Quote of the month

The school holidays are almost upon us and there’ll be lots of time to do fun things – hopefully in the sunshine.  Here are some words from the wise about the types of foods we commonly regards as treats.

Treat treats as treatsIce lolly

Michael Pollan

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Don’t treat your mouth like an amusement park

Joe Cross

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Every time someone calls junk a treat, please correct them. We will never make progress until people see eating cr@p as anything but a treat

Zoe Harcombe

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Junk_Food.JPG

 

Sugar Tax

I was delighted to see the sugar tax announced in the budget. Official acknowledgement of the problem is a welcome step in the right direction. Manufacturers love sugar; every one of the 10 thousand taste buds in your tongue and palate, has special receptors for sweetness so it’s very ‘moreish’ (addictive). They wont want to lose their huge profits so they’ll do everything they can to convince us to keep buying. Hopefully a higher price will push people towards water instead.

What happens when we consume sugar? Sucrose is a 2 part molecule made of glucose and fructose. 80% of the glucose part will be distributed round your body to be used for energy. If your body isn’t using energy, insulin mops up the glucose to store it as fat. The other 20% goes to your liver to be safely stored as glycogen. 100% of the fructose goes to your liver, the only organ that can process it, where it will mostly be turned into fat. When you eat whole fruit, the fibre changes the way the fructose is metabolised. So glucose without exercise is a problem but fructose without fibre is worse.

 

Fake food

That’s why I’m disappointed that fruit juice drinks are exempt from the tax. Bought juice doesn’t contain as much goodness as you’d hope but has loads of fructose (one glass might = four fruits).

StrawberriesEating a couple of Kiwipieces of whole fruit a day is fine.

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Might we see increased use of artificial sweeteners? People mistakenly believe that low-cal drinks help weight loss but they don’t. When we eat sugar, our brain recognises the sweet taste and our body gets ready to store fat. When we eat artificial sweeteners, our body expects sugar and gets ready to store fat. When the sugar doesn’t arrive, our brain is confused and we get cravings to eat something. So we take in more food and we mess up the delicate signalling system our body uses to tell us when to stop eating.

For more on the science and the history of how we ended up consuming so much sweet stuff, watch Robert Lustig’s Sugar, The Bitter Truth on YouTube.

Still from video 'Sugar, The Bitter Truth' Robert Lustig

Still from video ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ Robert Lustig (the lbs refer to the weight gain from drinking one daily for a year).

Top tip: Drink water instead of sweet drinks.

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.

Dementia Fear

I am not a brave person; many things frighten me: IMAG0312injury – I was very fortunate to escape with only whiplash and bruises last year when someone drove across a junction and took the front off my car; cancer – of course; loss of mental faculties – for me the worst of all.

Currently in vogue, the carb heavy, low fat diet that has led to the obesity and diabetes epidemics has also been linked in new studies with Alzheimer’s (first referred to as type 3 diabetes in 2005).

"3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6" by Kubicki M., McCarley R.W., Westin C-F., Park H-J., Maier S.E., Kikinis R., Jolesz F.A., Shenton M.E. A review of diffusion tensor imaging studies in schizophrenia. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Jan-Feb;41(1-2):15-30. PMID: 16023676. PMCID: PMC2768134.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg#/media/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg

“3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6” by Kubicki M., McCarley R.W., Westin C-F., Park H-J., Maier S.E., Kikinis R., Jolesz F.A., Shenton M.E. A review of diffusion tensor imaging studies in schizophrenia. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Jan-Feb;41(1-2):15-30. PMID: 16023676. PMCID: PMC2768134.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg#/media/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg

What to do? Minimise sugar and cut down on processed grains. Eat some plant food at each meal. Vegetables are good carbs giving you vitamins, minerals and fibre; their antioxidants protect your brain. Berries contain antioxidants too plus other beneficial phytonutrients.  Celery, peppers and carrots contain luteolin which may calm inflammation in your brain.

FishYour brain is mostly made of fat so get plenty of omega 3s (eg from oily fish, chia seed or walnuts) and keep down your Nutsintake of damaged omega 6 (eg processed vegetable oil). Eat butter, olive oil, coconut oil and foods like nuts and avocados.

The spice turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Curcumin has been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells. For the B vitamin choline, eat eggs, meat, broccoliEggs and cauliflower. Choline may boost brain power and slow age-related memory loss. Red meat is an excellent source of vitamin B12 which is vital for brain function. When you’re short of B12, your brain actually gets smaller.

IMAG0057Other ways to keep your mental sharpness: physical exercise, standing up regularly to break continuous sitting, mindfulness, knitting, word or number puzzles, learning a language, making music, a stimulating career, social interaction.

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Top tip – eat well for the sake of your brain

 

Quote of the month

What good fortune for men in power that people do not think.

Adolf Hitler

The ‘men in power’ these days include those who profit from the processed food industry.  Joanna Blythman has been undercover in the food industry to find out how true this is.  If we really knew what was in all the artificial food we’re eating and the damage it is doing to our health, we’d stop and go back to cooking from scratch.

 

 

Pure Madness

Pure foods, refined foods, isolates – what’s it all about? This month I’m looking at what are sometimes called white foods.

Table salt – when they ‘purify’ salt, all the minor minerals are taken out leaving only sodium chloride. The end product is described as pure or refined but perhaps it simply lacks much of its original natural goodness. Unrefined rock salt and sea salt don’t look as shiny white but they contain all sorts of valuable micro-nutrients.

White sugar – about 90% of the vitamins and minerals in sugar are removed in the refining process. Devoid of all these natural micro-nutrients, refined sugar hits the body like a sledge hammer, stimulating insulin production and fat storage. It also acidifies the body contributing to many health problems and of course it rots your teeth. Perhaps it deserves its name of ‘the sweetest poison’ and today we eat far more of it than ever before.

White flour – even natural foods can now contain lower levels of minerals due to modern farming methods. Processing removes some of these leaving even less. The mineral losses in flour refining are approximately: Calcium 50%, Magnesium 85%, Chromium 40%, Manganese 86%, Zinc 77%.

The chemical reactions in the cells of our bodies are very complex. Tiny amounts of very many substances are involved. We’re designed to use whole foods with their kaleidoscope of nutrients all working together. One lady on my course compared this synergy to an orchestra playing a symphony; you need all the instruments playing their part to get the full effect.

Your body needs the extra bits and pieces but refined foods are sadly lacking.

Top tip – eat whole foods.

This article also appears in The Cockermouth Post (June issue) along with lots of other interesting things.

Eat well and save money!

Channel 4’s Super scripmers recently featured a family who bought almost exclusively processed food.  In my book Survival Guide for the Skint, I talk about how you are really employing a personal chef when you buy ready prepared food.  If we’re honest, most of us are not rich enough to pay someone else to cook for us.

The family in question held a dinner party and prepared a three-course meal for 7 adults and 2 children for £15.  The same event would usually have cost the around £80.

The couple also discovered to their surprise that cooking is a lot easier than they expected.  How much money could you save by learning a few simple skills?

Even better news – everyone agreed that the meal tasted better than the ready made stuff!

I’m very keen to spread the word that eating real food is better for you than buying products.  If you’ve been put off by fears that fresh ingredients would cost too much, this will reassure you.

Buy natural foods, cook delicious food, save money and improve your health.  You win all round!

This is a joint Survival Guide for the Skint and Learn to Eat Well blog post.

Sexy Summer Body

The summer is almost upon us (well hopefully soon) and many of you will be taking some time out to go on holiday and relax in the sun. This is the time of year when we suddenly remember that our bodies are important. As we strip off, we realise that everyone can see us!

This is a shared Survival Guide for the Skint and Nutrition Coaching blog post.  I’m passionate about food and health. The great news is that you can save money in your quest for a great bod.

Processed food is laden with additives and chemicals that your body has to work very hard to get rid of (or to store as fat). You pay mainly for all the preparation, packaging and advertising so the ingredients are rarely good quality. Buy real food and make your own meals to save money and improve your health.

Drinks can add up to a sizable percentage of your weekly shop. Fizzy drinks and alcohol cost loads and only do you harm. Fruit juices are better if taken in moderation. I like to dilute juices. The cheapest drink of all is water and the good news is that your body enjoys water much more than anything else. It’s even better if you filter it; jug filters work fine and are inexpensive.

The cheapest exercise is walking – guess what? Yes, it really is great for your body. It’s low impact so it’s kind to your joints. You can go when you want, for as long as you want and you put in the amount of effort to match your ability. Getting fresh air and sunshine is good for your lungs and skin. Good mental health goes hand in hand with good physical health. Being close to nature is good for you mentally (there are studies proving it’s good for you to be among trees). Walking is a pleasurable experience too. I’ve noticed that runners often look harassed or miserable but people on walks smile and say, ‘hello’.  You’re more likely to exercise if you find something that you really enjoy.

So eat, drink and exercise merrily, 

for tomorrow you don your swimwear!

Wishing you well

Jackie