CANCER – Will You Be the 1 in 2? (Part 1)

“By 2020 almost one in two people (47%) will get cancer at some point in their lives”. This statistic is from the Macmillan website.

According to Wikipedia, “Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body”. There are many theories on how/why it starts, but there is no doubt that constant inflammation in the body can set up responses which result in a cancer. There are many ways in which we contribute to this inflammation, knowingly and unknowingly. My endeavour is to give you some information so that you can make better life choices.

Cancer in humans from our pre-historic past is hard to prove or disprove due to lack of remains to examine. However, there are plenty of studies from peoples across the world living a simple, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Cancers are rare – as are many other chronic diseases. The fact is, that when life is lived in the way that is most natural to us, these diseases do not develop. It’s so simple. Another interesting point is that wild animals rarely suffer cancers, but domesticated animals do. This is what happens when we think we know better than nature!

The biggest problem we face is modern life. We work hard, we don’t sleep well, we don’t get outside in the fresh air, we eat food that has been treated unnaturally, we smoke, etc. etc. Another problem is greed. Food manufacturers want to make a profit – so they use the cheapest ingredients plus chemicals to make them taste better. This produces inferior quality products that fool our taste buds. They do NOT have our health in mind. This is just one example of greed making us sick – there are many more.

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Ignorance is a contributory factor. We can be forgiven to a degree – we trust “experts” and doctors to give us sound information. But what has this trust achieved? A nation of sick people who – if we believe the news – have brought our NHS (paid for by us) to breaking point. The only way out of this mess is to stay out of hospital. In other words, reclaim our health. We must stop believing all we are told and think for ourselves. If hunter-gatherer peoples can do it, so can we, but it takes effort on our part and it can sometimes mean quite radical lifestyle changes – perspectives and values need to be reassessed. This is not just diet, not just exercise, not just getting better sleep and not any one thing – it’s learning really what it means to be human – healthy and integrated, as nature intended us to be.

You need to ask yourself a few questions -
What is the most important aspect of my life?
Is it worth protecting?
Do I want to make a change/changes?
Am I in a position to start making these changes?

Sometimes it is better to mull things over and maybe talk to close family and friends before committing yourself to anything that will affect them too. If you are intending to apply changes to include the whole family, get their opinions and suggestions and implement changes slowly – let them choose where to start maybe. You don’t need to believe all I say here. In fact please, if you are going to do this, you must understand why you are doing it. Research for yourself. You should not be just following instructions – you should have a real understanding of the whys and wherefores of the changes you will make.

I cannot say that the list below is definitive as we are living in a relentlessly changing environment. Industries look to implement the cheapest/highest profit measures – not the safest. More of the planet’s surface is becoming barren due to bad management and we adopt unhealthy behaviours etc.  This list will be expanded upon next time.

  • Protect and boost your immune system. Sunbathe, eat the right foods (including some fermented foods), fast, get in touch with nature, learn about vaccines, stop using plastics.
  • Use fewer toxic personal and household products.
  • Learn stress management techniques and avoid stressful situations. Stay positive.
  • Practice intermittent fasting.
  • Address your diet – eat organic foods and include good fats, protein and a variety of vegetables and a little fruit.
  • Exercise moderately, preferably outside.

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The “It’s Your Life!” Show – Growing Up!

After a lifetime in nursing and five and a half years as a Clinical Nutritionist, I had an idea – a good one! The “It’s Your Life!” natural health show opened its doors at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading, April 2015.

My life has been all about health – it is my passion. We are a species that should be born to wellness, not illness and I have seen far too much unnecessary ill-health. As a nutritionist, I have met people who have become poorly through no fault of their own (not knowingly at least), or the fault of others who are may also have been misguided. To me, there is absolutely no point in treating anyone unless I also tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing. Education – period.

During my yoga class at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading in October last year, a light came on – and burned brightly! Educating people on a one-to-one basis is great, but why not get lots of people in one place, on one day and have knowledgeable, natural health and wellbeing professionals to guide these people to better health choices? An event, in fact! Taking the bull by the horns, after the class, I sought a manager. He loved the idea! I was thinking a few stands and demonstrations but when the events manager showed me the hall available – I was truly astounded! It was huge! “Oh yes,” he said. “You’ll easily get eighty stands in here.” Gauntlet thrown down!

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After a chat with my friend Isabel (Once Upon a Cook), the show was born. The main aspects of healthy life would be demonstrated as:
Moving – how we exercise
Nourishing – how we feed ourselves
Wellbeing – how we live

For the next four months, the computer and I were joined at the hip. I only wanted the best people exhibiting. Wherever possible, exhibitors would be fairly local or be selling goods online. It was important to be showcasing that which is on the doorstep in Reading.

After a many sleepless nights, I had my exhibitors. (Inspiration often visited at that time! A pencil and paper at the side of the bed was vital.) This bunch of people were bursting with enthusiasm!

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The day was fabulous. Let me say now, many years as a nurse and nutritionist does NOT make one an event organiser! I made mistakes and lessons have been learned. Nonetheless, from the feedback forms, it seems that the visitors had a great time. The feedback from the exhibitors was that they had done well and had loved being in a hall with so many like-minded people – I couldn’t agree more! Most of the exhibitors will be back for the next show.

 

From the visitors
“Exceeded expectations – absolutely brilliant!”
“Brilliant! Really enjoyed myself!”
“Two days needed!”
“It’s perfect, but more stalls!”

From the exhibitors
“Excellent for the first time”
“First time – we’re impressed!”
“A good quality event”
“Great to meet like-minded people!”
“We had a blast!” (read testimonial here)

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Planning has begun for the next event in Reading. It will be bigger and better! I have been approached by several more companies who would like to exhibit in November. There will be more healthy food stands, more holistic therapists, some exciting new skin products and it is a great place for your Christmas shopping! Join us:

NOVEMBER 22ND  RIVERMEAD LEISURE COMPLEX, READING 10 – 4 PM

AND, the It’s Your Life! show will be in Birmingham in the new year, hosted by Isabel Natrins of Once Upon a Cook… Food wisdom, Better Living!

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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Cavemen Didn’t Run Marathons

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many wild animals dashing about, needlessly expending energy?

If they are dashing about, it will probably be due to the need to flee from a predator or be a predator. There are a few exceptions – some animals are naturally active especially the young of any species, but then what do they do? Collapse in a heap and sleep it off!

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“An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.”

In nature it doesn’t make sense to expend energy needlessly. Nature’s aim is healthy life, procreation and survival and in this it is tunnel visioned. It has countless “tricks” which it uses to these ends. For example: we get hungry when nutrients are needed and we get tired when sleep is needed – it’s not rocket science! An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.

We, naturally, are above all that aren’t we? We are blessed with large brains and we feel the need to use them even if brain power is not required. So instead of relying on our instincts to guide us in natural functions, we resort to the findings of (often) dubious research. How mad is that? After all, we are animals too and have been evolving for millions of years. Nature’s tunnel vision it would seem, is extremely efficient or we wouldn’t be here.

During my career as a nurse, I used to meet people all the time who were suffering injuries sustained by over-exercising or just getting it wrong. Back problems are number one (since you need the strength in your back for virtually all vigorous activity) but also knee, ankle and hip injuries, on a regular basis. Our pursuit of fitness is not without hazards. Sadly, the sufferers of these self-inflicted injuries, often do not recover sufficiently to resume their former level of activity. This leads to frustration at best and depression at worst. There is a saying, “live fast, die young” and I suspect that this maybe true in many cases. What is most certainly incorrect, is the notion that you can just burn off the calories that you have eaten and that everything will be fine. It didn’t work for Sir Steve Redgrave, who carb-loaded all his active rowing life and it won’t work for you either. He became diabetic. What is important, is that you provide your body with the proper nutrients needed for its health and activity. Sadly, most people who exercise in this way are those that cut out the fat and increase the carbs. This is the quickest way to age yourself – facially and bodily.

It is not my intention to stop people doing that which they enjoy. It is merely to inject a note of caution and common sense. Constantly going for burn is dangerous. If you do this you are ignoring your body’s warning that it is under stress – and stress in any form on a regular basis, is not beneficial to good health. It starts up the “fight or flight” hormonal response, which physically damages us. This response is for the odd occasions (nowadays anyway) that we need to get ourselves out of danger. For our overall health, we do need to get our hearts racing sometimes, but possibly the best type of exercise is interval training – good if you really want/need to allot time for exercise.

“Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine and going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends.”

file0001856731560Many people I met, would apologise for the fact that they hated gym work. They would expect me to tell them that they should be working out regularly so I told them to walk to the gym, then turn around and walk home again. Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine, going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends. Did cavemen run marathons? Very doubtful! They most probably used stealth, cunning and team-work to catch their food – for the most part anyway. This type of activity is effectively fuelled by their low-carb diet. We are not so different now that we need a new set of rules!

We need to be active and rest when needed. Using controlled movement to limit damage and we should do some resistance work to encourage good supple muscles and joints and occasionally, get out of breath.

How do we do this? We walk the dog, dig the garden, wash the car, run for the bus, vacuum the house and have sex. Tough isn’t it?

Here is an article by Dr.John Briffa on walking versus running.

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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 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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Home Grown in a Few Days – For Pennies!

We have issues with the ground attached to our house. Since the house was built on an area that used to be a gravel pit – well, I expect you can understand our problem! I have, over many years tried to improve the soil, but it has made little difference. Perpetual spinach is it! Actually, for anyone wanting to start growing food in their gardens, this is an amazing crop. I start growing it during the summer and it gets going before winter sets in, when growing slows almost to a halt. However, it speeds up again and you just pick the leaves as needed and it keeps producing more. Even now, when it has gone to seed, there are some small leaves to use raw in salads. I will be sowing the next lot at the end of the month.

Thanks to Dr. Joseph Mercola, I now grow seed sprouts.He has written about the subject extensively. Lots of you may have done this – mustard and cress and maybe mung beans. However, there are lots of seeds that can be used for sprouting. I am currently growing sunflower and daikon radish seeds (see pictures) but others include, broccoli, red kale, alfalfa, fenugreek and leek. Watercress too – as long as the compost is kept moist.

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Seeds tend to have a fairly high carbohydrate content – grains are seeds so think of wheat and rice. They also have a fabulous nutritional content. They are tiny concentrated packages of nutrition which just want a comfortable moist bed in which to create another parent plant. Acorns to oaks! When they sprout, much of the carbohydrate content is used and proteins are formed – these are the building blocks for all life forms. Plants harness the sun and use its energy to create their own energy systems. Providing they have the sun, a regular supply of water and organic compost to grow in, they will become a very valuable source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids in a relatively digestible form.

I use half-trays as there only three of us at home. It’s also nice to have more than one variety on the go. To be honest, whilst still edible, when the proper leaves start to grow (as opposed to the initial cotyledonous leaves) the concentrated nutrients and flavour are not as good. Put a centimetre of organic compost into the seed tray and water it. Sprinkle the seeds thickly and sprinkle a little more compost to cover them. Lightly water the top. Leave on a windowsill and wait, watering daily (I use an old washing-up liquid bottle for this). In a day or two, the seeds will be up and once they are 3-4 cms high, cut with scissors and add to salads, sandwiches or smoothies. Don’t let them get too big – cut and store in the fridge for a day or two. I find that I need to assist the sunflower sprouts to shed the seed casings, but the others are fine.

There are a couple of other things you can do too, to make the pennies go further. I buy, during the spring/summer (it doesn’t work in the winter) a bag of “Majestic Basil” from Waitrose. Wash it thoroughly then chop off a tiny part of the stem and put the bunch into water – an old cup/glass is fine. Change the water daily, but after a few days, the stems will have roots! Plant 4-5 to a 15cm pot, in organic compost and they will live happily on your windowsill/in the greenhouse for several months. Pick leaves as you need but obviously leave some on the individual plants so they continue to grow. Not organic exactly but as only a few leaves are used for flavouring, I think it’s fine.

2014-07-05 14.00.07Lastly (for now anyway!), lettuces. Buy mixed leaf seeds and sow thinly into troughs or pots. As they emerge, thin them a little but only to around 1-2 cms apart. When about 8-10 cms tall, harvest a few leaves from each plant and let them continue growing.So easy and takes only a week or two at this time of year!

2014-07-05 13.57.29Use organic compost – it doesn’t cost much more than the usual stuff but it is better for you and the environment. Also, find organic sprouting seeds – there are loads on the web. Start with a small amount of seeds and then buy larger amounts when you know which you like the best. My favourite are sunflower seeds so I buy 200g each time. They have a “meatiness” about them and taste mildly of the seeds. Radish sprouts taste exactly like radishes. I think I have to try leeks soon – love that idea! Happy sprouting!

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Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Nutrients – Part 1

It was during the 1980s that food nutrition labelling became compulsory and specific. I don’t remember exactly but it was probably at the same time that the government launched their nutritional guidelines – depicted now by the Eatwell Plate.

Most people will be familiar with it but as a rough guide – the plate is divided into three sections. In the first is for fruit and vegetables, the second for bread, cereals, potatoes and pasta and the third is again divided. It is divided into three segments, one smaller than the other two. The two larger are for dairy and protein foods and the smaller section for fatty/sugary foods.

There is no doubt that this way of eating is better than many diets – limiting “fatty/sugary” for one. (I agree with this as these foods generally contain highly processed seed oils rather than natural fats.) However, it falls short of advice for robust health.

This Eatwell Plate shows only the major food groups – proteins, fats carbohydrates and of course, as there isn’t a specific food group for fruit and veg, one has been created. What it fails in, is guiding us towards a nutrient dense diet – in fact it does just the opposite. The two largest sections on the plate are not (in general) nutrient dense. Let’s take each separately.

Carbohydrates: There are no essential carbohydrates but we are told we must base all our meals on these foods. That means potentially, you could be eating grains – usually wheat – three times daily and then there are the snacks on top. Carbohydrate foods are filling – temporarily, but they are not satisfying. Imagine the toast, potatoes and crumpets without butter… or the pasta or rice without their sauces.

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Some years ago I attended an eating disorders conference. One of the speakers – a doctor specialising in these disorders – told us of a very unscientific experiment that he and some of his colleagues had performed. The inserted naso-gastric tubes into each other and tested the effects of two foods on their ability to satiate hunger. Firstly, they filled each other’s stomachs with liquidised carbohydrate foods. The result – fullness without satiety even after some time. In other words, even though they felt stuffed – they still felt they wanted something else. Some time after the first experiment, they inserted the tubes into their duodenums – just past the stomach – and introduced a tablespoon of fat. It is the duodenum that communicates with the brain that we have eaten and as it takes about twenty minutes for the stomach to start emptying, it is wise not to eat too quickly! What they found was that the feeling of satiety was almost instant. As I said this is not real science but I think it does demonstrate that eating lots of carbs is not a good idea and eating some fats, is.

There are many problems with the over-indulgence of carbohydrate foods. Here are a few:
1) They fill us up temporarily but we feel the need to eat again soon after which encourages snacking. This effect also leaves less room for nutrient-dense foods.
2) They increase our need for vitamin C.
3) Carbs are broken down to their simplest form for absorption – glucose. Glucose is sugar.
4) They contain anti-nutrients. These can stop absorption of some minerals and play havoc with digestion.

Fruit and Vegetables: On the Eatwell plate, these look so healthy – depicted in lovely bright colours, typifying what we believe to be healthy and to some degree, they are. There are of course plusses as many of the foods in this group, do contain usable nutrients including fibre. Also, they can prevent snacking on worse choices. In my view, this group of foods has become more important as we now don’t eat the parts of an animal that at one time, was the main source of our nutrition. I’ll say more about this when I talk about protein.

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So here are some of the draw-backs to this group of foods:
1) Historically, fruit and vegetables in the northern hemisphere were largely available from Spring to Autumn only. What we consumed outside this time may have been fermented and thus we extended the season and also the nutrition! This is an unlikely scenario in pre-history.
2) Much fruit and vegetables on the shelves in our supermarkets comes from abroad. This means that most produce is picked before it is ready and has to travel miles. “Fresh fruit and vegetables” are usually anything but – including organic.
3) In order to preserve freshness, producers use a variety of methods; washing salad with a chlorinated solution, spraying citrus and other fruit with wax and irradiating. All these methods are good for the shelf-life of the product but not for us.
4) Most of our greengrocery has undergone enhancements! Bigger, sweeter, improved keepability – what we think of as natural just isn’t. We have played around with genetic modification for years. Most products have been subjected to this over time but the more recent genetic modifications are exceptionally harmful to us and wild animals.
5) Pesticides. If you are not eating organic produce, you will be ingesting hundreds of toxic chemicals. It is not just a matter of washing the produce – the chemicals will be found throughout in many of these foods. The idea to increase the current recommendation of “five-a-day” to eight will just tax your liver even more to get rid of these poisons.
6) Many of the nutrients in fruit and veg are not bio-available to us.
7) Some fruit and veg will contain antinutrients – see above.
8) It is a fact that some people will just eat fruit rather than vegetables. This provides far too much of the sugar “fructose” which can be damaging to health in quantity.

I will conclude this blog next time as it is rather lengthy!

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