Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Forget the powders, we need a team approach to improving the nation's health

“Vanilla mushroom protein, super endocrine, Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca and Shilajit resin”….When I read Amanda Chantal Bacon’s food diary I had the overriding feeling that this lady was a crackpot.

An obsession for health that results in eating powders and concoctions rather than food is one side of the scale, the other is a diet of pizza, chips and processed food.

There is more evidence supporting that you are what you eat. Those who put in too much and make poor dietary decisions often end up obese with long term health problems. It isn't just those who are obese who will have health problems, you can be thin but with a poor diet you are open to the same risks. 

There is overwhelming evidence that we need to eat more fish, more vegetables and more complex carbohydrates. However, the trouble is that there isn’t a balanced view from the medical profession. 

When I found out that I was suffering from cancer, a life threatening illness, my first question to myself and then to the medic was “What caused it?”.  He responded that they don’t analyse what causes cancer, but rather try to find the cure. I don’t want to take anything away from the man who helped me recover, he is a fantastic practitioner, but I find this approach short-sighted.

In the aviation industry, if something goes wrong the attention is directed towards what caused it, something that is explained in Matthew Syed’s book, Black Box Thinking. While industries like aviation are committed to prevention - for obvious reasons -  the medical profession has a closed mind when it comes to finding out why the illness has developed.

Chemotherapy is both good and bad. It can eliminate cancer but ongoing chemo for a long time can kill you if a secondary illness develops. I have read of many successful cases of people prolonging and improving their lives with cancer thanks to natural remedies yet anyone who promotes these methods is viewed as a crank!

There is solid evidence that what we eat affects our health so why is this approach so wrong? 

How many doctors are trying to find a cure in the world? We are often told which foods can increase chances of cancer but surely if they got their heads together they could identify a balanced diet which could reduce our chances.

During my recovery from cancer, I’ve looked into high alkaline diets, good and bad fats and good and bad cholesterol but no one is putting this information together to create a more rounded approach. 

This leads me to question whether chefs could contribute to the nation’s health. Jamie Oliver might achieve some success with his sugar tax but how much more could he achieve if he had all the chefs of the UK on board? 

When you learn to cook you learn the basics of preparing and cooking food but you don’t learn about the impact of what people put into their bodies.  Unless you are working in hospitals, care homes and schools, you simply don’t have an appreciation of the nutritional qualities of food. During my classical training nutrition wasn’t even thought of - it was all about taste, pretty pictures and massaging egos. Once again it’s a closed mind set.

The chef’s curriculum focuses on how to do it but I think this should include what constitutes a balanced diet going beyond creating a dish with meat, carbohydrates and vegetables. 

Imagine what change we could bring about if we were to include health and nutrition at NVQ level 1, 2 and 3 and educate all trainee chefs in the nutritional benefits of the ingredients they use. It would mean more knowledge and awareness and healthier food on a lot more plates. I really believe that it could make a difference and any initiative will have my backing. 

When it comes back to Amanda Chantal Bacon, I don’t see how you can live normally eating such a diet but it’s her life and if her body tells her it’s good then I’m happy for her.  Amanda Chantal Bacon might have taken what she consumes to the extreme but until we have the research and education in place to prove her wrong, who are we to criticise?

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