What is it with crisps?

checkoutI needed some extra income this summer so I’ve been working weekends on the checkout at a supermarket. It has really brought home to me the message that WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Spend any amount of time looking at people and their shopping and you can clearly see the absolute correlation between health and diet.

One of the things that has shocked me most is the ubiquity of crisps. Just about every shopping basket contains a bag of crisps – of one size and type or another – from posh hand-cooked named potato varieties to strange puffs of something unrecognisable and flavoured like an exotic meal. There is a whole aisle of the supermarket dedicated to these savoury snacks.

CrispsAs a nation, us Brits must be eating our bodyweight in crisps each year. Why on earth do so many people buy sacks of 24 bags of crisps? (The quantity of non-recyclable packaging alone makes me feel queasy.) I wonder … is it because it’s only a small, light bag that we think they don’t count as food? Or that we can get away with eating them? Worse – why do we think every British adult’s and child’s lunchbox should contain a bag of crisps? Why does a supermarket ‘meal deal’ always include a bag of crisps? Do we think they are adding something to our nutrition? Or do we just believe they’re harmless to our health?

Crisps are BAD food. For a start, they wreak dental havoc because they are basically just starch – their digestion starts with the saliva in our mouths and they stick to our teeth better than sweets or chocolate. They are deep-fried at high temperatures in oil. (Don’t be duped into thinking the oils are healthy because they have pretty made-up names!) Any seed oil at high temperature becomes unstable (begins to create free radicals) and re-heating creates even more instability. Free radicals are most definitely a huge threat to our health. The ‘free’ (hanging on by a thread) molecule bits scavenge our body’s cells for a mate – at any price. They will even steal molecules from our very DNA to try to stabilise themselves. This is what causes diseases like cancer. Read the ‘Processes’ part of this Wikipedia article for more detail.

Unrecognisable ingredients!
Unrecognisable ingredients!

Furthermore, the ‘bad fats’ they contain cancel out the ‘good fats’ (omegas) in our diet – and the average UK diet is already very low in these essential fats. Finally, the flavourings they are coated with are high in artificial flavourings, sugar, artificial sweeteners (why??) and of course salt. Artificial chemicals are alien to our bodies and have to be neutralised and processed by our liver. A single serving pack of ready salted crisps contains at least 0.5g of salt. That isn’t a problem in itself but I bet crisp eaters are eating more than one of those little bags a day and I bet they’re also eating plenty of other foods high in salt – preserved meats (bacon, sausages, etc), ready meals, convenience foods (pasta sauces). So one of those little bags could well take them over the 5g recommended daily salt intake – for an adult.

Yes, crisps can be tasty but before you tuck in, please remember they are not food – in fact, they are anti-nutrition! If you’re in great health and your diet usually consists of lots of fresh vegetables and good sources of protein, then you can probably afford to ‘treat’ yourself once in a while. Otherwise, please leave them out of your daily diet!

If you want a salty snack, open a jar of olives or try one of these favourites of mine:

  • Tamari Seeds: put a handful each of (raw) sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a frying pan on medium heat. Stir all the time – do not allow them to brown! You will see the seeds begin to swell and puff up – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and drizzle on a teaspoon of tamari (wheat free soya sauce). Stir quickly and well. Leave to cool before serving.
  • Salt and Pepper Cashews: melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add two handfuls of raw cashew or cashew pieces (they’re cheaper!) – stir continuously – don’t let them burn. As soon as they begin to turn a golden colour, remove from the heat and sprinkle on sea salt and fine black pepper to taste (do NOT stir). Leave to cool before serving.
  • Linseed crackers – get my recipe here.

All of these recipes should be stored in an airtight jar for a few days only (if there’s any left over!).

Raw Slaw – you can live on it!

raw slaw 1This recipe is ideal if you want to (a) get more nutrition from your diet, (b) cut down or cut out carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, etc, and (c) lose weight. It can be made either savoury or sweet. When I first started seeing a kinesiologist and she shared this recipe with me it was to replace breakfast cereals and gluten free bread. I was really sceptical about eating raw veg for brekkie but even my husband loved it and said it was better than muesli because it’s not as dry or bland.

Raw vegetables contain lots of vitamins, minerals and natural sugars – as well as two extra beneficial ingredients: the tiny fibres which feed the ‘good’ bacteria in our guts; and lots of active enzymes which we need for great digestion.

raw slaw basicsI love this recipe so much I probably eat it three times a week – but most often for lunch now, especially on the go. It’s great to pack in a lunchbox with some sardines or mackerel – what a nutrition-packed meal! That won’t give you an afternoon slump!

Here’s how to get some raw slaw in your life. The basic ingredients are nearly always carrots, cabbage (any kind) and beetroot. I get a weekly veg box delivery from the delicious Goldhill Organics so my raw slaw ingredients vary quite a bit. I use my ancient but trusty Magimix processor to grate the root veg and thinly slice the cabbage – but it works fine with a hand grater and a knife. Here’s a list of all the veg/fruit I can remember adding to the basics in my raw slaw:

  • turnip
  • kohl rabi
  • fennel root
  • spring onion
  • peppers
  • red onion
  • apple
  • courgette
  • celery

raw slaw 3When I worked in an office I used to take this for lunch most days. To save time, I grated big batches of carrots and beetroot in advance and kept them sealed in a box in the fridge. Each morning, I then added the extra ingredients and topped and dressed my slaw. If you store it dressed, it gets a bit soggy.

Toppings: add raw nuts, seeds and a little dried fruit for extra nutrition. I always add sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Cranberry and almond was my favourite breakfast version. (Make sure your dried cranberries are not coated with vegetable oil and/or sweetened with sugar!) You could also add walnuts, brazils, pecans, cashews, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, dates, raisins …

Dressing: drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, add plenty of raw cider vinegar and choose from tamari (wheat-free soya sauce), lemon, lime or orange zest and/or juice. You could also add flaxseed oil for extra omegas.

Suggested combinations:

  • breakfast/brunch version = the basics + cranberries + almonds
  • savoury version = the basics + spring onion + seeds + the dressing + tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • the basics + grated apple + celery + sliced dates + walnuts – with goat’s cheese
  • the basics + sliced fennel + cashews – with fish
  • the basics + sliced peppers + seeds – with feta cheese

Let your raw slaw imagination run wild!

Zinc – the “polite mineral” that could change your health

fruit-1254253_1920As two-times Nobel prize winner Dr Linus Pauling said: “You could
trace every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”  If that’s the case then Zinc would be the crucial mineral to supplement, in my opinion. My lovely kinesiology teacher, Rosie Dowbekin, describes Zinc as ‘the polite mineral’. Zinc says to calcium and magnesium: “no, you go first – you’re so important”. Yet Zinc is found in every tissue of our body and is required for 2,000 of our bodies’ vital processes including protein and carbohydrate metabolism, normal immune function, healthy hair, skin and nails and brain function.

A report was published in the USA in 1936 which showed that soil was becoming depleted of minerals as a result of increasingly intensive farming. (If soil is depleted then the vegetables and fruits grown in it are, and so is the grass and silage eaten by livestock.) Imagine what has happened to the soil in the last 80 years! We have had to resort to massive quantities of chemicals and genetic modification to produce our food. So, not only do we not eat enough natural foods, but they’re lacking minerals anyway.

Most people rely on refined and processed foods as the staples of their diet – bread, pasta, pizza, biscuits, cakes, etc. Refined (white) flour has had a large percentage of its mineral content removed – up to 77% of Zinc. We are simply not eating anywhere near five a day of vegetables – it’s more like 2 on average (and for some kids, scarily – none). Stress, pollution, food additives, alcohol and smoking all deplete minerals or prevent their absorption.

How do you increase your Zinc levels?

I recommend this food-state supplement from Cytoplan – I take one a day. If you suspect you have been depleted for a long time, it could take six or even 12 months of supplementation. If you want to keep topped up by eating better, then buy organic vegetables and fruit – they not only have less chemicals on them but they are grown in a natural way that respects and maintains soil health, which in turn grows more nutritional food. I get a weekly box delivery from Goldhill Organics – I love the freshness, quality and taste. Oysters and other fresh seafood are very high in Zinc but so are green vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as meat.

My gluten free article in Menu magazine

I was delighted to write a contribution to this beautiful Dorset foodie magazine. I wanted to highlight all the positives of gluten free food and how delicious it can be. I chose three Dorset gluten free food heroes and it was great to speak to them – I was really inspired by their stories and how they run their food businesses.

 

So, what’s the problem with gluten?

I’m being interviewed by BBC Radio Solent tomorrow morning about a gluten free article I’ve written for Menu Dorset magazine. I’m gathering my thoughts and preparing for their questions …

Close up of ripe harvested ears of wheat, a staple ingredient in cooking
Close up of ripe harvested ears of wheat. Photo Credit: www.freefoodphotos.com

What is gluten?

It’s a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It can cause an immune response in the gut – in those who have coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

What is coeliac disease?

I don’t like calling it a disease because you can’t catch it! If you are diagnosed as coeliac you have an autoimmune response to any trace of gluten in your food. Basically, your small intestine’s immune system starts to attack the cells in the lining of its own walls – destroying the crucial villi – the finger-like protrusions where a lot of absorption of nutrients takes place. Without them you don’t absorb your food’s nutrition properly. I was diagnosed because I was very, very anaemic as a baby. 

If you have that autoimmune response and the lining of your intestine is destroyed, you become very sensitive to lots of other things too. For example, I can’t eat the gliadin in oats, lactose in milk products or even drink coffee because it contains a protein that cross-reacts with gluten.

Why do so many people have a problem with gluten?

If you’re not allergic or intolerant then that’s great (I believe quite a lot of us are although we may not know it’s the cause of symptoms). Even if you can tolerate it, the problem is we’re being exposed to too much of it because:

  1. We’re eating more gluten-containing foods than we’ve ever eaten before – most peoples’ daily diet consists of breakfast cereal or toast, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and pizza or pasta for dinner. That’s not a varied diet and it completely lacks the vital vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as fibre and ‘good’ fats contained in vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, etc.

    Overhead view of a rounded crusty loaf of cob bread on a wooden bread board incised with the word Bread
    Photo credit: www.freefoodphotos.com

2.  The amount of gluten in modern wheat has increased as a result of genetic modification/farming methods compared to ancient varieties

3.   Extra gluten is added to bread so that the production time can be massively reduced. Gluten is released and activated when bread is proven, kneaded and rested. High speed bread making methods don’t do that so they add gluten to make it sticky.

Is it just gluten that’s the problem with grains?

No, grains contain other anti-nutrients that cause us problems. Phytic acid, lectins, gliadin – they can all cause digestive issues and other symptoms such as headaches, joint pains, even depression. The only grain I really eat now is rice because I’ve always loved it. I always soak it in plenty of cold water with a squeeze of lemon or cider vinegar for as long as possible to remove these other toxins. 

Also, refined grains (white wheat flour particularly) cause an insulin spike when they’re eaten. We are increasingly overweight, obese and insulin-resistant or outright diabetic. I believe this is down to our reliance on refined grains in our diet, as well as sugar, of course.

Hungry Planet: What the world eats

Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio travelled to 24 different countries and photographed 30 families surrounded by their weekly food supply. The results were published in this book: Hungry Planet and I find it fascinating. Here’s a link to an article where you can see some of the photos.

Particularly surprising to me is that, on the whole, I would much rather eat what the ‘poorer’ families (those who spend less than $100 per week) are eating! I especially like the look of the Ecuador family’s food for just $32.

I’m really shocked to see absolutely no vegetables whatsoever in the American families’ diets. There’s a tiny amount of fruit and I think some bagged salad hiding in there but that’s it for fresh produce. It’s also interesting to see that mostly it’s the men and boys who are overweight – I’d say it’s more often women here in the UK. And where there are chubby kids, there are bottles and bottles of fizzy drinks, breakfast cereals, crisps and fast food such as huge pizzas.

Is it just me or do the German family get through rather a lot of alcohol for two adults in a week?! And just compare their food quantity with the quantity and number of family members of the Mali family below. Fascinating stuff! There are also teaching resources available here.

Thank You for Listening!

me - headshotThis blog is the beginning of my ‘telos’ (inspired by Dr John Demartini – thank you). My gut instinct (pardon the pun) about my purpose in life is it definitely has to do with food. Read more about why food is so important to me here.
I’m not entirely sure yet where I’m going with this but, as they say, every journey starts with the first step. I know I love writing and teaching and that I’d really like to help other people with food problems. Right now, I’m studying Systematic Kinesiology and Nutritional Therapy, as well as learning lots about NLP. As someone said to me recently: “if you’re not evolving, you’re dying” – yep! So, thank you for reading about my little evolution …

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