you’ve just learned to cook!

Brian Turner, chef

In Britain we sell more cooking books per capita than any other country – but we cook less.  Have we made it all too complicated?  As a friend of mine said “Cooking is common sense and the application of heat.”

This is the scrummy one-pot chicken from my recipe booklet Eat Well and Save.

Breakfast Cereal

A good day depends on stable blood-sugar so what you eat before work, sport or just life is really important. Although introduced only very recently, most people now start the day with a bowl of cereal. When I looked into snack bars in March, I noticed the cheery image cereal companies use to entice us to eat ultra-processed, recreational food first thing in the morning. Here’s one of Dr Unwin’s award-winning diagrams showing how badly even the blander types affect your blood-sugar.

(Similar pictures for other foods are available on the Public Health Collaboration website.)

The lined up spoons of sugar do not represent sugar added as an ingredient or even carbohydrate content; they show what happens to your blood compared to eating that much sugar. Note that the serving size is 30g (except for porridge) so if you have more than that, the effects will be greater. Anything frosted or with flavouring like honey is going to be even worse. None of these include any sugar you might put on top.

Dr David Unwin has been leading the UK in offering his diabetic patients dietary advice coupled with tailored medication. He has saved his practice £10,000s and some patients are in complete remission. He realised that added sugar in food isn’t the only problem. Our bodies quickly break down processed starches into simple sugars so he coined the phrase ‘soon to be sugar’. In terms of your blood levels, that means the difference between a slice of bread and some glucose is about 15 minutes in your stomach. All of us can benefit from reducing these foods (diabetics need to consult their doctors to keep their medication matched to their intake).

The Boxed Bunch

Surprisingly, the worst on David’s pic.

Most of the boxed cereals are made of the same things – processed grains, sugar, flavourings and added vitamins and minerals (not all in a highly bio-available form). Of those shown here, Corn Flakes and Coco Pops have the worst effect on blood sugar. A quick rise in blood sugar will be followed by insulin production leading to a crash. Peaks and troughs spell disaster; it’s no good getting weak and shaky after only a couple of hours.

Shredded Wheat prides itself on being made only with whole wheat. It’s true that it doesn’t have any added sugar or chemicals. You’d think that makes it a good bet but it’s still highly processed ‘soon to be sugar’. The diagram shows 4.8 teaspoons of sugar equivalent for 30g. One Shredded Wheat weighs 22g which is equivalent to 3.6 tsp so a typical breakfast of two is equivalent to 7.3 tsp.

Some people I know swear by Bran Flakes. They do have the most fibre and, close to Special K, a relatively lower impact.  But at 4 or 5 tsp of sugar equivalent, that’s still a lot.

Many people find that they get hungry before 10am after a box-cereal breakfast. I used to and gave it up 15 years ago.

Muesli can OK but check the ingredients or make your own. Dried fruit is a concentrated source of sugar to watch out for. Granola is generally worse as it have been sweetened. Also it’s sometimes cooked in vegetable oil which is an added problem.

The best I found was Rollagranola which you can buy on line here. Or again, you can make your own using coconut oil, proper oats, lots of nuts and seeds and no sugar or a little drizzle of maple syrup.

Here are a couple of granola recipes from Cookie and Kate and Libby at Ditch the Carbs. (You’ll have to ignore the many ads but there are excellent videos and explanations of why breakfast cereals are so terrible for our health.)

 

Breakfast of Champions

To keep feeling good throughout the day, experiment eating food in a more natural state and include protein and fat rather than eating carbohydrate on its own. I encourage people to eat some fresh plants with each meal too.

Many people find they fare well on porridge.  Natural oats release more slowly than the processed sachets and they are far cheaper. You can replace some of the oats with protein and fat as Joe Wicks does using ground flax seed, chia seeds, desiccated coconut and almond milk, topped with natural yoghurt. You could use ordinary milk, coconut milk or a dollop of cream and add some berries.

Now that it’s summer, try Jon Gabriel’s light but satisfying plain yoghurt mixed with nuts, seeds, protein powder and fruit.

Eggs are very nutritious and versatile for breakfast.  You can have them boiled, fried, poached, or as an omelette.  Most people used to ‘Go to work on an egg’.  Even as recently as the 1950, half the working population had a cooked breakfast.

Go continental with boiled eggs, avocado, ham and cheese. Save time by hard boiling your eggs the night before. Or dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume. Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, whey powder, natural oats etc. Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries. Beware high-sugar, bought smoothies and most of the recipes on the internet which have too much fruit.

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Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. Choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato (hold the beans and hash browns) or do the Aussie thing – steak and egg – perhaps with wilted spinach.

For a change, go fishy with a tin of mackerel plus half a pear and some seeds or indulge in smoked salmon, delicious with scrambled eggs on toast and courgette.

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Top tip – Ditch the cereal and eat a good breakfast to keep your blood sugar stable.

PS- Here’s a BBC documentary about the beginning and growth to world domination of the cereal industry.  It explains how we ended up in our current mess with millions of people damaging their health, every morning, thinking it’s a good thing to do.

And by the way, it’s the breakfast cereal business that told us we don’t have time to cook and paved the way for the whole processed food industry.  Make your health a priority and you’ll find you do have time to eat well.