Sunday, 22 July 2012

Diet Dilemmas

It pains me to say this but I am not getting any younger. Age is beginning to take its toll. I have had to adopt reading glasses. My bunions cause me grief on long walks. An afternoon nap is becoming increasingly attractive. (One of the many perils of 'working' from home!)

So with the fact of my inevitable eventual decreptitude beginning to hang over me like the proverbial sword of Damocles, I have decided I should pay more attention to my diet. I should, I reasoned, attempt to delay the onset of old age and all its attendant irritations (it is often said that old age is not for the faint of heart, is it not?) by going on a healthy diet.

For the past thirty years or so I have not paid huge attention to the question of diet although I have tried to ensure I eat vegetables now and again and I make sure I cut the fat off the meat. I don't really like most fruits but I feel I should eat some, so every week I go through the same ritual of buying some and putting it in a fruit bowl where it sits until it rots. I then throw it out and buy some more. I'm not overfond of cake but crisps are a weakness (who can resist a packet of cheese and onion with a pickled egg in the bag!) and there's nothing like a pie or pasty to soak up the ravages of a beer fuelled evening out.

So I devised a plan to research the evidence, work out which foods are good for me and which are not and attempt to focus my diet on the former and leave out the latter. (The health issues of smoking and alcohol are subjects that I will leave for another time.)

'Research' in 2012, as everybody knows, means putting key words into Google so I started by entering 'which foods are healthy' in the search engine. Top of the list of results was the NHS Choices website.

The NHS, in their 'eight tips for healthy eating'  advise the following:

Number One tip for healthy eating:  Base your meals on starchy foods. 'Try to include starchy food with every meal'

Number Two: Lots of fruit and vegetable. 'A glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice can count as one portion, and vegetables cooked into dishes also count. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for some dried fruit?'

Number Three: Eat More Fish. 'You can chose from fresh, frozen or canned'.

Number Four: Cut down on saturated fat and sugar. 'For a healthier choice, use a just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee.'

Number Five: Eat less salt. 'Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.'

Number Six: Get active and be a healthy weight. 'Most adults need to lose weight, and need to eat fewer calories in order to do this.'

Number Seven: Don't get thirsty. 'We need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated.'

Number Eight: Don't skip breakfast. 'Wholemeal cereal, with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and nutritious breakfast.'

Well there you have it. This is the NHS, right? Not some 'health expert' being paid by the food industry to claim that doughnuts can count as one of our five a day as long as they contain strawberry jam.

This is the dog's bollocks, as they say. Information straight from the horse's mouth. But, continuing the theme of animal idioms: I smelt a rat. And as I dug a little deeper I discovered that I had opened a can of worms.

It turned out that every single one of the NHS's eight tips is not without controversy or disagreement. 'What, even the one about not getting thirsty?' I hear you say. 'And the one about getting active and losing weight? Yup. Every one.

And the trouble is, especially for someone like me who:

a) Failed to gain one science O Level (O Levels! See, that shows my age...), and

b) Distrusts more or less everything that anyone 'in authority' tells me without checking for myself,

this presents a difficulty, as I have try and sift through the overload of information that is the internet and try and make a decision for myself from a position of complete and utter ignorance. Though, come to think of it, that doesn't bother a lot of journalists. They're always making pronouncements about the health benefits or perils of this and that, with apparently little or no basis whatsoever.

It is a subject I intend to come back to. In the meantime, where's that bag of crisps and pickled egg?

1 comment:

  1. It is a minefield isn't it? I suspect we are much of an age... Peculiarly distressing when your body starts telling you you're not young any more. Of course everyone gets old, but surely not me?? Keep up the cycling is my advice. I may be pretty rubbish on a bike, but after struggling through the mud for 35 miles across the North York Moors last weekend, I thought 'well there's lots of people in their 50s couldn't have done that'. Probably would have had more sense!