I like food. I like eating. I like cooking. I like shopping for dinner. I like waking people up with scrambled eggs, or a fatly sliced watermelon and yoghurt. I like picking blackberries, spreading soft butter on hot toast, or stirring a big cauldron of soup. I like the juice to drip from a bright orange. I like white goat's cheese to crumble at my touch. I like my fruit swimming in thick cream.
But at least as much as I like preparing or scoffing food, I like talking about it, reading about it and thinking about it.
My friends and family know this only too well. Plenty of them routinely roll their eyes heavenwards as I begin to blab about the goodness of cholesterol, about why fat is great, but carbs and sugar are not. I think most of them stopped listening a while ago, bored of my bitching about ingredients lists, my rants against dirt-cheap supermarkets, or my fear or endless rows of corn.
Instead of taking this as a hint to shut up, however, I plough my way on, hoping to get them eating raw milk cheese, dying to get them off the sugar habit, aching to stamp on that brittle stick of stale bread that sits gaudily alongside their lunch, and sneakily dispose the processed food that lies in their cupboards. Some of them eat brilliantly; my sister has become an egg fiend, Sophie a bone brothing magician, and Chio was always a total butter beast anyway.
But you get my drift; I ain't stopping til I've got world (diet) domination... I want you all on board the Fat Train. So thanks to those poor souls amongst you who've told me you want to pick my brains about what to eat, you're all now getting lumped with my advice to eating better. Yes, go on, roll your eyes, but know that it won't do anything to keep me quiet....
My Advice for Eating Better
1). Fat is good, tasty, and essential for health. Choose good quality fats from good sources, like pasture-fed, organically-reared animals. Olive oil is not a good choice for cooking in because it is unstable at high temperatures. Butter, on the other hand, is great, as is lard, coconut oil, goose fat, or beef tallow. Cook with these babies, enjoy them, and move on from that dangerous and deluded low-fat mentality.
2) Sugar is a beast. Do not eat it. That includes soft drinks. If you really need to sweeten something, do it with honey, or eat some fresh fruit.
3) Grains are not that great. Despite that silly pyramid we all learnt at school, eating a very grain-based diet is not a wonderful idea, and will not bring you optimal health. This is because we don't properly prepare grains (see here for how to), and because they are more taxing for our digestive systems than other things... like animal fats.
4) Do not eat processed, refined, or adulterated foods. Be savvy, and read ingredients lists, think about where you food came from and how it was made. Meat products with E250 are not good (here's why), low-fat dairy is linked to infertility and it tastes rubbish anyway.
5) Vegetable oils are very damaging to health (read this book to find out why). They are also the main ingredients in shop-bought ketchup, mayo, coleslaw, tartare and BBq sauces.
6) Eggs are one of the best foods ever (read this to find out why). I eat about 12 a week. (And no, don't ask me about my cholesterol... here's why not)
7) Probiotics will make your gut happy. And in making your gut happier, you will be making yourself happier. Probiotics populate your digestive system with good bacteria, strengthening your immune system and making sure you get the goodness out of your food. If you're really serious about this, you can ferment your veggies to make delicious salsas or pickles. If that seems like a bit much, then eat just eat more yoghurt (full-fat, organic, please).
8) The complicated one: Genetically-modified foods are still a total unknown, backed up by pitifully little science. They are also much more ubiquitous than you think, especially if, like me, you live in Spain. Spain is the only EU country to cultivate GM crops on a wide scale, producing more than 76,000 hectares of GM corn per year. This corn is principally used to feed livestock. This means that all those lovely red steaks sitting on the butcher's counter are quite possibly from GM-fed animals, which could mean all sorts of weird things for your health.
The nutritional value of animal products is hugely affected by what they eat. Cows aren't very able to digest the corn and wheat we are feeding them. Grass-fed is better, antibiotics fed to non-organic cows will be in your milk (hence the growing widespread human resistance to them), and battery eggs don't really deserve the name egg. Your veggies are also affected by the quality of the soil they are grown in. Nitrogen-rich fertilisers might get them to grow up fast and tall in the short-term, but their simplicity will eventually lead to poorer soil and the erosion of the top-soil. Meat from animals fed GM corn from synthetically fertilised soil is not a good idea for your health, and an even worse idea for the planet.
Your health starts with the health of the animals you eat, which starts with the health of the soil they eat, or the health of the foodstuffs they are fed. The health of our land is inextricably linked to our own, the way we produce our food has vast implications on our hospitals and healthcare systems. The system of industrial production that presently characterises the way we make our food has big business profits, rather than our health, at its core. If we are to deal with our emerging problems or over-population, mal-, under- and over-nourishment, obesity and other 'diseases of civilization' such as cancer and heart disease, and our exploitation of topsoil, water and energy, we are going to have to sort out the way we make our food, and fast.
That is the reason I am beginning an MSc in Food Policy next week. Hoorah!
For those to whom this article is genuinely intended, those who have expressed their wishes to ask me a little or a lot about how to eat better, how and where to shop, and what to remember whilst doing so, please feel very very free to ask any question you might have in the comments section, whether they relate to specific points above or not, and I will do my utmost to help.
This post is proud to be part of Fight Back Friday, hosted here.