Shapes and Colours

As I walk through town looking at the gardens, the flowers may be fading but the leaves are turning copper and gold and the apples hang red on the trees. Whatever the season, there are wonderful shapes and colours in nature. This is how our food should be too.

There are many types of fish and they’re fish-shaped, not oblong, battered or crumbed. It’s easy to add your own toppings if you like. Fresh meat will have been cut up into large joints with individual shapes or small pieces. There can be a world of difference between a bought burger and some mince to make your own and between chicken nuggets and a free-range drumstick.

Take a look at your shopping as it goes along the supermarket conveyor belt. Is it all beige? Is it all square? I wrote a little rhyme:

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

When you go to the shops

If it comes in a box

Let it stay on the shelf

For the sake of your health

 

Each type of food brings its own special nutrients. Eating the same things every day can leave you with deficiencies and makes intolerance more likely. Most people have loads of recipe books and eat the same dozen meals all the time. Mix them up: white meat one day, fish another, then red meat, perhaps an omelette, or have a boost with liver or oily fish. Have rice or quinoa sometimes rather than always potatoes. Challenge yourself to buy a wider variety of vegetables. Eat two types with each meal, different colours. If you have something starchy, pair it with something non-starchy eg carrots with green beans, peas with red cabbage, sweet corn with pak choi. It’ll be a feast for your eyes on the conveyor belt and your plate.

Top tip – buy some foods with shapes and colours.

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Perceptions of Normality

At every point in history, people perceive the things they do as normal, including what they eat. Socially, we have evolved to fit in with what everybody does. In these modern times, we also align our behaviour to the images and messages with which the media constantly bombard us.

Some years ago, there was a successfulCornetto advertising campaign to convince people that sugar was an aid to dieting – “eat a biscuit before lunch or an ice cream”! It seems ridiculous to us now but people bought into it then. The current trend is fat avoidance which we’ll no doubt look back on with disbelief. The sad truth is that experts in marketing can change what we think so that we’ll change what we buy.

Bowl of cerealBreakfast cereal arrived in the UK in 1900 and gained popularity in 1930 but even as recently as the 1950s and 60s, breakfast would have been cooked eggs, fish or meat. Ready meals were limited to Vesta chicken supreme with boil in the bag rice which I recall with misery cooking on a primus stove while camping but would never have eaten at home. Takeaways meant fish and chips carried home wrapped in newspaper. Nowadays people think it’s normal to order by ‘phone and have any variety of fast food delivered to their door.

What’s really normal? For millions of years we were hunter gatherers eating only meat and low-glycemic index plants. Farming started around 10,000 years ago increasing consumption of grains. Intensive farming, processed food and chemical additives burgeoned after WWII. This is the blink of an eye in human history. We have not evolved to the modern diet; our bodies still want natural meat, fish and veg.

Top tip: Eat real food – that’s what’s normal for humans.

Quotes of the month

Michael Pollan – Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

Zoe Harcombe – Eat food, mostly animals, quite a lot.

 

Real food

Real food

Which of these suits you will depend on your metabolic type but they both agree that you should eat food.  What do they mean?  We all eat food don’t we?  No.  They mean real food, not fake food.

 

Fake food

Fake food

Zoe’s tip for telling the difference is to think what you find in nature.

There will be fish in a river, not packets of fish fingers.

Real food

Real food

 

 

There will be apples on the trees, not cartons of juice.

Fake food

Fake food

 

 

 

 

 

You can dig potatoes out of a field, not bags of oven chips.

Fake food

Fake food

Jack LaLanne – If man makes it, don’t eat it.

Barry Groves – Civilsed man is the only chronically sick animal on the planet.

Zoe Harcombe – We’re the only species clever enough to make our own food and stupid enough to eat it.

And here’s a little rhyme I wrote:

When you go to the shops

If it comes in a box,

Let it stay on the shelf

For the sake of your health!

 

Indulge and Eat Well this Christmas

We’re in the season of indulgence so while you’re in the mood why not treat yourself to some truly fabulous, healthy foods?Eggs

For the ultimate luxury breakfast, start the day with lightly scrambled free-range eggs topped with smoked salmon.

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ChickenIf you’re eating chicken or turkey on Christmas day, find a butcher who buys directly from a local farm where animal welfare matters. Boil up the carcass afterwards to make some health-boosting stock and use to make delicious soup with any leftover meat and veg. If you prefer a joint of beef or some steak, the best is grass-fed and organic.

Cook roast potatoes in lard or go for goose fat. CauliVegetable oil is damaged by heat and should never be used for cooking. Choose organic veggies of different colours to make the plate look cheerful as well as giving you a variety of vitamins and minerals. Steam your veg to retain flavour, texture and nutrients.

NutsUpgrade your snacks with bowls of natural nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese. Or cut crispy vegetables into sticks and serve with a home-made dip eg cream cheese, natural yoghurt, lemon juice and herbs.

StiltonHaving a cheese board? Seek out traditionally made artisan cheeses rather than anything mass-produced or processed. Cumbrian cheeses come in a remarkable array from mild to head-blowing. Unpasteurised cheeses are rich in beneficial bacterial (avoid if you’re in a Grapeshigh-risk group eg pregnant or elderly). Enjoy real butter on your crackers; it’s much healthier than ‘spreads’. Serve with grapes and celery for a refreshing crunch.

Finish off with some high-cacao rich, dark chocolate. Yum.

Dark chocolate

Top tip: Eat really well. Merry Christmas!

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.

 

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.

 

Antibiotics in factory farming

Does it matter whether your sausages come from a free-range farm like Louise’s?

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health worldwide.  The primary cause is their widespread over-use which occurs in medicine and also in food production. In America about 80% of antibiotic use is in farming.

Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention.  In America, but not the EU, they are also used for growth promotion. Those antibiotics are transferred to you via meat and through manure used as fertilizer for crops.

Antibiotics are needed in factory farming because of the crowded, unsanitary living conditions – yet another reason to buy free-range.  Of the ~9 million pigs slaughtered each year in Britain, only about 1.5% are organic.Factory farmed pigs. Credit: Compassion in World Farming

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention4 (CDC) estimates 22% of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is linked to food and recommends that antibiotics use in livestock be phased out.

American researchers have found MRSA in pigs and workers at factory farms but not in pigs on antibiotic-free farms.  Once MRSA is introduced, it could spread to other animals and the workers, as well as to their families and friends.

Over-exposure to antibiotics takes a heavy toll on your gastrointestinal health.  Your immune system is mostly down to the good bacteria in your gut so you can become more vulnerable to diseases.  We can support the Soil Association’s ‘Not in My Banger‘ campaign against the escalation of industrial pig farming in the UK for the sake of our own health as well as to oppose the keeping of wonderful, intelligent pigs in such unnatural conditions.

Not in my banger

Free-Range Pork

PigsDo you care enough about your health to ask for free-range pork?

Here’s a guest blog post from Louise at Croft farm to explain why you should.

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Free-range pigs live their whole lives outdoors with access to warm, dry houses and the ability to indulge all of their natural behaviours, such as rooting and playing. Pigs are incredibly curious and friendly animals, and free range pigs are always full of fun and are a pleasure to care for. Pigs Pigletare exceptionally good mums, and we get huge pleasure from watching our huge free-range animals gently snuffling their new-born piglets and supervising them as they learn about the world around them through playing and exploring.

As a result of their outdoor life, free-range pigs grow more slowly than their intensively farmed cousins and so are brought into the food chain at a later stage. This produces firm, lean and juicy meat which is of a high nutritional standard.

In stark contrast, intensively farmed pigs spend their entire lives indoors, crowded into concrete pens and dosed with all sorts of medication to ward off the inevitable diseases which come from being highly stressed and in such close proximity to so many other animals. Despite being banned in the UK, many European and other pig farms, which provide well over half of the cheap pork products sold in our supermarkets, still use intensive systems which are little short of barbaric. Sows give birth in crates, contraptions which are supposed to prevent the risk of the mum accidentally squashing one of her babies when she lays down to feed them but which actually prevent her from having any sort of interaction with them at all, save for being a captive feeding station.

Once weaned, the piglets are moved into large sheds with many others where they will live out their days in crowded conditions, never seeing the light of day or feeling grass, or their much loved mud, under their trotters. To prevent these bored, distressed animals from hurting each other in the inevitable fights which occur in such an environment, piglets routinely have their teeth clipped and their lovely curly tails docked, to prevent other animals biting them.

Sadly this meat is not only produced from very unhappy animals, but is also often very poor quality. And when you eat it, you are unwittingly ingesting all the antibiotics and other drugs which were part of the pigs’ daily ration to enable them to survive their horrific conditions. The true price of any meat must include the cost of keeping the animal in a humane and healthy way. Buying cheap meat of any kind is a false economy if you care about your own health, never mind that of the animal.Pig Straight Tail

 

The only guarantee of high standards of welfare, as well as excellent quality meat is to ask for free range. At Croft Barn in Lorton we believe the best meat comes from happy animals raised as naturally as possible, which is why all our rare breed pigs are free range – and why our pork is so very tasty!

Rare Breed, Free-Range, Local Pork.
Croft Barn, Off the B5289, Low Lorton, Cumbria.
01900 85678.

If you care about where your meat comes from, come along to Croft Barn in Lorton, meet the pigs, and buy some pork

 

Meat Matters

I’m a great fan of the Soil Association and the wonderful work they do in defence of real agriculture.Raw meat q MP900438778 free

When I read a letter in their magazine Living Earth which suggested ‘we should all be eating less meat for our own health’ I felt the need to respond.  My reply is published on the letters page in the spring edition of Living Earth.  For those of you who are not members I quoted the statement above and continued,

‘Actually many people would benefit from eating more meat.  We are not all the same in our dietary needs.  The high carbohydrate metabolic type is the least common in Britain and lots of my clients arrive in a terrible state (as I used to be) due to eating the currently fashionable diet of little meat and even less fat when in fact their bodies need both.  I support you in better-quality meat but refute the notion that less equals healthier.’