Me Jane – You Tarzan! Part 1

 

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What Life Needs for its Existence

Life on Earth as we know it, began due to four things; minerals, sunlight, water and oxygen. I’m no scientist, but I guess that minerals and the sun had to come first and the minerals gave rise to water and oxygen. No matter. The point is, without them, our world would not exist in the way it does.

If life is deprived of any of these elements, it will ultimately die – due to a direct or indirect lack. For example:

  • We die very quickly without oxygen.
  • Anaerobic organisms will die if their host is denied oxygen.
  • There is no life that can exist without minerals.
  • Sunlight creates energy in plants. It’s true that we can live quite happily without plants, but only if we eat the animals that do eat them. There is a finite amount of energy in the universe – it is only the form it takes that changes so in this case, we derive energy directly from plants, or indirectly from animals.
  • Water is needed to supply life with nutrients – no water, no life.

As I said, I am no scientist but hopefully you get my meaning. These elements are still the most vital contributors to life. Hundreds of millions of years ago, when life was advanced enough to leave the mineral-rich oceans, it had to take the sea with it in a complex network of tubes – which we call the circulatory system. These soluble minerals enable life. They literally allow the body to conduct all the processes that it needs. For example; contraction of muscles including heart muscle in animals, regulating fluid balance, producing enzymes for digestion and feeding the symbiotic microbes that inhabit all life.

 

Our Evolution – Me Jane, You Tarzan!

Humans have been evolving for around 2,500,000 years and nature has done a great job. Our omnivorous character was born from need – as our teeth tell us that we are primarily meat-eaters. If there was no meat, plants kept us alive until meat again became available. Fruit would have been eaten, but remember – the northern hemisphere only produces fruit during autumn. The carbohydrates from fruit are easily stored as fat, which would have been a welcome energy source over the approaching winters. We made the best of what was available.

Our genetics haven’t changed much in 40,000 years (which is the scientific consensus), during which time we have battled two ice ages. The last one finished around 10,000 years ago. During these cold times, there would have been little in the way of edible vegetation and what there was, we may not have had the digestive equipment for. Animals and fish sustained us. Nothing was wasted – if it was chewable, it was eaten. The liver, kidneys, heart, glands and brain were (and still are) very valuable sources of nutrients. There was no “organic” food, because food was just food – untainted. This food nourished us, sustained us and enabled procreation. And that is why we are here now.

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The next blog will cover what has happened since we started to live in communes, keep animals and grow food.

 

Nutrition For Children

My daughter’s friend works in a children’s nursery locally to me. She suggested to the manager that it might be beneficial to the parents and staff, if they had some help with planning meals for the children and understanding what nutrition means for them. As we all know, feeding children nutritious food can be challenging! The mum’s were great and I have to hand it to them, they are really doing their best. It was great to see a good turn-out too. These mums really wanted to extend their knowledge.

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The variety of nutrients for a child is the same as for an adult, but some become more important. Adults need to maintain their health but children need to grow satisfactorily. Nutrition for both is vitally important but as adults, we can change little about our structure. Children are forming their structure, so for their future health and mental development, certain nutrients are paramount.

 

There are nine essential amino acids for building bodies

Growth requires building blocks and these come from proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are nine which are essential – the body cannot make them so they must be taken in the diet. There are another eleven that we need but the body can synthesize these. The essential amino acids are easily obtained from animal proteins, as they contain all nine together. Vegetarians must be aware that these are not present all together in vegetable proteins. Beans or nuts should be eaten with grains at the same meal for all to be present. Better still, dairy products and eggs should be a major part of the diet.

 

 Animal fats make hormones, line our cells and more

The fatty acids from fats are another vital component for our structure. They line our cells, supply much-needed cholesterol, contribute to our immune systems and make hormones to name a few. Quite apart from these physiological requirements, fats make food taste good. Our taste-buds have a purpose – of natural foods, they tell us what we need. Unfortunately, we can fool our taste-buds when all food groups are mixed together – as in a cake for example. They detect the fat and protein (eggs and butter) but get confused with the addition of carbohydrates (sugar and flour). That doesn’t mean we should never eat cake (perish the thought!). What we need to remember is that we can easily overeat these mixed foods, which can be detrimental to our health. If you try to overeat double cream – lovely though it is – you won’t be able to eat much or you will be sick! The body has these mechanisms in place to ensure that we stay healthy.

It is also worth remembering that butter or cheese mixed with well-cooked vegetables not only makes them taste better to a child, but also helps release nutrients and their uptake.

Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E and K2. These vitamins work together to channel minerals into bones and teeth. They allow absorption of calcium and other minerals, direct them to the skeleton and set the minerals into the bone. All of these stages are vital. Cheese has everything needed for this process. So simple!

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Carbohydrates can be included but they are not “essential”

Carbohydrates are the food group to be wary of. They are reduced to sugar by the body for easy absorption.  Children need energy but they will get some from fats. Including a few potatoes at dinner, a couple of slices of sourdough bread (easier to digest) for lunch, or a bowl of porridge with cream in the morning is fine. Please take care though – it is easy to add too many of these foods into the diet, leaving no room for those they really need. There are no essential carbohydrates.

 

Other foods

Vegetables are always difficult for children. To be honest, if they are eating meat, liver, fish and lots of animal fats, they will come to no harm without them. However, we want to get them used to eating some as they do have lots of nutrients for us. Cook them well, add butter or cheese, make pureed soups or a frittata.

Drinks can be an issue for children. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be introduced. Milk can be great for children but please buy organic, unhomogenised or preferably raw milk if you can find it. Encourage water drinking, very weak tea or at a push, very dilute apple juice.

The sun

Not food, but still nutrition. Let children play in the sun with no sunscreen and very little clothing for a while. They must not burn, but they will get a huge dose of vitamin D3 which no food can supply. Don’t be afraid of it – if there were no sun, there would be no us. We need it!

One last word, please buy organic food whenever possible. Children do not need pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic and hormone residues. They need nutritious, fresh, preferably local foods that will only do them good, not harm.

 

“Study Shows Healthy Food More Expensive Than Unhealthy Food”. Oh Really?

How can it be said that “healthy food” is more expensive than junk food? It’s enough to make anyone just give up trying to do the healthy eating thing.

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Whilst I don’t believe everything I read, I would have expected more from Science Daily – which I subscribe to. The articles here are summaries of research, but there is always so much to take into account. Is the research good – is it impartial or are the researchers being paid to show a specific theory? Has it been correctly carried out – was the sample big enough and were all the variables accounted for? There’s more. When you read a summary, it is common for the author to add their own slant or try to interpret findings.  All this (and more) can make reading research findings and the reports of research findings, a minefield of misinformation!

I’m not saying I am an expert here either. I have forty-plus years in health and nutrition and the experience I have gained has made me careful in what I say.  However, if it makes good sense to me then I will use it for sharing and in my blogs.

This report is ridiculous.

There is SO much that could go wrong with a subject this big. I’ll itemise a few of the problems:

1)      Whose “healthy food” idea has been used? The chances are it has been measured against government guidelines for a healthy diet. To my mind, this is not the healthiest diet. My recommendations are here: http://yourgoodhealth-naturally.co.uk/my-guidelines-for-health/

2)      “Healthy foods in 2012 are three times more expensive per calorie than less healthy foods.” This assumes that calories count – which, in the main, they don’t!

3)      In order that “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods can be compared, these must have been packaged. Food that isn’t packaged is usually healthier anyway. You don’t get ready meals unpackaged, but you can get a low-fat lasagne (“healthy”) and a regular lasagne (“unhealthy”). The ingredients list has been used to determine “healthy” or “unhealthy” and of course, government guidelines are used to decide..

4)      The article doesn’t say, but foods will almost certainly have come from supermarkets. Bet they didn’t buy from farmer’s markets!

5)      “The finding shows that there could well be merit in public health bodies monitoring food prices in relation to nutrient content..” The content is not the same as its nutrition. Content means that the nutrients may be present but it does not mean that they are bio-available to us. In other words, the nutrients may be in a form that is either difficult for us to absorb or even impossible. Nutrition takes account of these differences. For example, adding vitamins to food looks good, but they are often in a form that we have trouble metabolising. Also, when vegetables are incorporated, especially legumes such as peas and beans, they can interfere with how we absorb minerals as well as contain nutrients we may not be able to use!

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I have to refer back to my previous blog. This is all about what people are prepared to do – or not do – in the kitchen. If we can cook, we can produce nutritious food which is less expensive. Due to advertising, we believe that we are “worth it” and “deserve” the things that are perceived as more expensive and better. We think that meat means steak and other muscle meats. We think that fish means salmon and that fruit means pineapples and mangoes. Advertising has much to do with what we believe and we have lost sight completely of what is in season, now that most foods are available all the year round.

Just look at what this woman believes is “healthy”.

Here is another article regarding a woman who wants a cash incentive from the government to lose weight because she “can only afford junk food”.

These women just need cookery skills. Of course, motivation to be healthy would help. Blaming everything and everyone else for one’s own situation is misguided since the only person who can make a difference to your life, is you.

A few tips for eating well on a budget:

  • Learn how to make a stew or soup from cheap cuts of meat. Lots of recipes on the net. Get started with the basis for nourishing soups here - broth.
  • Learn how to make real porridge instead of “quick” oat cereals or cold cereals. These are expensive.
  • Buy seasonal vegetables and a little fruit (not essential to health but nice to include as a treat).
  • Grow something! Everyone has room for something.
  • Use eggs (even organic are cheap) and cheese for main meals. Great nutrition on a budget! No health problems associated with eggs now, so just go for it!
  • Learn how to use lentils and beans. Treated properly, they are great nutrition.
  • Shop around. It is just not the case that supermarkets are the cheapest – and they often don’t even sell the cheaper cuts of meat. Try markets and farm shops.
  • More advice here in my six part blog on healthy eating during a recession.

What price would you put on your health? Frankly, if you don’t have good health, you have nothing. You may not be able to work so outgoings will be a problem, your relationships will suffer and it could be physically, very uncomfortable for you. Chronic poor health leads to early death but the whole situation is up to you. Eat nutritious food and good health becomes the norm.

Nourishing November on a Budget is coming. Please join in! Follow me on Twitter and my Facebook page for more information.

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The Lost Skill – Cooking From Scratch

I have recently looked at some of my old blogs and I noticed a common thread in many of them. Whatever the topic I always end up saying “learn to cook” or “cook from scratch” or “acquire cookery skills”.

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We have really lost the plot with this. When I was at school, I learned “domestic science”. I think this is a perfect term for cookery because before it becomes an art, the science has to be learned. A rather strange analogy but it works – if you learn the rules of the card game bridge, you can play. BUT, to be good at it you have to have acquire the skills to play well – which comes with practice. So at school, I learned the science of cooking. I have been cooking ever since then and whilst I am no expert, more than forty years of practice means I can cook nutritious and (most of the time!) delicious food.

My children can cook. At school they learned very little about basic cookery and it always annoyed me that they often brought home cakes and biscuits but rarely soup or (if ever) bread. What does this teach children? That was twenty years ago and they have now learned a little more thank goodness, but I wonder what they are taught in schools now? We are a microwave society – food goes into the microwave in its packaging and is often eaten straight from this. Everything is for quickness and convenience and there is no thought for nutrition. This way of eating is just to fill stomachs and ultimately there will be health issues to contend with.
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Young people – even middle-aged people – may stay reasonably healthy eating like this, but it cannot last. The body need nutrients and if they are not supplied, it will age quickly and die – just like every other living organism.

Another problem is the notion that eating well is expensive. As a nutritionist my response is – so is illness and death – can you afford not to eat well? As a person who has always struggled with money (you don’t start nursing to get rich!), I try to temper my passion by saying – change something and one way to change is to learn cooking skills. The foods you will use are far superior to the ingredients of any packaged foods or ready-meals. These are made from the cheapest ingredients with lots of additives to make them palatable. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the ingredients list on the packaging.

Isabel Natrins at “Once Upon a Cook – Food Wisdom Better Living”, is a good friend who shares my passion for good healthy food and has all the skills I was talking of above, but she has the “art” in spades! Her journey started (as it should), whilst she was young – she had a mother who took pride in cooking. Later, Isabel attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork and today she owns her own company. Isabel runs workshops for people who want to learn new cookery skills – from baking bread, to probiotic foods, to what to do with a chicken! Here is Isabel showing you how to joint a chicken – and listen to what she has to say about quality.

Isabel jointing a chicken:

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Diabetes Simplified

 The name Diabetes Mellitus has Latin and Ancient Greek origins. Roughly translated it means “sweetness (honey, actually) passing through”. A urine test will often show sugar is present in a new diabetic – the “sweetness passing through”.

 

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Diabetes comes about when the body is not able to control its blood sugar correctly, because it can’t control its insulin supply. Insulin is the hormone which metabolises blood sugar – glucose to be accurate, sending it to muscles for physical energy, storing some in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and when those reserves are full, it will turn it to fat and store it in adipose (fat) tissue.

In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The diagnosis is often made during puberty or adolescence. There are many theories about the cause of this type, but none that are definitive.  In type 2, the pancreas has had to produce more and more insulin in response to blood sugar, as the mechanisms becomes less sensitive (insulin sensitivity) to the same levels of blood glucose. This leaves glucose in the blood with nowhere to go – this is the state of hyperglycemia. As the disease progresses it is called “insulin resistance”. Unlike type 1, there are many known factors in type 2 diabetes which I will refer to later. There are some other causes of diabetes, but as these make up the minority, I will not discuss them here.

“Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions.”

Type 1 diabetes makes up around 10% of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes up almost all of the remaining 90% of all types. It used to be known “mild” (which it is most certainly not) or “late-onset” diabetes, because that is when it most often presented. Today however, diagnosis of type 2 is not uncommon in much younger people – even adolescents and children. This is not necessarily due to modern methods of diagnosis, as associated metabolic diseases are also increasing.

Of the UK population, we now have approximately 5% who have been diagnosed as diabetics and many more with pre-diabetic conditions and undiagnosed diabetes. This includes both type 1 and type 2. Both types are growing exponentially and regardless of population increase. These are metabolic diseases.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are similar for both types;

  • excessive thirst
  •  polyuria (excessive urinating)
  •  minor infections and delayed healing
  •  Tiredness
  • sometimes weight-loss.

Often, diabetes isn’t diagnosed until something major occurs – heart attacks, strokes, eye-problems and severe infections.

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Type 2 diabetes is now so common, it would be reasonable to say that in the western world, it is at epidemic proportions. There are many possible factors and associations involved, which include;

  • a diet high in concentrated carbohydrate foods –bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks etc.
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • intake of polyunsaturated vegetable fats – seed oils and margarine
  • family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity is an association, being caused by the same metabolic problem as diabetes

The most important factors for preventing diabetes are essentially my Healthy Life guidelines. The chances of an adolescent  being diagnosed with type 1 would most certainly be reduced if all couples trying for a baby and the mother whilst pregnant, by following these guidelines. As well as adopting this lifestyle, people with type 2, or a pre-diabetic condition, need to reduce carbohydrates more and increase their intake of good fats.

Next time I will address the industry that diabetes has engendered.

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No Salt? No Life!

Hundreds of millions of years ago, an ocean existed on Earth allowing the creation of life. The planet was changing in the same way as it had over billions of years. Not instantly but over millennia – seas, mountains and volcanoes came and went, forming Earth into what it is today.

Himalayan crystal salt At a time when the land was growing hotter this ocean gradually dried out, forming vast plateaus of minerals in the form of rock salt. Not just the sodium chloride that we buy in supermarkets, but most of the minerals to be found in our world – in pristine condition. As the earth constantly moved, the pre-Cambrian ocean was subjected to enormous pressure as the Himalayas were formed. This action created crystal from rock and the Himalayas have nurtured the crystal for around 250,000,000 years. It is clean, pure and completely uncontaminated – this is Himalayan crystal salt.

Life can only be brought into existence when water is added to salt so in storage, it will not support microbial life. When you add it to your food you are replenishing the minerals that the body loses naturally each day (and bear in mind how depleted the soil has become from over-farming) and you are adding them exactly as nature intended. It has been said that when some primitive life-forms crawled out of the sea, in order to live, they had to take the sea with them – in their simple circulatory systems. That would be us then! Himalayan crystal salt appears an attractive pink colour – this may be due to the range of minerals present or possibly the remains of the harmless salt-loving algae that lived in the primordial sea.

In nature today, some animals will travel miles to lick natural salt – they instinctively know that they need it. Even domestic animals are given “salt licks” as it is known that they need the extra minerals it provides. If you consider it, an animal would only take something offered, if it was needed, so perhaps we should do the same. In fact, I give “salt licks” to some of my clients who are for whatever reason, poorly nourished. I just supply them with a Himalayan crystal salt lump and tell them to lick it whenever and for however long they need to. (Do not do this with other salt.) If you use the right stuff, you would be hard-pushed to consume too much because your body would tell you “enough is enough”.

When minerals are taken like this they act together to rid the body of toxins, balance fluid retention and excretion and equalize acidity and alkalinity. They are needed for the essential electrical conductivity in heart and other muscle and in nerves. They are vital for the proper formation and function of stomach acid and enzymes and much more. We should get all these minerals from our food but so much of our soil is exhausted and the produce of this land will be lacking too.

Himalayan Crystal Salt is regarded as gourmet salt and is highly prized by some of our leading chefs (Jamie Oliver for one).This may boost salt’s reputation but basic as it maybe, it is a food, ie something which if ingested helps promote healthy life. Fortunately, the salt mines are enormous and salt will be mined in the Himalayas for several hundreds of years yet.

Celtic grey salt is also very good and has a slightly different mineral profile – less of some and more of others. As it is damp, there is more iodine which is essential for thyroid function. It does not grind as well as Himalayan salt, so use it in cooking and leave the Himalayan salt for the grinder. Sprinkling these on your food has to be THE best way to ensure that you obtain some of all the minerals that you need for health.  Rather than just adding saltiness, they enhance the natural flavours – and it’s much cheaper and safer than taking pills!

Both of these natural salts are available online, health food stores or organic shops.

“Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea”– Pythagoras 580 – 500BC

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What on Earth is a Superfood?

What on Earth is a superfood? Is it a Teenage Mutant Ninja Sausage? Or maybe a sandwich that leaps between buildings in a single bound? Silly I know, but so is the notion that any one food can be a “superfood”.

A while ago, I saw a headline stating that eating almonds every day can protect your heart against disease. I have seen that broccoli can fight cancer and I have seen any amount of health claims for kale and blueberries. Others include – goji berries, oily fish, cacao, maca, and beetroots – the list goes on. These are good foods to include in our diets and they contain antioxidants (but so do many other foods) but they are not “superfoods” because there are none! There are good and bad diets though. These “superfoods” are liberally and continually splashed over magazines and newspapers. What is the purpose of these articles – what are they trying to achieve?

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To be fair, some of these articles are just trying to get people to eat better but doing it this way is, in my opinion, a waste of time or falls on deaf ears. Why would adding blueberries to an otherwise poor diet contribute to good health? Most articles are featured by the media just to get you to buy their newspaper/magazine and some are to get you to buy a supplement – eg.beetroot juice.

Nutrition for us comes in the form of nutrients (sorry for being pedantic) contained in our diet. There are many known nutrients but there are also some unknowns. We keep discovering “new” nutrients in foods, but this being the case means that we must eat the foods in order to obtain them – ie. not from supplements. Another thing that is always conveniently glossed over, (I’m being kind here as I suspect that this is not as widely known as it should be), is that nutrients in plants are not always bio-available to us – we can’t utilize them. Bear in mind that our digestive systems are very different from the herbivores – they are uniquely equipped to digest vegetation. We have a digestive system similar to that of a carnivore, telling us that we can more readily absorb and utilize nutrients from meat. Of course, as we are evolving as omnivores, it is fine and possibly desirable to eat plants – there are nutrients in plants that we can use – I am not saying we shouldn’t be eating some of them.

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Let’s look at some of these “superfoods”.

Kale is a real buzzword at the moment. I am seeing countless recipes for raw kale in smoothies and salads.  It used to be just grown for fodder, but someone decided we should consume it too, so it became a great winter vegetable when there was little else (no doubt why there is a variety named “Hungry Gap”). No problem – it needs lots of cooking as it is quite tough and fibrous, but its strong earthy flavour is liked by many and there are some nutrients to be had – minerals especially. Raw? Not a chance – you try it! Your taste-buds tell you what your digestive system can cope with!

Beetroot is very popular at the moment. It is a historic food but not a pre-historic food. It is a relative of “sea-beet”, from which all other “beet” varieties stem. The leaves were eaten and used in medicine long before the root had a use. The root was probably not in general use until around the 14th century. Again, some nutrients are available but beetroot is sweet – and can contain up to 10% sugar! A few years ago, an article on beetroot juice told of heart health benefits. I know of someone who took himself off his heart medication and instead, drank a pint of beetroot juice daily. He made himself very ill indeed.

Goji berries are not native to Europe and are grown commercially in China – where they have become big business. Many minerals and vitamins can be present but aren’t always unless organic methods are used. They are a member of the solanaceae family – which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and all members of the nightshade family – including “deadly”! Whilst most of us can tolerate the food plants, the presence of toxic alkaloids are present in all these plants to a degree and they are poorly tolerated by people with certain chronic illnesses. Goji berries are highly susceptible to pests and will usually contain considerable amounts of pesticide residues. If you are going to use them, always buy organic.

Remember – the nutrients may be there but some may be useless to us. I am not suggesting that their inclusion in your diet is wrong but don’t rely on them to supply all that which your body requires – cos that ain’t happening! This is worth a read if you want to understand plant foods better and this if you want to learn the traditional methods of making plant foods more human-friendly.

Just by way of a comparison, organic pasture reared meat – offal and all – contains all nutrients needed for human health and they are in exactly the correct form that we can absorb and utilize them. Pesticide and drug-free to boot. And for those now wondering where the vitamin C is – organ meats contain vitamin C but please don’t overcook them.Spring Lambs

My advice – eat mostly foods that are native to your country of origin; eat vegetables and fruit in season; buy organically produced fruit and veg or grow your own; process foods in your kitchen according to tradition to increase their nutritional value; find a source of raw milk and dairy; eat animal fat; eat nuts and seeds in moderation and if you eat grain, treat it properly; meat and eggs should be from pasture raised animals. Eat small fish and shellfish. For other health measures, see my Healthy Life guidelines.

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The Ins and Outs of Cholesterol

Firstly, let’s get some perspective on cholesterol. It is a “lipid” or type of fat that is needed deepfriedbutterby almost every cell in the body. Cholesterol has so many functions in the body that we can’t live without it and as we need so much, we manufacture (up to 75%) and recycle what is necessary in addition to what is eaten in the diet. Some of its functions are:  providing a lining inside our cells to allow the free flowing of nutrients in and waste products out; nerve insulation and brain function (the brain needs lots of cholesterol), producing bile, hormone production (including sex hormones), the formation of vitamin D3 in our skin in sunlight (UVB rays) and contributing to a healthy immune system. Low levels of blood cholesterol can indicate an underlying disease and needs investigation. (There is more here about the benefits of cholesterol to the body.)

“I can’t help saying “what’s next?”

We have been able to test the blood cholesterol levels since the early to middle of the twentieth century, but at that time and for many years subsequently, total cholesterol was the “important” factor. The upper limit for total cholesterol was decided upon but then changed in the 1990s. Since then, many more things have changed. The ratio of high-density lipoprotein (hdl or so-called “good” cholesterol) to low-density lipoprotein (ldl or so-called “bad” cholesterol) became vital.  Then someone decided that, actually, it was the ratio between hdl, ldl and triglycerides (another blood fat) that was important. Moving rapidly on – today the important thing is the ratio between the two types of bad cholesterol and that’s where we are now. I told myself I would try not to put too much of my own slant on these facts, but I can’t help saying “what’s next”? We thought we knew the facts about illness 100 years ago and 50 years ago…and we think the same now. This is why I believe perspective is important when you are faced with health decisions. Our ancestors had no idea what their cholesterols were – they didn’t need to because when the correct diet is eaten, the body looks after itself – and they had no choice with their diet. They just ate what was available, which was a far cry from the diet we eat today. WE have not evolved sufficiently for this diet and that is where the trouble lies.

Eating our modern diet has played havoc with our cholesterol levels and there is no doubt that this disruption is harmful. Total cholesterol is not a good indicator of potential heart file0001982270186disease but raised triglycerides are. It has been shown that the two types of ldl particles are important – one being light and fluffy and the other being small and dense. The light fluffy ldl is not a problem at all, but the small dense type is the problem associated with heart disease as it creates inflammation in the body – and the body does not like inflammation. In the arteries (or anywhere for that matter), inflammation will summon all the repair mechanisms at its disposal – including cholesterol and then BINGO! Long-term, cardio-vascular disease will ensue.

A total cholesterol reading can only ever be a guide so if you have been advised that you should see a doctor regarding your test it would be a very good idea to ask if you can have your triglycerides and the two types of ldl particles differentiated.  Worth a mention – half of first-time heart attack patients have total cholesterol levels within the normal range. What does that lead you to think?

Be mindful that, due to the body’s great need for cholesterol, it will manufacture it from any food you eat. If you are supplying your body with the wrong building blocks, you may end up with the wrong stuff or the wrong ratios. I have met a vegan with “high cholesterol! NO animal fat in the diet.

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Recipes for Nutrient-Dense Foods

Bone Broth/Stock  -  Chicken Liver Pate  -  Sourdough Bread  -  Frittata  -  Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Pots  -  Gozitan Rabbit Stew  -  Italian Meat Loaf  -  Sauerkraut
Lamb Stew

 

Bone Broth/Stock

  • Bones from the butcher (with marrow and bits of meat if possible), sawn into pieces
  • Water
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste
  • Peppercorns
  • Clean vegetable trimmings
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon duck/goose fat or other animal fat

In a hot oven, roast the bones for an hour with the fat. This will add colour and flavour to P1012280the finished stock but it is not essential.  Put the bones in a stockpot with all the other ingredients except the salt. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down.  Put the lid on and simmer very gently for at least four hours but as long as is possible. (Or simmer overnight in a slow-cooker.) Strain the stock. The salt can now be added. (If you are making a pureed soup, dig the marrow from the bones and add this too.)

At this point you can either continue to make soup or you can store it for another time. If you wish to do this, return it to the cleaned pot and boil rapidly until reduced by half. Allow to cool then refrigerate/freeze. If freezer space is limited, continue boiling to reduce even further then cool and put into ice-cube trays to use as “stock cubes”. To may prefer to leave out the salt before doing this.

When using the stock at a later date, return it to its original quantity with water/milk/other liquid before making the soup/gravy/sauce – or if you have frozen cubes – just add one or two to your gravy.

All bones can be used for stock making so don’t throw away the bones from Sunday’s roast. Chicken and other poultry carcasses can replace meat bones – just put them in a bag and give them a good bash with a rolling pin to save space. Make sure to use everything including sinews and skin. Why not ask a fishmonger for fish heads/bones/shells from crabs etc. and make a fish stock?

Whilst this is time-consuming, there is nothing like the taste of homemade stock and the nutritional benefits are enormous  – lots of minerals, especially calcium are made available in this way. It can be a great source of glucosamine and chondroitin, often taken in supplement form by those with bone/joint problems. There will also be an easily assimilated form of protein making soup made from bone stock an ideal food for those with poor appetites, suffering illnesses or convalescing. You won’t get all this from a regular stock cube!

 

Chicken Live Pate

  • 400g organic chicken livers, chopped
  • 175g organic butter
  • 2 tblsp dry or medium sherry or brandy (optional but nice!)
  •  ½  medium onion. chopped
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onion. Cook until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, chicken livers, salt, pepper and thyme and cook until the livers are just LiverPatedone. Add the sherry or brandy if using. Pour into a blender and puree until smooth.    Divide into three small dishes or ramekins. Decorate, if wanted, with small bay leaves and juniper berries. Cool then refrigerate or freeze.

This recipe takes twenty minutes only. It tastes divine especially if served with oatcakes, sourdough toast or with celery to dip in. Loads of vitamins – especially the B range and the so-important fat-soluble ones. Impress your guests!

 

Sourdough bread

Sourdough is much more digestible than the usual variety making it more suitable for Sour Dough Breadthose for whom bloating is a problem. You shouldn’t eat a whole loaf at one go though, no matter how tempting! No baker’s yeast is used, just the natural yeasts from the air plus the pro-biotic lactobacilli. These organisms work together, neutralising the “bloat” factor and lightening the dough. This is the original way of bread-making – the way it’s been made for thousands of years.

My recipe makes a dense tasty and moist loaf – similar in looks to the one in the photograph. It’s superb toasted – but you will need to give it twice as long in the toaster than usual bread and is good for open sandwiches. There are numerous recipes on the net, using many different flours – there’s something for everyone. Don’t give up if it’s not successful on the first go – practice makes perfect!
The first stage is to make the yeasted starter and this takes two weeks. After that, as long as you have remembered to keep back some of the activated mix, it takes about two days from start to finish but only five minutes at a time for preparation.

The Starter

Stage 1: 100g organic rye flour + 100ml water. Mix in a glass/ceramic bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place – work surface in the kitchen in the summer or above a radiator/in the airing cupboard during winter.
Check daily. If it has a whitish film on it this is o.k. If you see any other colour, throw it away and start again. When it is ready for the next stage it will show some bubbles and smell vaguely of beer.
Stage 2. Throw half of the mix away or on the compost heap. Add 100ml hand hot water and 100g rye flour.
Stage 3. Next day. Throw away all but about 100ml of the mix then add 100ml hand-hot water and 100g rye flour.
Stage 4. Continue this daily for two weeks. As long as the mixture is bubbly and smells like a brewery, it is alive and kicking. If there is black mould or other coloured fluff, bin it and start again.

The bread

Stage 1. Morning of first day. Add 100ml warm water and 100g mixed organic rye and kamut/khorasan flour to the starter, cover loosely with film or a damp cloth and leave in a warm place.
Stage 2. Evening of the first day. Put two tablespoons of the activated mix in a clean screw top glass jar and put in the fridge – the starter for next time. Put the rest into a glass/ceramic mixing bowl and add 300ml warm water and 250g mixed flours as above. Stir lightly and cover. Leave overnight.
Stage 3. Morning of day two. It should now be puffed up and very beery! To 500ml warm water add 2 teaspoons Celtic sea or Himalayan crystal salt and a teaspoon honey (preferably organic). Stir this into the mix and add sufficient flours. a little at a time, (I can’t give you an amount as the consistancy is more relevant than the quantity)  to make a stiff, sticky mixture, still just stirable, that is well blended but not kneadable. The nearest likeness I could suggest would be a rich fruit cake mixture but with a yeasted texture.
Stage 4. Divide between two greased bread tins. Cover lightly and leave to rise for 4-6 hours until it has risen and levelled itself. There is no hard and fast rule here – I have left it as long as 8 hours on a cool day.
Stage 5. Set the oven to 180 degrees or gas equivalent and put the loaves in the centre immediately. Set the timer for 45 minutes. After this time, increase to 200 degrees and leave for another 5-10 minutes.
Stage 6. Remove from the oven and leave for 10-15 minutes then turn out to cool completely.

I usually cut each in half and freeze them until needed. I love this bread toasted, left to cool then smothered with good golden butter. This recipe gives quite a sour flavoured loaf but it is beautifully offset by the butter. Please don’t use margarine!

If you like the taste of flavoursome rye, use mostly that. If you like a less intense flavour, use more kamut. Sometimes I add about150g spelt grain (dry weight), washed, soaked for 24 hours, boiled for 40 minutes, drained and cooled, at stage 3 for a different texture and flavour. Each time you need bread, remove the starter from the fridge, add 100ml warm water, pour into a bowl then add 100g flour, and off you go again.

 

Frittata

  • 6 large organic eggs
  • Olive oil or butter. Salt and pepper
  • Cream
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 150g leftover veg or a mixture of peppers, courgettes (grated and squeezed of excess moisture), aubergine, tomatoes, mushrooms etc.
  • 80g approximately of grated cheese – any type to your liking

Melt 25g butter or a tablespoon of oil in a 25cm frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. If you are using fresh, uncooked veg add this now also. FritattaWhen soft, increase the heat a little.  Beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of cream and season with salt and pepper. Tip into the pan. Grate the cheese on the top and cover the pan with the lid. Turn the heat down to below medium and cook until set. Allow the frittata to cool in the pan then run a knife around the edge and tip on to a plate. Refrigerate. Feeds 2-3 people

Be creative – add garlic/herbs/flaked salmon/chopped salami/prawns/smoked haddock/well-drained cooked spinach – whatever you want! It can live in the fridge for a few days and you have instant lunch for you or the hungry hordes when they come in from school/work – although you may need to make a bigger one if there are lots of you!

 

Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Pots

We all need a treat once in a while and this does the trick. Made in no time, tastes gorgeous and just wait for the compliments!

This will make 4-6 little pots depending how big they are. I have occasionally strayed from Chocolate Potsthe recipe when I didn’t have any brandy. Once I used a tablespoon of chocolate extract (to be found in supermarkets with the vanilla extract) and on another occasion I used the finely grated rind of a washed organic orange. Both very good but the brandy’s best!
With regard to nutrition – all the good stuff from the eggs plus fat soluble vitamins A, D and K.There may also be some benefit from the chocolate – antioxidants. This recipe without doubt has the bliss factor!

  • ½ pint single cream
  • 200g plain chocolate (minimum of 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2 (preferably organic) egg yolks (and two stiffly beaten egg whites if you want mousse texture)
  • 3 tbsp / 50 mls brandy (or orange juice)
  • 20g butter

Heat cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan until almost boiling.  Break up the chocolate and add,  then stir until melted.   Add egg yolks and brandy and beat lightly to combine ingredients.  Cool until just warm then beat in the butter. Stir in the egg whites if using. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate until cold and set.

 

Gozitan Rabbit Stew

Whilst I was on holiday in Gozo, I found a delightful restaurant, serving excellent home-cooked, nutritious food. The proprietors have kindly given me the recipe and permission to add it to my collection of recipes. This stew was my favourite!

  • 1 medium rabbit, jointed
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil (or better – duck/goose fat)
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • Mixture of white wine and vegetable stock/bone broth – just enough to almost cover
  • Mushrooms
  • Small new potatoes (optional)

Wash and dry the rabbit. Heat the olive oil or fat in a large pan and fry the rabbit with the garlic and onions for ten minutes, turning occasionally.
Add the wine/stock, salt and pepper to taste and the mushrooms and potatoes if using.
Either cover with the lid or cover tightly with foil and cook for an hour on a low heat.

Serve with seasonal vegetables. Perfect and delicious nutrition!

 

Italian Meat Loaf

  • 1kilo minced beef (preferably organic)
  • 250g chicken livers – minced or finely cut with scissors (definitely organic)
  • 250g good pork sausage meat
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herbs or use selection oregano/marjoram/thyme/rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • large handful Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 50g porridge oats or 1 tablespoon psyllium husks
  • 60g butter
  • optional – 2 chopped chillis

Fry the onion and garlic in the butter until soft (add chilli too if using). Cool slightly. Put 2014-08-04 15.31.15everything into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Divide between two greased loaf tins or two pudding basins. Cover tightly with foil. Cook for around an hour at 170 degrees. Serve straight away with mash or jacket potato (sweet potato?)  or if wanted cold, cool in the dishes then run a knife around and invert on to a plate. Spoon the juices over the “loaves”. Refrigerate. serve with salad and a jacket potato or some lovely bread with butter.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is not a food you would immediately think of as “gourmet” or even as a health food, but I would like to change that on both counts. If you like trying new things, you must give it a go. It is both easy and cheap (get the kids to do it!) to make and it’s good for you – loads of beneficial microbes for pennies!.

Years ago, we had no refrigeration – indeed some primitive people still don’t – so other ways of preserving good nourishing food had to be found. In fact I would argue that it is the way we are supposed to eat many vegetable foods as for much of the year there would be little vegetation.

In our gut we have trillions of bacteria to break down the foods that we eat. Unfortunately we are not that well equipped for digesting vegetable matter, having a much shorter colon than true vegetarian animal species – and it is in the colon that this fermentation takes place. By fermenting prior to eating, we make vegetables much more digestible as well as increasing the absorbable vitamin content and getting a healthy dose of probiotics.

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Sauerkraut – jazzed up a bit!

  • 1 organic small solid green or  white cabbage, shredded
  • 3 organic garlic cloves crushed
  • ½ small organic onion thinly sliced
  • 3 organic chillis sliced thinly (or more if you want!)
  • 1 thinly sliced red pepper
  • 1 large organic carrot, grated
  • 2 teaspoons  organic oregano or other Mediterranean herbs
  • 2 teaspoon Celtic sea or Himalayan crystal salt
  • A spoonful or two of the whey that occurs with natural yogurt or a couple of teaspoons of the liquid from the previous batch of sauerkraut
  • A little spring water

Put everything in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Put your hands in and squish it (kids will love this bit) until lots of the juices have run from the veg. Leave it half an hour then have another go.
Now cover the vegetables entirely with a plate or shallow bowl and weight it down so that they are covered with their own juices. If not completely covered, add a little spring water but only a little – more juice will come from the vegetables eventually. Cover the whole thing with a towel and leave in a warm place (in the kitchen or maybe an airing cupboard) for about 5 -7 days – until a bit fizzy. Try it from time to time and give it a stir.
If you see any mould – remove it. If you see a thin white film, this is fine.
Decant into glass jars – Kilner jars are good – pack it in. Refrigerate or leave in a very cool place. (I would suggest standing the jar in a bowl – sometimes it leaks!) This will keep almost indefinitely but I would suggest using within six months. Add to salads or just with cold meat for a really tasty and very nutritious lunch!

Try other mixes or individual vegetables – get creative and do your health a favour too!

This is really quite addictive and if you get the “bug” have a look at this: Wild Fermentation  

 

Lamb Stew

  • 800g scrag end of lamb or mutton, bone in
  • 30g dripping
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • A mixture of veg in bite-sized chunks -  1 large carrot, 1 parsnip, 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary and/or thyme
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour (or omit if you are excluding grains)
  • Water or bone broth
  • Handful of barley or rice (or omit if you are excluding grains)

It is unlikely that you will find scrag end of lamb or mutton in a supermarket. Phone a butcher and request it. Serves 4

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the dripping and fry meat until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add all the vegetables and fry, stirring for about 3-4 minutes. Add flour (if using) and cook another minute.
  3. Add sufficient water or broth to just cover veg, plus herbs, salt and pepper to taste and stir until thickened slightly.
  4. Return the meat to the pan, bring to the boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer.
  5. Cook for at least 2 hours, adding the barley or rice (if using) )for the last 40 minutes Stir from time to time.
  6. Serve with veg of your choice.

You can add dumplings too for the last 20 minutes, if you wish to make it go a bit further. This is a good recipe for a slow-cooker – follow maker’s instructions.

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Cavemen Didn’t Eat Cornflakes

Do we actually need science to tell us how we got here or what we should eat today? My view is that the evidence is embedded within our history and it doesn’t need to be proved. WE ARE HERE! That said, everything I write here is backed by science and is referenced. The trouble with this sort of research is that it won’t make anyone rich, so it remains buried for the most part.

P1140137We are uniquely equipped for life in our world. Evolution has ensured that we are a finely honed animal species – capable of evaluating and responding to a multitude of stimuli.  There are numerous mechanisms in place, within and beyond our control, to ensure survival. Here are a few:

  1. Insulin production in the pancreas.  This preserved our lives thousands of years ago by storing a surplus of available carbohydrates (fruit or honey maybe) as fat reserves. Today however, the very same hormone is killing us. We now store far too much glucose which results from carbohydrate digestion – and we store it (in part) as fat, which never has a chance to be used up. Obesity and diabetes can result with all the health issues that accompany these illnesses.
  2. The Omega fatty acids – the balance of these ensures that we can deal with a microbial attack by providing inflammation and anti-inflammation.
  3. Cholesterol – the balance of hdl (“good” cholesterol) and ldl (“bad” cholesterol) ensures that we can form hormones (including the “new” pre-steroid hormone Vitamin D), line our cells, repair damage to our bodies and more. Cholesterol is so important that we not only manufacture it, but we also recycle it.
  4. The starvation sequence – every stage of this is designed to preserve life. Low calorie diets fire up this reaction.
  5. Thirst, to ensure we stay hydrated.
  6. Hunger, to ensure that we obtain the necessary nutrients.
  7. Sensing heat and cold, to ensure that we take measures to control our temperatures.
  8. Sensing pain, to tell us that the woolly mammoth is standing on our foot!

We take them as a given – no one would argue this. They are, by and large, proven and accepted by all -  health professionals,  scientists and the general public So why do we choose to either ignore these instincts or fight them? For example, we only think that we have done enough if we have endured some discomfort or even pain when we exercise. Evolution tells us to STOP when this happens.

Why must we employ our brains when their use is unnecessary? We think we’re so clever, outdoing nature but in reality we are creating problems for ourselves or even making ourselves ill. Instincts are ignored at our peril – we must listen to our bodies.

001_3Genetically, we are still programmed for the diet we ate 10,000 years ago. People living at that time did not have dieticians, the internet or governments to tell them what they should eat, when they should eat it or how much they should eat. Consider this; wild animals don’t need this help; they just get on with it, responding to their instinctive needs – and, interestingly, neither do they generally suffer chronic illness, but domestic animals do. I’ll leave that one for another time but of course, it involves us!

The diet we are programmed for is the hunter-gatherer diet. What was good for us then is good for us now. Taste buds were the only guide to the foods that contained the necessary nutrients in a form that would be easy to absorb.

Imagine that you knew nothing of nutrition. You are stranded in the wilderness and there is an abundance of plants and animals. You have fire to cook with, so how will you decide what to eat? You can try a few leaves and some grass but your taste buds will tell you in no uncertain terms that you do not have the correct digestive system to deal with these “foods”. There may be a few roots that you could dig up, but whilst they may be sweeter than the leaves, you still are unlikely to make a feast of them. Are you going to look for seeds or grain? You could starve by the time you have enough to make a meal for the family especially if it is spring time!  In any case, grain is indigestible without lengthy preparation and really only became a part of everyday food when we settled into a life of farming 10,000 years ago. Corn did not exist as it does today – it is “man-made” – so don’t waste your time looking for it! (Dairy foods were introduced soon after this time, but that’s another story too.)

Now you see a duck swimming on a river. If you accurately throw a hefty stone at it (my apologies to the vegetarians but I am trying to create a realistic scene), you have a meal. After removing the feathers and roasting it, even your sense of smell will tell you that this is the real deal. Your digestive juices and enzymes prepare you for digestion even before you have even tasted it. This is nature working the way it should. The fat and skin are the most delicious (and nutritious) part of a duck and there is no way you are going to remove them before eating – as we are advised now.

IMG_2645If you had lobbed a rock at a wild pig for your meal, I think we might see the same dining-room scene as we see now – the whole family arguing over the last piece of crackling! In those times of course, they would have eaten the lot. Everything that was chewable and tasted good would have been eaten as waste was just not an option and organ meats are the most nutrient-dense part of the animal.

It is doubtful that our ancient ancestors had the sense of squeamishness that we do, because they ate what was available and did not have the preconceived ideas of what was not “nice”. This just means that they would have eaten lungs, kidneys, liver, gonads, eyes (great source of vitamin A), ears, brain and every other morsel possible.  They would all have tasted good but we are now conditioned, for many reasons, to consider these parts at best unhealthy (due to the BSE problem years ago) and at worst, disgusting!  It is a sad fact that we, in the Western World, now choose muscle meats over offal. Offal, historically and amongst primitive people today, was and is, highly prized as a magnificent source of nutrients. Now, we take frequent trips to the supermarket which means that we can have our choice of foods available all the time – in our fridges, or in cans and packets in our cupboards. Offal – even organic offal, is cheap.

Our conditioning is, at least in part, to blame for our confused taste buds. Children of the Inuit are used to the taste and texture of raw seal liver and relish it – because they have always had it. Our children gain the taste for baby rice – and just where does that lead? To a lifetime of seeking out simple, nutrient-poor carbohydrate foods at the expense of proper nutrient-dense food! How on earth did babies born 10,000 years ago manage without it?! Breast feeding would have been offered for longer than present day. I suspect that as teeth began to form, mothers would have partially chewed their baby’s food to make weaning easier – and that food would have been the full hunter-gatherer diet.

“When we eat cake, we unconsciously detect that some of the right nutrients are there. Mixing food groups together like this, our taste-buds are fooled.”

Nutritionists and dieticians are fond of blaming “processed foods” for the devastating effects on our health, but just what does that mean? Much processed food is made from poor quality ingredients combined and flavoured to make cheap food appealing to our confused, modern palates. Breakfast cereals and bread are highly processed foods – even if they do claim to be free of added chemicals. Remember too, that it is perfectly possible to use the best quality organic butter, flour, eggs and sugar to make a cake or biscuits. Does this make them better for us?  They taste good because we naturally like sweet things and fats (probably due stored information about breast milk). The fats that taste the best are the ones that have the most nutrients – animal fats, butter in this case, but when we eat cake, we unconsciously detect that some of the right nutrients are there. Mixing food groups together like this, fools our taste-buds. Even if margarine has been used, the less-than-pleasant taste is disguised with sugar and we happily have a second helping.

So, what’s on the menu for you in the wilderness? Exactly what we should be eating now 00067– meat, offal, fat, fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts, seeds (if they are a reasonable size and taste good), some leaves and a few roots, fruits when in season and honey once in a while. Fortunately we have evolved as omnivores which meant that during the times when our genetic diet was scarce, we could live for a while, on foods that were less nutrient-dense.This means that today, on the odd occasion, we can still enjoy an ice-cream or piece of cake without any lasting damage. And just what would life be without these treats?

 

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This article was originally published in Positive Health PH Online Issue 186 – Sept 2011 – the present.