Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

This month was the Public Health Collaboration Conference.

They had to cancel the real one of course and instead did the whole thing on YouTube with the speakers doing their talks from home. What a great idea because now any of us can watch at any time we choose.

Check it out on the PHC’s YouTube channel here. They covered all sorts of things including: coronavirus and diet, cooking demos, diabetes, stress.

Of great relevance in these trouble times was Dr Aseem Malhotra’s message:

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

The Government’s original “Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives” message was to prevent overwhelm of an already overstretched NHS.

Why overstretched? Britain already has a huge burden of lifestyle-related, chronic diseasesPeople with those diseases suffer much more severely if they do catch the virus.

People with poor blood-sugar control are 10 times (that’s 1000%) more likely to die if they get coronavirus (11% cf 1.1%). Many MPs were diagnosed with the virus but only Boris ended up needing critical care. He cycles every day but he clearly doesn’t eat right and that’s the most important thing for blood sugar stability.

Good things coming out of this experience – Boris had been thinking of removing the sugar tax on drinks – now he won’t. Instead, he’s to launch a war on fat (bodily not dietary). I hope he promotes what works rather than bowing to pressure from food and diet companies.

I and some of the speakers have been angered by TV and newspaper coverage of junk-food companies giving away junk like doughnuts, pizzas and custard creams as a brand promoting opportunity. It’s these very foods that have made Britain more vulnerable than the rest of Europe where they still mostly buy fresh ingredients and cook their own meals at home.

There’s a powerful message of hope in the talks.

Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome – can be improved in days or weeks by eating better so here’s the message the nation needs to hear:

Eat Real Food

All the talks will stay freely available on YouTube so do have a look. The ones I enjoyed most were those by Dr Aseem Malhotra, Dr Joanne McCormack (Custard Creams) and a spoof one by Dr Campbell Murdoch which showed (using bombs and bullets) how you can ruin your metabolic health.

Spread the message

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

NB – if you watch the talks and switch to low-carb make sure you speak to your doctor about balancing dietary change with any medication.

Coronavirus and Food

Evidence is mounting for the usefulness of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium all of which boost your immune system. You can make sure you get great nutrients from fresh food by ditching the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. Supplements can be useful too. And a have a care with alcohol which blocks absorption.

Metabolic Health

Another important thing is your metabolic health (defined as normal blood pressure, low triglycerides, high HDL cholesterol, low waist circumference, HbA1c showing not pre-diabetic).

Poor metabolic health or metabolic syndrome increases your risk of death from coronavirus by 10 times – that’s 1000%.

It’s being driven by our current high carbohydrate, low fat eating style. Baddies include: breakfast cereal, ready meals, snack bars, anything made of flour or containing vegetable oil and other ultra-processed foods with more than 5 ingredients.

Poor metabolic health doesn’t always link to obesity (although the same foods also cause weight gain). And it affects people of all ages. In America 7 out of 8 people are metabolically unhealthy including 6 out of 8 people aged 20-40. I don’t know the number in Britain but looking at diet, many of our young people may well be metabolically unhealthy. The prevalence of diabetes is 3-5 times higher in the black/Asian population and we’ve seen how they are suffering higher death rates from this virus. They may also need vitamin D supplements as there is too little sunlight in Britain for their darker skin to make enough.

You can improve your metabolic health in a few weeks by cooking your own meals from fresh meat, fish, vegetables.

My simple guide for every meal –

Plants, Proteins, Fats

Quote of the month – time and health

Saving time to harm your health isn’t a good deal for me

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Every cloud has a silver lining. The current crisis has allowed us to consider the importance of our own health.

At the moment we’re all doing our best to stay safe and well in ways we may not have considered previously.

I’ve been without my health before – for 1 ½ years – so for me it’s been a priority ever since.

While we have time, this is the perfect time to decide to put a bit of effort into being well.

  • Your daily allowed exercise.
  • Sunshine and fresh air.
  • Connecting with family and friends online.

Underpinning it all is what you put in your body – FOOD is a crucial factor. You can choose to ditch the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. 🙂

Immune System Boost

I hope all of you are OK and managing to stay safe and sane at home in this weird world. Here are some tips to help your immune system:

Most of your immune system is in your gut so it matters what you eat and drink. Eat more:

  • Oily fish and eggs for vitamin Dwhich has many health benefits, including priming our T cells
  • Vegetables which give you lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants plus fibre to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

  • Live natural yoghurt, kefir, lassi and fermented vegetables to repopulate your good bacteria.
  • Coconut oil which has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Supplement with:

  • Vitamin C (it’s quickly flushed out of your body so take some every day)
  • Magnesium (most people are deficient)
  • Selenium (2 or 3 Brazils nuts a day is plenty)
  • Zinc (good food sources are seafood, lamb, turkey and pumpkin seeds)
  • Vitamin D (most of us are short of this unless we supplement – especially at this time of year when our skin hasn’t seen sunshine for so long)

Avoid:

  • Sugar – it feeds bad bacteria, unbalancing your system.

  • Processed food – you want your body to cope with the virus, not use all its energy fighting bad food.
  • Alcohol.

Other tips:

  • Eat right for your metabolic type (I’m now offering testing by Skype/telephone).
  • Get lots of sleep to make the powerful anti-oxidant melatonin.

  • Exercise, especially out in the fresh air (only with members of your household of course!). It will help you sleep better too.
  • If you smoke, give it up now.
  • Wash with actual bar soap whenever you possibly can. Coronaviruses are in a fatty ‘envelope’ which can be destroyed by soap. Also soap won’t damage your own protective bacterial like antibacterials do. Joanna Blythman retweeted this Tweet thread on why soap is so good.Solutions of ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol at between 60% and 80%, plus 3% hydrogen peroxide are effective for cleaning surfaces
  • Manage stress and prioritise self-care. Your mental health, physical health and immune system are connected so it helps to keep a sense of purpose and optimism. We won’t get back to normal for some time yet so look after yourself and do things that relax you and give you joy.

No Substitute

The choice of coffees is dizzying in cafés these days. Not just flat white, cappuccino or Americano but many varieties of milk with which to make them. The supermarket range of milks has grown hugely too. Here’s a look at their nutrition.

Whole milk is rich and creamy with such high quality protein, good fats, high bio-availability minerals and vitamins and digestibility, it rates even better than steak. Dairy appears to protect against heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Jersey gold top is creamier still and hasn’t been homogenised so the cream rises to the top – remember the blue tits pecking through foil bottle tops?

Unpasteurised milk is available from farms around the country and still contains its enzymes and beneficial bacteria. It might reduce children’s risk of suffering from eczema, hay fever and other allergies.

Organic is the gold standard for animal welfare and lack of chemicals.

Reduced fat milk contains good protein, lots of B vitamins and plenty of calcium and phosphorous. It is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins A and D because the natural vitamins are lost with the fat. However, without the fat, it is harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and the calcium.

A common mistake is to think skimmed milk helps weight loss. I call it the skinny latte fallacy. It’s the natural sugar in milk that could cause weight gain so less milk is a better strategy.

Goats’ milk is similarly nutritionally to cows’ and its A2 casein causes fewer allergies than the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk.

Lactose-free milk is really useful if you’re intolerant to the sugar in milk (lactose). In South East Asia and Southern Africa 90% are lactose-intolerant but in Northern Europe it’s only about 3%. This problem has been exacerbated now that most of the milk available is pasteurised which destroys the enzyme lactase you’ll find in raw milk. Another option might be to use the fermented milk kefir which contains hardly any lactose.

Filtered milk has longer shelf life. This comes at the loss of health-beneficial good bacteria. You can make up for this by eating live, natural yoghurt or kefir.

Long-Life milk has been ultra-heat-treated to sterilise it. It’s very handy for a weekend away camping if you don’t have access to a fridge, as is powdered milk.

Flavoured milks are a bit like runny ice cream with their added sugar, flavouring and other chemicals, so don’t ever think of these as healthy. The best I found on sale were from Shaken Udder. My grandfather used to make us milk shakes using Jersey gold top, a few strawberries or cocoa powder and a bit (not a lot) of banana in a blender.

Milk substitutes are helpful if you have allergies. They’re white and they pour but they’re not milk. Most of them have more than 5 ingredients and are therefore classed as ultra-processed. They may have synthetic vitamins and minerals added and most have low protein and fat but you can use other foods to make up for what milk would have provided.

Nut milks generally contain only ~2% nuts and might have more added sugar than that – check the label. It’s easy to make your own. Just soak some nuts in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, rinse well in a sieve and put in a blender with some fresh water. Whizz. That’s it. You can strain out the pulp if you prefer.

Oat milk and rice milk have little to commend them nutritionally and are mainly carbohydrate or as Dr Unwin calls it “soon to be sugar”.

Soya milk has high protein content but this has only a partial set of amino acids. Its calcium comes with the anti-nutrient phytic acid which blocks calcium absorption. I do not recommend consumption of unfermented soya in any form, including milk.

Coconut milk is good for fat and flavour.

Hemp milk is a new one on me and provides some excellent fats.

Top tip – You’ll only get the full nutritional benefits from the real thing but with so many types to choose from, you’ll always be able to put something white in your coffee.

Eat Yourself Well

I’m about to deliver an Eat Yourself Well day for The Create Escape in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

They run lovely days, each on a special topic like pottery, creative writing, photography, chemical-free cosmetics – plus a cookery demonstration followed by a 2-course lunch, in a delightful farmhouse with an entertaining double act from hosts Angela and Debs.

Some questions I’ll be asking are:

  • how well are you now?
  • how well do you want to be?
  • how high is food in your priorities?

Helen Gerson said there are only two root causes of chronic disease: Deficiency and toxicity.

She was talking about non-infectious things like T2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, aches, pains, digestive woes, skin problems, lack of energy.

Food can boost your health or damage your health.

You can do yourself good by stuffing in lots of untainted goodness.  Think back to the 70s – meat and two veg, cooked at home.  It simplifies your shopping, it’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s satisfying, you can make it tasty and you’ll feel so much better.I fear that marketing is now the number 1 factor governing what we buy rather than the effect on our bodies.

Manufactured food is much more profitable than home-cooked food so it’s thrust under your nose all day long. Sadly it has lower or damaged nutrients and often contains health damaging chemicals. It’s addictive by design, leading to over-eating and leaving many people over-fed and undernourished. If you buy anything with an ingredients list, read it. Avoid sugar, sweeteners, vegetable oil and anything with more than 5 ingredients.

The good news is that you can easily choose to take care of yourself with a quick trip to the butchers and the green grocers.

Your body will say, “Thank You” when you eat yourself well.

TOP TIPS

  • Food is not just fuel. Think about goodness rather than calories.
  • Eat natural, local and seasonal: fresh vegetables and fruit, grass-fed, free-range meat, non-farmed fish, natural fats.
  • Minimise sugar, vegetable oil and processed food.
  • Drink water to quench your thirst.
  • Buy real food, cook with love, eat with gratitude and enjoy!

What would I recommend off these promotional flyers?

Just the eggs on the first one and the beef, chicken and cheese on the second.

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!

Eat to Save the Planet

Climate change is in the news again and saving the planet looks like a challenge the human race is not taking seriously. Surely it’s a good idea to reduce consumption of energy and resources and not be wasteful.

Sir David Attenborough said about saving global eco systems,

The enemy is waste; when you see what’s thrown away, it’s shameful.”

The most environmentally damaging industry is air and sea travel, next comes fast fashion but food is right up there in importance. The ways we farm, process, eat and waste food are unsustainable. The UN has estimated that we waste 1/3 of the food produced – that’s 1.3 billion tonnes a year. Other estimates are as high as 50%. It’s been shown that the third most effective way to tackle climate change is to reduce food waste. So when I was putting the bin out I started thinking about how we can do our bit for the planet.

Our council collects rubbish once a fortnight. Perhaps your wheelie bin is nearly empty, like mine, but I see overflowing bins all over town.  Recycling is also collected once a fortnight. Again, I noticed boxes overflowing with bottles and mountains of cardboard boxes.

What’s going on? Could it be partly down to the type of food we buy and the way it’s packaged?

The more processed a food is, the more of its sale price goes to on advertising – including making the products’ packages look appealing even if the tempting images bear little relation to what’s inside.

A great way to reduce waste (food and packaging) and save lots of money is to do a little planning, buy real food and do your own cooking. Last August I ran a series of costed recipes and these plus others and some tips on healthy eating and weight loss are in my Eat Well and Save recipe booklet, now available £3.95 or £5 with postage.

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Leftover salmon with kale, sun-dried tomatoes and blue cheese

Cooking your meals from scratch gives you control over portion sizes too which could be good for your waistline. If you make too much, save any leftovers to eat another day rather than bin them.  Also see this blog Love Leftovers.

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To help you get organised try this useful weekly plan sheets from Wilko – with thanks to Elsa one of the Eat Well Gang who told me about them.

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and my shopping list prompt to help you think about the week ahead rather than walking round the shops buying whatever takes your fancy or what they promote the hardest, then ending up with too much or something missing that you need.

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As well as reducing waste, we can support regenerative agriculture (small scale, mixed, grass fed animals and arable farming) which has negative carbon emissions (ie reduces global warming), supports rich ecosystems with plants, insects and mammals and enriches the soil. Intensive (factory) agriculture (indoor livestock fed on grains and large scale arable using chemical fertilisers with pesticides and herbicides) causes greater emissions, loss of wildlife and biodiversity plus soil damage.

See Feedback Global.

When you buy meat from a supermarket, you get a plastic box. You can buy meat from a butcher and come away with a small, flimsy plastic bag. Yes it’s still plastic but a tiny fraction of the amount.

Buying local and in season saves food miles. It will be British asparagus season soon. Buy some to eat and some to freeze then you won’t need asparagus all the way from Peru later.

Grow a bit of salad or some soft fruit in the garden.

And even if you don’t have a garden you could grow some herbs in a pot on your kitchen window-sill.

Top tips – Include environmental impact when choosing the food you buy.

– Buy what you need, in minimal packaging and eat all of it.

More ideas at Love Food Hate Waste.