The Essence of Nutrition

It would be difficult to have no idea at all about nutrition and diet. Newspapers, television programmes, magazines, posters – even supermarkets – are all ramming nutrition down our throats – pun intended! As with everything, these will have a different slant depending upon what they are selling – because they are selling.

Magazines and papers will sound-bite every diet related report as long as it sells papers, so the headlines have to be punchy. “Snacking Habits That Help You Lose Weight” and file000571098509Surprise superfoods: dieticians say popcorn and pork scratchings are bursting with nutrients – and could be GOOD for you.” You know the sort of thing. Television programmes are only marginally better as at least they have a bit longer to explain their specific point. Just looking at some of the programmes available, most are about weight-loss, reaffirming the myth that calorie counting is the way to go. Supermarkets and food manufacturers will just jump on any bandwagon that is conveniently passing at the time – low-fat, low sugar, no saturated fats, low salt and so on. But where are the nutrients? Confused? Then let me inject a note of sanity here.

“What is nutrition?”
Nutrition is supplying the body with all known and unknown nutrients required for the life and health of humans.

“How do we obtain that nutrition?”
We chew, swallow, digest, absorb and utilize the diet that nature intended. All stages of this process are necessary. We eat NATURAL foods, preferably organic.

Proteins are made up of amino acids of which there are many. Animal proteins are ideal for us as they contain all the essential amino acids that we need for the growth and repair of our bodies. Vegetarians can obtain a variety of amino acids from vegetables but as there are virtually none that contain all those needed for humans, care must be taken when menu planning.  We break down millions of cells every day and these must be replaced. Proteins are also needed for the formation of enzymes, hormones and other necessary substances in the body.
Animal protein sources: meat and offal, fish, eggs, dairy; vegetable protein sources: beans, lentils, nuts,seeds

Fats are a great source of energy. Animal fats and their essential fatty acids are needed for the formulation of hormones, the lining of cells, the metabolism of protein, the absorption of minerals and much more. They also contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, and K2 – all of which work together, so rather fortunate that they are usually found together in animal fats.
Animal fats: lard, dripping, duck/goose fat, butter, cream, oily fish.
The vegetable fats that have benefits for our health are olive oil (for salads) and coconut oil (stir-fries and curries). These contain chemicals which don’t conveniently fall into the vitamins and minerals category but are good for us none-the-less.
Seed oils (rape, grape, corn, sunflower, peanut or anything loosely termed “vegetable” oil are all highly processed which makes them toxic and they have no place in a healthy diet. (Eating the seeds is fine though.) Will they harm once in a while? Not if your main diet contains lots of protective animal fats.
All fats contain saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – it’s just the ratio that changes. We need them all, but eating a natural diet will supply them in just the right ratio – nature’s good like that!

Carbohydrates. First and foremost, there are no essential carbohydrates. In other words, they are not necessary for life. If you never ate another slice of bread in your life – you wouldn’t die! The metabolism of concentrated carbohydrate foods (eg. sugar and grains), uses up our essential nutrients, increasing our need for them. The body can use carbohydrates (which it changes to glucose – a type of sugar) for energy. Most of the carbohydrate foods available today are highly processed – cakes, biscuits, sweets, cereals and they don’t have any benefits for us. Since we have evolved as omnivores, some carbohydrate foods can be included with little problem but currently there is an “epidemic” of gluten intolerance, so it may be prudent to cut back on grains containing gluten – mainly wheat. The best carbohydrate foods are from vegetables and some fruits where they also have a wealth of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients.

If you eat the diet indicated above, you don’t need to think of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients because these foods supply them! It’s not rocket science is it? There are lots of articles on the website to tell you what our diet should be to obtain these nutrients. The only thing for you to do now is cook from scratch using the best ingredients you can afford!

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Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal?

Well this is a turnaround isn’t it? Breakfast is now not the most important meal according to this study! For so many years we have been told that we must have breakfast before starting our day and we have even been told that studies show how breakfast can help us lose weight, concentrate and stabilize our blood sugar. I am as guilty as many other professionals – I haven’t actually read these studies, just accepted the evidence for the most part.

In my defence, although I do read research reports, I make up my own mind about what is right for us and this is founded upon both my observations as a nurse and nutritionist and my usual way of looking at our diet and lifestyle against the back-drop of our evolutionary diet and lifestyle. There has been much research and speculation into what is right and wrong, but the bottom line is – we should do as our ancestors did. The only problem with this is that everyone has a different view of what they actually did! I have written a bit about this before so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say that we ate primarily meat and some vegetation when it was available. This study shows precisely this point.

What on Earth is breakfast – or lunch, tea or dinner for that matter? These are labels we have given to eating times, for our convenience. These meal times are fitted in file6401342550312before, during and after we go to work/school/college, but they are actually convenient times when we must top up our nutrients. We need vast amounts of quality nutrients for every single bodily function you can think of – blinking your eyes and producing tears; making the enzymes needed for the digestion of food; maintaining the electrical activity needed to allow your heart to beat and your muscles to contract and so on. Everything your body does, it does not do by chance. You make it happen by eating foods that supply these minerals, vitamins, fats and more.

A while ago, I wrote a blog about hunger which you can find here. It is important that we stay in touch with our bodies and really hear the message. The first thing you should be reaching for in the morning is liquid, preferably water, tea or a herbal infusion. The body detoxifies itself over night and the toxins need washing away. This could be why some people are never hungry first thing – and some even feel queasy. Hunger kicks in when the detoxing has finished. Always drink about half an hour, before you eat “breakfast”. In fact staying hydrated is one way to prevent over-eating or eating for no good reason. Drink sufficient liquid to keep your urine pale yellow – not clear which means you are drinking too much, or amber which means you are not drinking enough.

What is breakfast for you? I can hear your thought processes –
cereal, toast, eggs, file1281259008488porridge..! But what I’m getting at is what is the meaning of the word? Its literal meaning is of course, breaking one’s fast and I believe that this is the point. Why should this meal be taken before going out if you are not hungry? This study suggests that breakfast could be skipped, but it too is assuming that “breakfast” is the meal you have before your day starts.

Breakfast is the meal that breaks your fast – whenever that is. Your body very cleverly prepares itself for a meal. Once you are adequately hydrated and your body has finished its clear-up, signalling can get underway and you consciously think about food. This prepares your digestive tract – you salivate and your stomach rumbles, both of which mean that the enzymes and other chemicals needed to digest food, are ready and waiting. Absolutely the worst time to eat is whilst stressed, because this preparation stage will be omitted and indigestion ensues.

file000374824743There will be some people who wake feeling hungry. These are the people who eat very early evening, stay hydrated and don’t drink alcohol in the evening. In other words, there is less detoxifying to do so hunger is felt earlier. I know an aerobics teacher who is ravenous in the mornings and this is undoubtedly due to rapid usage of nutrients as well as early nights.

Remember that whenever you are ready to break your fast, you should provides what your body needs – essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats.

Some would argue carbohydrates in addition but since there are no essential carbohydrates, I don’t agree. However, the first nutrients in the list are the ones that your body is asking for and is prepared for, so make sure you provide these.

Many people will argue the time factors involved. No time in the morning for more than a piece of toast or no time to eat at ten o’clock when hunger hits. I’ve heard all the excuses and my answer is always the same – be prepared! If you cannot eat a good breakfast file0002090572764before leaving home, be prepared, as you will get hungry and you will eat something – as surely as day follows night. I am constantly amazed that work-places are completely geared for this – the coffee and doughnuts trolley materialises! There are also bakeries, sweet-shops and burger bars within close proximity. If you have a canteen at work, go and get yourself bacon and eggs!

There should be no hard and fast rules about what you eat or when as long as nutrients are supplied. If you had roasted meat for dinner the previous evening – take cold leftovers with salad or even cold vegetables with a nice creamy dressing. If you fancy an avocado to break your fast, accompany it with a few cherry tomatoes and a lump of Brie. Eggs from hens on pasture are possibly the best nutrition and the most convenient. Why not boil half a dozen and take two or three with you? Great with avocado, salad or cold asparagus. Try making a big frittata and taking a slice with you or make banana bread and take some of that. All of these suggestions will supply the necessary nutrients.

There is quite a bit of evidence that lengthening the time between your last meal of the day and the meal that breaks your fast the following morning helps with weight control and insulin sensitivity. I think it is a good idea anyway as it must emulate the eating patterns of our ancestors. Food would not have been available for “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner”. There may have been only one or two meals of meat or fish, with gaps occasionally filled by a few berries or nuts (in the autumn anyway) or roots, eggs, leaves and seeds. There were undoubtedly times of hunger but generally there would have been plenty of food to go around. The beauty of eating foods that we are genetically programmed for is that when properly nourished, we are less hungry.

Stop thinking of breakfast as such and instead, think of your first meal of the day as the time to supply all those nutrients that your body has told you it needs.

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You’re Eating a “Balanced” Diet – But is it the Right One?

If you and a friend wrote a menu for the day which illustrated a “balanced diet”, I can guarantee it would be nutritionally, completely different. The trouble is, “balanced” means different things to different people. In fact it is a word that really bugs me (along with “super-food”!).

So many people say to me that they think that eating a balanced diet is the way to go and of course, I agree but as a nutritionist my “balanced diet” will be based on a very different set of guidelines to theirs.

There is only one set of rules for a truly balanced diet – this took me ages to put into words!
Eating the foods that supply all the nutrients known to be required (and those with no names as yet) for the correct functioning of the body at all ages.

It sounds simple and obvious but there is a lot more to it than these few words, albeit they are the bottom line. As far as we know, humans all over the world need the same nutrients. However, it is possible that the ratio of these nutrients will change from continent to continent, due to the hugely varying environments. How on Earth are we supposed to know what to eat and how much?

file0001949597792Supermarkets have for many years now, provided food to the majority of people. So, theoretically we should be able to buy our “balanced diet”. We think we can but supermarkets have a way of influencing us to boost their sales – not to boost our health! Sweets near the checkouts, wafts of bread baking, foods they want us to buy at eye-level – there are more wiles and I don’t know them all – but for them, it is an art. This can very much affect what we come home with.

It is all very well knowing a bit about nutrients and where they are found but can we rely on this knowledge? I could tell you that there is vitamin D in green leafy vegetables – and there is. The problem is that it is not in the form that is usable in the human body – we have to convert it and not everyone is able to do this. I could tell you that vitamin B12 is present in some vegetable foods but this is never available to us as the only B12 analogue that we can use comes from animal sources. Vitamin A is available in some plants but as a substance called beta-carotene – a pro-vitamin. In other words, we have to change it to the usable vitamin – and guess what? Some people can’t do it!

I have spoken before about “five-a-day”. I imagine that we all know what this means. I understand why this recommendation came about – an attempt to increase our nutrients and in recommending this, it would steer us away from junk foods. Laudable I’m sure. Strange as it may seem, other European countries have different recommendations on how many portions a day we should have! There are problems with all these guidelines.
1) A few hundred years ago, we had only fruit and vegetables that were in season and what we could preserve by drying or salting as there were no fridges or freezers. As this was case, from where did we obtain our needed nutrients?  And we obviously did because we’re still here!
2) Is it even beneficial that we consume fruit on a daily basis? Imported fruits tend to be high in sugar and little else. The same goes for some imported vegetables – by the time they reach us their nutrient content has depleted considerably.
3) Fresh vegetables and fruit sounds good doesn’t it? How good is it really? Firstly, it is rarely as fresh as it should be – just think of the long journey some produce has to make to get to us. These days, varieties are bred for their keepability and then they may be sprayed/washed in chlorinated water/waxed to enhance this further. Do we want this on our plates? Added to that, during the growth of veg and fruit, they will have been sprayed with pesticides which are very toxic.
4) There is a good chance that some standard fresh produce will be genetically modified – and this problem is increasing. There is much evidence that GMOs are dangerous to us long term.

We need to get a handle on a “balanced diet” and what it means for us. If you are to obtain the correct nutrients for humans, eat a variety of mainly seasonal, organically produced foods. Eat small fish and shellfish from a reputable fishmonger. Eat offal as well as muscle meat. Eat animal fat from animals raised on pasture, natural game and eggs from hens that have been allowed to roam outside. Grow your own vegetables and fruit or buy seasonal varieties. Organic dairy adds lots of nutrition. If you eat grains and legumes, treat them properly. Add in a few nuts and seeds. This should be the backbone of your diet – what you eat on a daily basis. Once this is achieved, it is fine to have an occasional treat (mine’s an almond croissant!). Problems arise when treat foods replace the nutrient dense foods listed above.

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The nourishment of your body depends upon this balanced diet. Your appetite will regulate itself and you won’t feel hungry as often. It is what you chew, swallow, digest, absorb and utilize that will determine your health. Unfortunately, in someone less than healthy, things can go wrong at each these stages. That is the time to see a nutritionist!

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Thinking of Becoming Vegetarian? Please Read!

Fancy being vegetarian or vegan? There are some extreme diets too such as fruitarians and breatharians which are both self explanatory and have little to recommend them! Before embarking on any diets, it is as well to keep some facts in mind. So often decisions are made on limited knowledge and in the case of what you eat, this can have serious consequences for your health.

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The definition of “diet”, from one source is “the usual food and drink of a person or animal” but so often it is synonymous with weight-loss regimes. The trouble is, most of us are unaware of what our “usual” diet should consist of! It does not matter where in the world you are from, we all need the same nutrients – although how we obtain them is often different. Therefore the diet of humans has to be one which provides all the nutrients that have been shown to be necessary for growth and health.  Sound reasonable? I would add here that necessary nutrients are being discovered all the time and for this reason, your main source of nutrition has to come from the food you eat, not from supplements.

Currently, there are about fifty known nutrients – too many to list here! However, there are some vital facts that must be taken into account.

  • Nutrients work together, not independently.
  • If you are ill, some nutrients may not be absorbed properly.
  • Some foods inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients.
  • Some foods use the available nutrients for their own metabolism thus robbing the body.
  • Some foods, whilst being sound nutritionally, will only give these up when properly prepared.
  • Where and how your food is produced will determine how nutritionally valuable it is.

I will just talk about the not too extreme form of vegetarianism. Those that adopt this way of eating do so for three reasons generally – religion, animal welfare and health. The first is difficult to argue so I won’t! All I will say is that I have been contacted several times by people needing help with gut issues who are from this category. 1008594_80327405The animal welfare reason is one I do sympathise with as I was vegetarian for ten years during my early adulthood for this cause. It is possible to be healthy if you are in this category but care must be taken with food choices if all nutrients are to be obtained. Those who choose vegetarianism for health reasons are often the ones who can succumb to ill health due to the wealth of misinformation that is currently available. These people often choose low-fat food options, eat lots of grain products and never venture out into the mid-day sun. They usually take supplements and they can be found at the gym or pounding the pavements several times a week. I am sorry to generalise but I have met these people during the last twenty-plus years of giving health advice as a nurse. This is not lifestyle which provides optimal health.

There is much that can be done to improve the usual vegetarian diet but it takes a little more thought and food preparation than for the meat-eaters. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Vitamin B12 is the most problematic vitamin for vegetarians (and especially vegans). It is only bio-available from animal products and although it is present in some vegetable matter, it is in the wrong form for humans. Your diet must contain pastured organic eggs, milk and cheeses (preferably raw) and fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir.
  2. Many vegetarians will eat copious quantities of grains and these are the foods which rob the body of nutrients, especially if not carefully prepared. The same is true of legumes which often feature as a source of protein in vegetarian diets. Click the highlighted words for information regarding preparation.
  3. When you eat large amounts of grain, your vitamin C requirement is increased. Obtain this from salads and vegetables rather than from lots of fruit and juice which will increase your sugar intake.
  4. Grains change to sugar in the gut which can lead to insulin sensitivity and diabetes.
  5. Meat, its fat and offal contain the fat soluble vitamins which are vital for the lining of cells, hormone production and integrity of the gut lining. When these are not eaten the diet must include eggs, cheeses and plenty of deep yellow butter.
  6. The body needs copious amounts of vitamin D3 which must be obtained from the sun.

My recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle can be found here.

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Alzheimer’s – the Disease That Wrecks Lives

file000691888818Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia which is characterised by poor short term memory, irritability, confusion and sometimes aggression. The condition wrecks families and care homes are now bursting at the seams with residents suffering this condirion. Something must be done and whilst the news tells us that a drug maybe on the way, it is prevention that will ultimately have the most impact.

 

In AD the brain shrinks and it is unable to utilize the glucose it needs to function. Plaques of amyloid, a protein, are evident in the brain and this may be associated with a poor diet as AD is more often diagnosed in people who are obese.

There has been much speculation on the origins of the disease, but that aside, as it is becoming more prevalent – even in middle age, it would be safe to assume that our modern lives have something to do with this. So what in particular could be driving this increase?

1) There is conflicting evidence regarding aluminium. Our bodies do not require aluminium so it would seem a good idea to avoid it wherever possible.
2) Look at these facts:
- There is evidence that the brain makes its own insulin
- Obese people are more likely to be diagnosed with AD
- An anti-diabetic drug has been shown to help dementia

It would seem that this brain change has, at least to some degree, a dependence on sugar. Sugar promotes insulin in the blood and if an excess is taken in the diet (that is, all carbohydrates not just the white stuff) over a lifetime, insulin sensitivity results and obesity and diabetes follow. Maybe AD too.
3) Continuing on from the previous point, since the other fuels that our bodies can use are fat and ketones (a fat bi-product and one that can be used by the brain), it is essential that if we cut one fuel source then we must give our bodies another. Animal fats and coconut oil should be included in the diet.
4) The B vitamins have much to do with nerve function and the most important of these (due to its complex metabolism in the body) is vitamin B12.
5) Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic proportions in the Western World. This study shows that it may contribute to AD.
6) Insufficient exercise maybe a causative factor, but it is unclear whether it is due to its balancing effect on blood sugar or the exercise itself that helps.

The above are the most plausible possible causes of AD but this is not an exhaustive list.

To me there is only one way to tackle Alzheimer’s Disease and that is to prevent it in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

  1. To avoid an excess of aluminium, use steel or glass cooking pots and opt for a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant – or just use soap and water.
  2. To keep blood sugar down and balanced, cut carbohydrate consumption. Foods to limit are sweet foods, bread, cereals and other foods made from grains.
  3. Including plenty of animal fats in the diet will provide a good source of fuel, fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Yellow butter, cream, egg yolks, fatty cuts of meat and oily fish (for Omega 3) will provide this. Coconut oil is also helpful in not just warding off AD but as a treatment for it.
  4. Shellfish and offal are good sources of vitamin B12 but many people nowadaysfile0001122917150 do not consume these foods on a regular basis. Experiment with pates, adding a little chopped liver to casseroles and Bolognese sauce or just frying with onions in plenty of butter. Folate and B12 work together so serve that liver with kale, sprouts or cabbage! Organic, pastured egg yolks are good for B12 too.
  5. Getting out in the sun and eating animal fats will supply your vitamin D.
  6. Even just frequent brisk walking will do for exercise, but find something you enjoy doing and you are more likely to stick with it.

I think it is possible to reverse AD to some degree with the measures above, but by employing them now, you dramatically lower your chances of developing it in the first place.

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Acne – The Most Common Skin Disease in the Western World

The skin problem Acne Vulgaris is another condition of several combined factors – hormones, diet, infection, over-production of sebum (our skin oil) and possibly the way we wash. There may be others too.

1146989_45040779It is probably brought about by diet (although there are drugs and medical conditions that can cause acne, but they are rare).  Your diet and your health are inextricably linked and just being told “it’s your age and you’ll grow out of it” – is nonsense. Also, people well into their middle-age can suffer from acne – including me. In fact I had acne well into my 40s. It disappeared when I drastically changed my diet and my skin

So what of these other factors? Testosterone over-production is one (men and women produce this hormone). As we know acne is common in teenagers and this is the very time when hormones are buzzing. Interestingly, teenage acne is uncommon amongst primitive people eating a natural hunter-gatherer diet and very common in the Western World and countries with similar lifestyles.

Another factor is the bacteria on our skin. We are absolutely heaving with bacteria – both inside and out! Normally these live in harmony with each other and with us in fact we would not live long without them. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often prescribed for acne and whilst these may help temporarily, the protective bacteria may also be destroyed ensuring the condition returns.

Since “we are what we eat” it stands to reason that if you are eating a lot of foods that are not ideal, that your body fluids and structures will alter over time. The sebum (oil) in your skin will be not only over-produced but chemically changed.  Opportunist bacteria – that is the ones that don’t contribute to our health – see their chance to move in and create havoc, in this case – causing acne.

Yet another factor is indirectly to do with the sun as we make vitamin D from skin oils reacting with sunlight (the UVB rays). You may not be surprised to learn that vitamin D is needed for our immunity and for the production of hormones! Just a few thousand years ago we lived pretty much outside and our vitamin D levels would always have been high, very similar in fact, to primitive people now. We live and work indoors, use cars for transport and slather on high factor sunscreen before venturing outside. The Western World now has an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. There is also some evidence that shows that the action of a moderate amount of sunlight directly on to acne-affected skin can improve the condition.

There are many medications for acne, but in my opinion, they only work temporarily and can damage our gut bacteria. A natural approach is a better option and these are my recommendations:
1) Adopt a low-carbohydrate diet which contains animal fats and not seed oils. Eat plenty of vegetables and eggs too. A low fat diet will not help and may make the condition worse.
2) Wash your skin twice a day only with a very mild, preferably unscented and un-perfumed skin-wash or better still use jojoba oil to cleanse. Lightly massage in, remove with tissue then wipe gently with a clean, damp cloth. This is very effective, as jojoba oil has a similar chemical profile to sebum and can dissolve it and remove grime at the same time. Add a drop of tea tree oil to the jojoba oil sometimes.
3) Get some sun!

This is not an overnight solution but changing your diet will, within a month for most people, show real benefits.

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Prostate Cancer Testing in the News.

Prostate cancer is no rarity nowadays. It always was a cancer of elderly men and it has been shown that most men in their late seventies and eighties have cancerous cells in their prostate gland. Cancer here is usually slow-growing and diagnosis often made retrospectively, as death can be from an unrelated illness. Today, it is a cancer that all men need to know about as, due to lifestyle and diet, it is being diagnosed at an earlier age.

Testing for prostate cancer has become quite sophisticated in recent years. However as this article shows  – the tests are not perfect. Here is a short extract from the report:
“Of around 500 of the cases in which significant disease was present, just 50 per cent were detected during the traditional biopsy, compared with 68 per cent detection rates using the MRI-guided technique, the study found.

Not great statistics are they? We all need to take more responsibility for our health and well-being including our sexual health.

Firstly a bit of anatomy and physiology: The prostate (men only!)  is a walnut-sized and shaped gland which sits underneath the bladder and around the urethra (the tube to the outside). Its function is to form part of the seminal fluid.

Diagram manThe most common condition of the prostate is benign enlargement (or benign prostatic hypertrophy) which to some degree affects all men as they age. Very often it is a minor irritation, not a big problem. This is not cancer but if symptoms are felt, medical advice should be sought to exclude it.

The most common symptoms are urinating more frequently, not fully emptying the bladder and when passing urine, the stream is slow or weak. Benign enlargement is as far as is known, not preventable but cancer especially before old age, often is.

The best option is to take action now by changing your chances of developing cancer in the first place. These are the tips I would offer:

Ill-health does not happen by chance.  Most illness is brought about by incorrect diet and lifestyle so what are you going to change?

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Breast Cancer and Diet

It is a sad fact that we are less healthy today than we were fifty years ago. Cancer, including of the breast, are diseases of ageing and waning immunity so why is it that it is being diagnosed in mid-life or even earlier now? The answer almost certainly lies in our modern diets and lifestyle.

Every day we all make cells that are less than perfect. This is not a problem for a healthy body – the immune system does not allow these cells to flourish. They will be dismantled and removed to ensure the body stays healthy. This protective action is seen time after time within the body. Think of the liver – it is probably the busiest organ in the body and is an expert at multi-tasking. It works tirelessly to make the nutrients we require and detoxify us of the substances we don’t need or could be dangerous. We constantly bombard our bodies with toxic chemicals – shampoos, shower gels, cosmetics and importantly in the case of breast cancer, antiperspirants. We also receive noxious substances in our food – antibiotics, hormones, chemical preservatives, colourants and flavourings. The liver has a hard time removing all this and if it can’t get rid of it, the liver will store some “out of the way”. This is not a good idea at all.

In order that these mechanisms work efficiently, the right diet in addition to avoiding the wrong one is of paramount importance. Why would you want to aim for anything else? Cancer is a horrible disease wherever it is, but for women breast cancer can change everything that is held dear and ruin confidence and self-esteem as well as health.

One of the most important aspects of the diet, are the choices we make choosing fats. Yes – we need fats and we need the ones that are loaded with the fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for the correct functioning of cells, hormones and Salmonthe rebuilding of tissues. These must be the traditional fats including butter – the best ones are from organic and preferably pastured beef, pork, lamb, duck and goose fats. Also, two excellent vegetable oils are (again organic) coconut and olive oils. These are in addition to, not instead of the animal fats. Oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines provide essential fats which are anti-inflammatory. We definitely do not want highly processed seed oils – either for frying or as margarine. These are very harmful to us and compromise our immunity.

A diet high in sugars and other carbohydrate foods will increase blood glucose and therefore insulin levels. There is a good deal of research to show that constantly high levels of insulin encourage the growth of at least some cancers – including breast. It is beneficial for your all-round health to adopt a low carbohydrate, organic diet.

It is also a good idea to forgo soya. Not only is it usually genetically modified, but it messes with hormones due to its phytoestrogen content. Our hormones are best left to their own devices.

Stress is a very significant factor. Any stress, be it physical or mental sets up the release of stress hormones from the glands. They are there for our protection – should we need it for instant energy to allow us to get out of danger. This is fine for a short period of short duration but long term, this is harmful for health. As the stress hormones release glucose into the blood, over time the blood vessels become inflamed. Our bodies hate inflammation and this is the cause or at least a factor in many diseases.

I couldn’t possibly write a blog without the mention of vitamin D! Whilst we are carefully staying out of the mid-day sun in order to avoid skin-cancer, we are inviting a whole host of other disastrous illnesses – including some types of breast cancer.

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Vitamin D and Gut Problems

Over the last ten years, inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD) have steeply increased in both adults and children. They are autoimmune illnesses. This is a very serious situation as both IBD – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – are usually controlled with steroid drugs and many will go on to have bowel surgery – more than once in many cases. Celiac disease – a severe gluten sensitivity – is also thought to be an autoimmune disease.

Walking BarefootThese diseases are capable of disrupting normal childhood activities and bringing isolation to sufferers. They are characterised by persistent diarrhoea, sometimes accompanied with blood and mucus; severe stomach cramps; anaemia; tiredness and often, emotional upsets. It is a truly catastrophic illness for all involved.

As usual, I believe that it is a nutritional problem. If all of us were able to feed on the diet we are programmed for and obtain sufficient sunshine to keep our vitamin D levels in an optimum range, I doubt there would be very much in the way of chronic illness – not in adults or their offspring.

But things are constantly changing. We largely live indoors, use the car, eat fast microwaved food and know little or nothing about the art and science that should go on in a kitchen.

With this in mind, how can we and our children expect to stay well? Wholesome diets for human beings encompass all the known nutrients for our health. But what of the nutrients we don’t yet know about? We shouldn’t worry. Nature takes care of that providing we eat the food we are genetically programmed for. (Plenty of information about this in my other blogs.) Anything else just wouldn’t make any sense. After all, wild animals don’t have nutritionists and books to guide them, they just eat what they instinctively know is right.

One of the biggest problems that the western world faces is vitamin D deficiency – yes, here I go again! We have carefully slathered on the high factor sunscreen before venturing out to prevent skin cancer but effectively screened the UVB rays that create vitamin D in our skin – and thus left us wide open to a multitude of other cancers, infections, porous bones and gut problems amongst others. This is devastating and will lead to a very poorly world indeed – and it’s already started.

“Our vitamin D needs to come from the sun”

People with gut disorders often have low vitamin D levels in their blood. There is speculation as to whether this is the cause or effect of gut problems but to me there is no doubt – our vitamin D needs to come from the sun, not in supplement form. This accompanied with a healthy diet could protect us all from from these life-changing illnesses. Evidence is emerging that the diet of a pregnant woman also affects her offspring – for better or for worse.

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The Price of Health – addendum

Making a profit on a product or service, is of course a way of making a living. Most small businesses operate in this way but the multi-nationals have just got more and more greedy.

The horse-meat scandal a while ago is just one example of this. It is wrong on so many levels – the least of which is the ingestion of horse meat! The meat, providing it has been responsibly reared, is an excellent food. But straight away, the first issue pops up. “Responsibly reared” meat is I suspect, the last thing on the mind of someone determined to increase profits – which brings us smartly to the second issue. We’ve been hoodwinked, putting it mildly. Why do we trust the people who run these conglomerates? We have trusted them and when this has blown over, we will again! This would be madness, because they will just be looking for the next con to increase their profits.

Another major problem for us all, is that our right to choose has been removed. Many in this country would choose not to eat horse meat. But those whose religions dictate what foods are eaten, also have a right to be outraged at the companies that have let them down by adulterating foods claiming to be beef when pork has been added.

I know that these thoughts are not unique but it sets the scene for my worries as a nutritionist.

For some children, a hot school lunch is the only one they are likely to get. School dinners are never going to be the best food nutritionally, because, they are likely to be chosen on cost over nutrition. Nonetheless, there will be some protein, fat and carbohydrate and therefore some of the important nutrients for building bodies will be present.

Horse meat is undoubtedly a cheap option or we wouldn’t have had this fiasco, but deception/greed/corruption/conspiracy aside, it is a nutritious meat. We need to get rid of this ridiculous “yuk” factor that we have acquired over time so that there is food for all – proper nutritious food. Why should we give our kids “kids” food? This is nonsense. Some years ago, there was an experiment in a primary school. The cooks had to be taught how to cook war-time fare and everyone had to eat it. Not only this but some children (and parents) also had to eat this way at home. There was some resistance of course, but mainly at the start of the experiment. Later, it became very well accepted. Food was plentiful and perhaps a little too stodgy for some people now, but traditional cookery methods and ingredients were used and I imagine that they would be far healthier than today’s meals.

Christmas Dinner Typical meals would include lard-cooked fried eggs or porridge (not the expensive microwave or instant oat cereals) Bread baked the old fashioned way was served with dripping thus saving those precious fat-soluble vitamins. Dinner consisted of stews, soups, offal and root and leafy veg and of course, potatoes. Spotted dick (more lard) and rice pudding were the puddings on offer. Tea consisted of kidneys/sardines or something else, on toast and very basic cakes.

The fact that the children got on well with this diet is testimony in itself – they’re adaptable. The school lunches above cost very little – probably the same as the bought in processed food available now which has only to be heated. What has happened to real cooks?
One of the best ways to get loads of nutrition into a fairly inexpensive, delicious lunch is – soup! If it is made with home made stock (cheap as chips but takes a while!), lots of veg and some inexpensive fish/meat, you end up with all that children need at lunch time. Accompany with a cheese scone or some decent bread and top off with a yogurt or piece of fruit and bingo! Why is this so difficult? I know they can’t have this every day but there are loads of other meals that count be offered without breaking the bank.

Parents have rightly (but in my view, for the wrong reason) been outraged at what goes in to school meals. But if they decide to give their children a packed lunch, the risk they might be taking is replacing one poor food with another. Jam sandwiches, crisps, chocolate bars and a sweet drink will offer nothing nutritionally and will ultimately do harm.

The best thing that could come from all this is that domestic science lessons will be returned to the classroom, starting in primary school. The only way that coming generations can possibly be healthy, is to learn to cook.

I am not being melodramatic when I say that if things carry on the way they are now, we will have parents burying their children in the future – and that is not what nature intended.

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