THE BASIC COMPONENTS OF DIET
The most basic components of diet are called macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates (and fibre) and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Protein is more plentiful in our bodies than any other substance but water. Protein comprises half the dry body weight, including most of the muscle mass, skin, hair, eyes and nails. It is the main structure and ingredient of our cells, and the enzymes that keep them running. Immunity to disease relies on protein; in fact, the immune system and its antibodies are largely composed of protein.
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. Twenty of these are vital for the body, and some of these are known as essential because they cannot be synthesized by the human body, and must be supplied by the diet. Without these essential amino acids constantly entering the body, the rate of new protein formation would slow down and, in extremes, stop altogether.
Proteins are the basis of all life. Those from meat, fish eggs and cheese are known as complete proteins, containing the correct proportion of amino acids. Vegetable proteins are not so complete but by combining foods such as grains and pulses or nuts, more complete protein can be created.
Carbohydrate foods are energy foods, and include sugars and starches (and indeed dietary fibers as well, see below). They are formed from simple sugar, among which are glucose (found in most foods), fructose (primarily found in fruit) and galactose (dairy produce). Sucrose is refined from cane and beet sugar, and in digestion breaks down to glucose and fructose.
These simple sugars form inter-linking chains, to make complex carbohydrates – the starches, such as grains, cereals and pulses and the foods made from them (bread, pasta, etc.) – plus vegetables and fruits. Complex carbohydrates have to be broken into simple sugars for absorption; the most significant of which is glucose. We require only limited stores of carbohydrate, for any not immediately used by the body is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles, and anything in excess is converted into fat.
The structure of simple sugars in the food, the soluble fibre and fat content of a food determines the rate at which carbohydrate is metabolised and glucose enters the bloodstream. The more rapidly this occurs the more ‘glycaemic’ the food, with a propensity to raise blood sugar. This is undesirable because as blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas secretes insulin to enable the liver and muscle cells to store the glucose. As insulin levels increase, so blood sugar levels fall. Once they fall below a critical level, the brain, which needs glucose to function, becomes impaired. This is hypoglycemia, an affliction which can cause many unpleasant symptoms, in children particularly.
Of all the simple sugar, only glucose can be released directly into the bloodstream, which is why glucose-rich carbohydrates, such as sugar, and sugary cakes and biscuits, are highly glycaemic. Fructose and galactose must first be converted to glucose and therefore enter the bloodstream at a slower rate. This is a very slow process with fructose especially, which is why fructose-containing carbohydrates, primarily fruits, are low glycaemic foods.
Glycaemic foods are primarily foods that have been refined, and include sugar (honey, sucrose, maltose, glucose, sweets, chocolates), white flour (bread, pasta, biscuits, refined cereals, often with added sugar), and refined rice (white).
Unrefined carbohydrates, those which are not glycaemic, include whole-wheat products (brown bread, brown flours, whole-wheat pasta), maize and other whole grains, wild rice, unpolished brown rice, fruit, vegetables, legumes and pulses such as lentils, beans and peas. These should play a significant part in any healthy diet.
Fibre consists mostly of cellulose, a substance forming plant cell structures (skin, husks, peels etc.) it is non-digestible carbohydrate, and is not absorbed by the body. But fibre has another use: it slows the rate of absorption of other carbohydrates into the bloodstream. The higher the fiber content of a carbohydrate, the less glycaemic it is. Fiber-rich foods include whole cereals (bran in particular), pulses, dried fruit, baked potatoes (with skins) and green leafy vegetables. Peel fruit and vegetables as thinly as possible, or not at all.
The second biggest killer cancer is bowel cancer. This could be prevented by a food intake of fibre on a daily basis (vegetables, fruit and cereals). Insoluble fibre increases bulk in the stool, and encourages more fluid retention in the stool and healthy action of the bowel in general. Soluble fibre slows and moderates absorption of sugar and glycaemic foods.
Fats come from animals, fish and vegetable sources. Animal fats are largely what are called saturated. We need some of these – including cholesterol (although our bodies actually manufacture this, see part 14) – to make our own hormones like cortisone and the sex hormones, but too much can be provided in the diet which is quickly converted to body fat (as are excess glycaemic foods).
Vegetable fats, which included olive oil, nut and seed oils, are unsaturated fats. These contain the essential fatty acids which the body cannot manufacture, and which are necessary for making healthy tissues (and many indeed reverse the effects of saturated fats). The best are mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil. Some fish oils are also unsaturated and essential, and can be protective.
These are two main families of unsaturated fatty acids: the Omega-6 and Omega-3 series. The chart following shows where they are to be found;
Omega-6 – linoleic acid (LA)
Vegetables, seeds and nuts and oils
Corn, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, corn, walnut, soya and wheatgerm oils
Omega-6 – gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
Seeds, nuts and oils
As above, also evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant oil
Omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA)
Seeds and nuts
Flax seed, linseed, pumpkin, and evening primrose oil
Omega-3 – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Omega-3 – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
When fats are eaten with carbohydrate, they slow the rate of absorption of the carbohydrate into the bloodstream. The biggest deficiency of all in the West is of essential fatty acids. So fat is necessary for good health, but an excess intake, however, is not recommended.
Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals
Macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats – require micronutrients, which included vitamins and minerals, to work efficiently. All the vitamins are essential for good general health, and at least fifteen minerals are considered to be necessary. Most of these are obtained from the diet. Micronutrients also clear ‘rust’ from the body, oxidised material which is irritating to the tissues and contributes to disease – the notorious ‘free radicals”. Antioxidants – especially Vitamins A, C and E and glutathione with the mineral selenium – help to rid the body of these.
Then there are other components of foods which are neither standard vitamins nor minerals, which I will call vita-nutrients in Superfoods – chemicals with vital protective, life-giving or energy-giving properties like proanthocyanidins in red wine and the essential oils in herbs (see the Appendices). Of particular importance are the carotenoids and bioflavonoids. The carotenoids – which include beta-carotene, the principal precursor of Vitamin A – are pigments found in foods of plant origin, particularly in orange and dark green vegetables and fruit. They are protective in many ways, primarily in their antioxidant action. Bioflavonoids are naturally occurring compounds – among them citrin from citrus fruits and rutin from cereals – which prevent the destruction of Vitamin C by oxidation, which strengthen capillary walls, inhibit blood clotting and are helpful in hypertension and allergy control.
The Cholesterol Debate
Cholesterol is a substance naturally manufactured by the body, and it is found in most animal tissue. Cholesterol is transported in the body attached to chemicals called lipoproteins, which can be high density (HDL) or low density (LDL). LDL deposits cholesterol in the membranes of the arteries while HDL mobilises cholesterol. It is when LDL cholesterol is oxidised that atherosclerosis occurs. Olive oil protects LDL from oxidation and the body from heart disease and strokes. Wine also increases the activity of HDL. Sugars, however, can lead to an increased oxidation of LDL.
Raymond has already alluded to the diet of the French in southern France. They have a diet high in fat, eating foie gras (fatty goose liver) among other cholesterol-rich foods, and yet they suffer less illness. They also smoke heavily, and drink. Despite these indulgences they have one-third the incidence of coronary heart disease suffered by Americans and Australians. This dispels the cholesterol myth. The explanation seems simple: it is not cholesterol in the diet which causes coronary heart disease, but sugar. For, despite their seemingly damaging lifestyle, they take in their diets one-sixth the amount of sugar eaten elsewhere in the West, eating a fresh, natural and organic diet, not processed food from the packets, thins and jars we tend to have in the UK and elsewhere. They shop daily for fresh vegetables, and consume garlic and onion, which contain potent bioflavonoids (see above). The red wine they consume contains other chemicals, which benefit vasculature, and their diet includes large amounts of mono-unsaturated olive oil. The French also use many herbs in their cooking: rosemary, for instance, is one of the most powerful antioxidant herbs in the vegetable kingdom. They rarely drink milk but have fermented and cultured dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt (in the latter, the lactose sugars have been fermented out and the bacteria are good for health). The French often overeat, but there is a low incidence of obesity. Stress is low, and mealtimes are enjoyed with the family. There is clear evidence that populations living in the Mediterranean countries have a longer life expectancy than northern Europeans. Genetic or racial factors do not explain these differences in society, because migration studies have proved no correlation. The major causes of death in the affluent societies – cardiovascular disease, cancer and digestive disorders – have very different incidence rates in different European countries, and the differences depend on diet. The most likely explanation is that a more relaxed lifestyle and a high fruit and vegetable consumption protect against disease.
Elsewhere in the world the cholesterol debate rages equally. In northern India the people consume a large amount of ghee which is clarified butter, a high cholesterol fat, yet they have one-fifteenth the incidence of heart attacks of southern Indians. Those in the south are often total vegetarians eating without animal fats, but they eat coconut oil, saturated fat, and margarine instead, as well as large amounts of sweetmeats. The fats in margarine are hydrogenated polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which oxidise quickly, and are known to increase LDL. Butter, despite its fattening reputation, is actually much healthier than margarine.
The Importance of Balance
What I am trying to explain, through this brief account of nutritional principles, is the importance of understanding a little about the body’s own balancing acts. In my life’s work, I have observed the imperative role played by correct nutrition in restoring the body to health. The integration of protein, carbohydrate and fat in a meal results in a correct balance of blood sugar. Some 25 per cent of the population has an elevated insulin response to carbohydrate, and they very easily gain fat; and between these two is the 50 per cent which has a fluctuating response, which depends on the diet. What we require are small meals with the correct ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fat.
To provide ourselves with these macronutrients, we need small quantities of fish, cheese, eggs, milk and meat, the high protein foods. We also need carbohydrates, and all vegetables and fruits contain micronutrients, minerals, vitamins, and many other valuable components. Calorie intake can have varied effects depending on body type and the rate at which an individual breaks down food.
The following chart contains a summary of dietary recommendations for health in general.
GOOD IN MODERATION
Fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, salads and nuts
Some lean meats
Sugar and sugar-containing foods
Cold-pressed mono-unsaturated oil e.g. olive oil
Eggs and lean poultry
Margarine and PUFA
High soluble fibre foods: oats, rice, barley, fruits
Wholegrain breads and cereals
Salt in excess
Garlic and onions
Sun-dried fruits (see Superfoods)
Processed food and food additives
Fresh fish and seafood
Natural bio yoghurt and butter
Balanced meals and snacks should be based on whole foods taken from each of the four main food groups: grains; milk, milk products and fats; proteins; fresh vegetables and fruits.
GROUP I GRAINS
2 daily servings
E.G. wholemeal biscuits, bread or crispbreads; brown rice; muesli; oat porridge; whole-wheat pasta.
GROUP II MILK, MILK PRODUCTS AND FATS
2-4 daily servings
E.G. milk, butter, cheese (soft and hard), cream, vegetable oils (olive and walnut especially, but also corn, groundnut, safflower and sunflower), yoghurt.
GROUP III PROTEINS
At least 2 daily servings
E. G. beans (dried), grains, beef, chicken, eggs, oily fish (herring, mackerel, sardine, tuna, salmon), offal (kidney, liver), meat (beef, lamb, pork, poultry), nuts, game (rabbit, venison etc.), seeds (good sprouted as well), shellfish and white fish (cod, monkfish etc.).
GROUP IV FRESH VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
4-5 or more daily servings
Some vegetables and fruit should be eaten raw. Hard vegetables may be cooked. It is wise to eat some raw food at every meal because this supplies an important enzyme, which is destroyed by cooking. Also more vitamins and minerals are retained in the food if uncooked; some water-soluble vitamins are actually lost when the food is cooked.
A meal made up entirely of foods taken from each of these four groups should furnish a good supply of minerals, essential fatty acids and vitamins as well as proteins and carbohydrates, provided that a minimum loss of nutrients occurs in storage, preparing, cooking and serving.
THE PRINCIPLES OF A HEALTHY DIET
To assist in the provision of the best health I have listed the principles of a basic diet, some of which of course cross over with the ‘Ten Blanc Commandments’
1. Eat fresh unrefined food, organic if possible.
2. Enjoy a varied diet.
3. Take pure fruit juices, unsweetened.
4. Drink bottled or filtered water.
5. Avoid artificial flavorings, colorings and additives.
6. Avoid processed foods
7. Try not to consume too much preserved, tinned, smoked, heavily salted or pickled foods.
8. Avoid instant drinks such as fizzy cordials; they contain sugar, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
9. Minimise sugar and sugary foods, e.g. sweets, cakes, biscuits and tinned fruit in syrup.
10. Take small, regular meals rich in protein, vegetables and fruits.
11. Cook in a healthy way – boiling, roasting, poaching, steaming and pan-frying in a minimum of fat.
12. Try to include Superfoods containing ‘vita-nutrients’ in your diet.
The most important ingredient of perfect health is happiness, however, and we should all enjoy our food.
SEVEN NUTRITIONAL “AGES’ OF MAN
It is undeniable that at certain times of life our bodies have differing nutritional needs. With the invaluable help of Dr Monro, I have examined a number of ‘ages’ or categories, and detailed lifestyles and foods that might be suitable.
TOUJOURS LES VACANCES (Always Vacation)
Our twenties and thirties are addictive, exciting years when ambition, deadlines, enthusiasms and a quest for success seem all consuming. We have always lived with these sorts of stresses, but it is only when stress becomes relentless that it threatens the body, making us feel like cornered animals with no opportunity to escape. The adrenal glands start speeding metabolism, and this automatically alters the rate at which our body uses its resources. Replenishment of these is imperative in those leading a high-powered lifestyle, and this involves resting, away from the stress.
A balance between sleep and a busy life is also crucial. Good sleep at night is vital in many ways, but good sleep also releases Melatonin, the main hormone that automates our hormone system. It is created in the body during darkness and swindles during the time we are exposed to light. Melatonin is the most powerful of antioxidants, 500 times more powerful than Vitamin C.
Good nutrition is particularly important at this time. A diet high in Superfoods will encourage the removal of toxins from the body and protect from stress-related illness. However, stress can actually be induced by one food – by sugar. The quick ‘fix’ of a sugary chocolate bar at your desk is not a good idea; a good snack and some fruit will satisfy your appetite, your taste buds and your digestion, and will keep you going for much longer.
How and when you eat is as important as what you eat. Take ten minutes to sit down. Enjoy a glass of wine. Let your mind focus on something (or someone) you like. Now savour every bite. After all, these are the best years of your life.
MENAGE A TROIS (A Household of Three)
As a man, I may be occasionally insensitive to female needs, but never as a chef. As both, I have often wondered why pregnant women have cravings for extraordinary things like petrol fumes, gherkins and chalk. It would be wonderful if could, in this book, develop those odd cravings into longings for the very best of foods!
Preconceptual care is now a whole nutritional specialty for hopeful mamans, but men also have a nutritional role to play when trying to conceive. Our old friend Casanova was quite right about the aphrodisiac the oyster – Zinc – rich foods are said to be excellent for sperm production. In Denmark, organic farmers consuming their own produce had twice the sperm count of men eating commercially grown products. So practising an organic lifestyle could be a real act of love towards your imminent new family.
Good food is vital, both preconceptually and during pregnancy. Once pregnant, a new maman should eat five portions of well-washed fruit and vegetables a day. She should eat plenty of calcium-rich food such as milk, yoghurt and cheese; soft-boned fish such as tinned salmon and sardines are also a good source of calcium. Oily fish like sardines are high in essential fatty acids, protecting against heart disease (and may help to prevent stretch marks). Maman will benefit from lot of Superfoods and minerals (see appendices). Iron, folic acid (which prevents birth defects such as spina bifida) and iodine are essential (fish and kelp are excellent sources of the latter). Avoid soft cheese because of the risk of listeriosis; raw eggs could be a problem too because of the risk of salmonella. Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy: babies could be born underweight. And never smoke.
Prospective mothers should demand to be spoiled. If his cooking is so awful that he can’t manage the simple recipes in this book, get him to bring you to Le Manoir instead!
LA BONNE FEMME (Women)
Without pretending to understand everything about women, I know that they have special nutritional needs. Hormones are crucially related to nutrition, and women’s lives are dominated by hormonal activity – the years of the monthly cycle, through childbearing, and into menopause. Vitamin B6, essential fats and Superfoods can help stabilize the menstrual cycle and relieve the symptoms of pre-menstrual tension (PMT). The recent debates on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have highlighted soya as an excellent source of naturally occurring oestrogen; the contribution this makes to regulate hormonal activity can alleviate hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.
A woman has irregular calls on resources throughout her life – the demands of a baby during pregnancy, for instance – and these can all be perfectly well accommodated provided she eats correctly and well. If she has not done so, however, she may develop some deficiency diseases, the commonest of which is osteoporosis. To protect against this, she should ensure she always has good sources of calcium and Vitamin.
Women are men’s future, their saviours, mothers, sisters and wives. In all the battles between the sexes, they generally win, being more powerful. However, there is one proven route to pleasing females while restoring male pride: to cook for them. Being more particular and sensitive to details, they know how to appreciate – and their discrimination makes one’s triumph all the greater. Satisfaction all round.
LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES (Kids)
As a parent, you are blessed with the greatest creative challenge and joy of all: the unadulterated palate. Through cooking for your child, your own sensual expression, you are helping to form a new sense of taste, probably for life. However, nuances of flavour also come from our sense of smell; the largest part of the brain is related to smell, and it is our longest-term memory. By letting him or her smell good food cooking, and tasting it, your child will retain those early memories for ever.
Babies have to learn to enjoy tastes. This is wonderful for you and baby, and you can experiment and create! From about five months, puree ‘whole’ fruits, vegetables and selected grains, organic where possible. Try gravies of beef or other meat, but restrain your urge to regale them with buttery, wine infused sauces. Food must not be too rich, and flavours should not be too strong. So use little salt or sugar: a baby’s kidneys cannot metabolise the former, and the latter is completely empty in a nutritional sense. And cook in healthy ways – steaming, poaching etc., rather than frying. Until at least nine months, most babies cannot tolerate too much fat, egg white, whole nuts or hot spices. From nine to twelve months you can introduce cheese, beans, yoghurt, fromage frais, whole-wheat bread and pastas, casseroled meat and well-cooked egg white. Cow’s milk could be drunk after one year, and never offer skimmed or low-fat dairy products; children need the fat as well as the calcium.
By the age of five, most children have fixed ideas of what they like and dislike. They also need a lot of food (they could be a restaurateur’s dream), three times as much, per unit of weight, as adults, which makes for three meals and two to three snacks a day. Exploit this opportunity to introduce an enormous variety of healthy snacks. Encourage them, as I do all my friends (of whatever age), to use their hands. Let them communicate with food with all their senses, which is real enjoyment and understanding of food. Let them dip bread into cold-pressed olive oil, which has a similar calorific count to, but less cholesterol than, butter.
My peasant childhood was gloriously free of today’s relentlessly chemical environment and culture. Animal studies have shown that certain food colorings frighteningly accelerate the release of certain brain chemicals; other studies demonstrate that some children react dramatically to food colorings. Science also now recognizes that hyperactive children are suffering from exposure to lead from car exhausts and pollution, leading to learning and behavioral problems. Inner-city children are obviously most at risk.
These risks are exacerbated by poor nutrition and by a lack of vitamins and minerals. As I have always feared (I refuse to enter any form of hamburger bar), diets high in junk food are a poor source of Vitamins B1 and B6, as well as zinc and magnesium.
In my experience, all children love nutritious food. It is very refreshing to share in their enthusiasm, and I find them a wonderful audience. Children appreciate beauty as much as, if not sometimes more than, jaded adults. Always garnish their meals, if only with the most basic fresh herb sprig. Most of all, I think it is sinful to make healthy food boring for children.
LE BON VIVEUR (The One Who Lives a Merry Life)
Let’s eat, drink and be merry.
Even up to twenty years ago, most British bons viveurs were beset with health problems. And today Great Britain still tops the chart for cardiovascular problems, heart attacks etc., the results of too much heavy, cream-laden food, sugar and not enough vegetables, good fibre and fruit. Things are changing though, and expense-account restaurants, the traditional haunt of the bon viveur, are now offering better food lifestyles, under the influence of the French, the Italians and Asians. However, steak and kidney pudding, a British classic, is actually an excellent food, rich in protein and folic acid, but few would benefit from eating it at every meal. Moderation and balance are the key to health. With a little knowledge of nutrition, one can live and enjoy most of the pleasure of life, especially good food and good wine. For instance, a simple idea, but one that is a basic nutritional precept, is to start a meal with a salad of raw vegetables: this stimulates the digestion beneficially and, of course, reduces the need for over-indulgence thereafter!
As a spry, wiry Frenchman I was brought up in a family of bons viveurs who are all slim, fit and happy. This is in keeping with the national gastronomic tradition. The typical French bon viveur, consuming a diet of fresh food and foie gras, washed down with the best wine, often lives to a ripe and healthy old age. France enjoys the lowest average individual body weight of all western countries, and the least incidence of cardiovascular disease. And all this whilst digesting up to two three-course meals per day, following a breakfast of chocolate and croissants.
If this all seems irritatingly unfair or contradictory, you can blame the most ubiquitous of ‘nutritional’ deception: the great calorie-lie that ‘obesity results from a diet too high in calories’. We all know obese people whose problems persist despite severe ‘dieting’ or starvation. There may well be temporary weight loss, but the body will guard itself against perpetual rationing by simply reducing its daily needs to less than the new reduced calorie intake. The surplus calories will still be stored daily, as body fat, resulting eventually in weight gain. You cannot out-manoeuvre nature. Luckily for us, the body does reach a natural point of satiation, but only once it receives enough nutrients, not calories. It is time to stop this obsession with calories and to return to what sustains food traditions: common sense.
The British are changing. I see them in my restaurants, tie-less, hat-less and smiling and truly enjoying their food. Nowadays they even kiss their hellos, and embrace surprised Frenchmen! There is a wonderful new mood of sensuality. A British bon viveur is no longer characterized by his or her indiscriminate drinking and eating, but by an enthusiastic appreciation of beautiful food and wine.
Science today reassures us that no connoisseurs of the good life need deny themselves: with a little knowledge of nutrition, one can eat, drink, be merry and healthy.
By nature, we are omnivorous, not vegetarian. Our system is designed to metabolise meat, fish, vegetables, grains and many other foods. Yet I understand why many people become vegetarian.
Traditionally, chefs have Olympian ignorance about – and a great prejudice against – vegetarians, but I find it quite pleasing that one eats as one thinks and as one lives. Most of my vegetarian guests and friends are actually extremely appreciative of their food, and very knowledgeable. They have to be, as they need to follow essential nutritional guidelines in order to have a completely balanced diet.
Vegetarians can be deficient in nutrients, particularly protein. Lacking the complete proteins of meat, they have to combine the incomplete proteins of grains, beans and lentils to make complete proteins or eat some of these with some protein from dairy produce or eggs. Some possible combinations re: legumes (lentils, peas or beans) with nuts; legumes with all grains; fresh vegetables with rice or other whole grains; fresh vegetables with mushrooms.
There are other risks as well. In Britain, strict Hindus and others who eat no animal food can be vulnerable to osteomalacia and rickets, caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin B12 only occurs in animal products, and a deficiency can result in pernicious anaemia in vegans, vegetarians who do not eat milk, eggs or cheese).
Vegetarian food can be sumptuous, healthy and simple to cook. We have had a vegetarian a la carte menu at Le Manoir for many years. Partly, it is a spur to my kitchen: meat dishes offer big tasters, but vegetarian dishes are as varied, and can be as intense, requiring a lighter hand and a finer palate.
NE REGRETTE RIEN (No Remorse)
The most extraordinary ‘fan’ letter I ever received began with an erotic description. In sensual detail, I was offered the image of an upper lip lifting in pleasure, while small teeth sliced into a plump white peach. The juices spilled over and lightly smeared the chin of my seductress, a 70-year-old lady.
And, why not? The latter part of our lives should be a time to bloom, not fade. A common error is to assume that we need less food after middle age and less good food. I know too many older people who are unused to caring only for themselves: they eat meagre meals and often resort to convenience food. In face, at this time we require better-quality protein, and a diet rich in fish and meat will supply many amino acids necessary to boost health. Calorie intake, however, should be tailored to exactly what is needed to stay fit. Antioxidant food – those which contain Vitamins A, C and E, plus selenium and zinc – will have some anti-aging effect. To maximize a healthy lifespan, a moderate amount of aerobic exercise should be taken, and stress should be avoided at all costs.
People evolve. By the second half of our livers, we should have honed the art of joy to a fine point. That means a refined understanding of our bodies, minds and affections. And what better testament to this than a fine meal shared with friend and family.
These are foods, which have natural health-giving and even medicinal effects. As stated before, most foods can be eaten for health, so long as they are unrefined and produced in an organic way, so most foods are Superfoods to some extent.
Chocolate and cocoa powder comes from the pods of the tropical tree, Theobroma cacao. Despite its relatively high content of saturated fatty acids, chocolate can contribute a significant amount of dietary antioxidants and bioflavonoids. The caffeine content can in excess produce palpitations and other side effects, but in ordinary consumption, chocolate can improve mental performance, memory, alertness and feelings of well being, and delay physical fatigue. Chocolate is a major source of dietary copper, contains significant amounts of manganese and magnesium, and cocoa can be used in zinc deficiency.
Dairy products – milk, butter, cheese, eggs and yogurt etc. – are a rich source of calcium, phosphorus and selenium. They also contain saturated fat. Milk is a source of zinc and organic butter of Vitamin A. Eggs are a good protein source, and are a complete food, lacking only vitamin C 9which most species can make for themselves, but not man). They contain copper, iodine and iron. Egg yolk is a rich source of folate and zinc. Yogurt is an excellent protein, which is very easily digestible, because the lactobacilli (bacteria) have ‘pre-digested’ the lactose (milk sugar). Live bio yogurt can be useful in many ways. The lactobacilli are protective against infectious diseases in the gut and cancer of the colon, and can help when intestinal flora has been disrupted by a course of antibiotics.
All fruits contain good carbohydrate and many fibrous, components for effective intestinal transit. They are also rich in minerals and vitamins, and are amongst the most important vital elements for health. Red and yellow fruits in particular contain carotenoids, among them apricots, cherries, citrus fruit, melons, papaya and mango. Fruits also contain bioflavonoids, in particular apples, apricots, cherries, citrus fruits, grapes and all the summer fruits. Most fruits are rich in Vitamin C, particularly blackberries, blackcurrants, citrus fruit, guavas, and kiwi fruit. Figs are rich in fiber, and bananas are good sources of potassium, magnesium and fiber. Dried fruits have excellent quantities of fiber and iron; sultanas, particularly the darker varieties, contain all the components of red wine, as the skins are intact. Pineapple is a source of iodine and selenium, and contains an enzyme, bromelain, which is a protein-digester, and is said to be useful in a number of ways, combating infection and inflammation; it has also been used in the treatment of cancer. Papaya contains a similar enzyme, papain; Rhubarb may help to heal gastric ulcers.
Fungi and Yeast
Yeast is a rich source of folate and Vitamin B6 when cooked. Mushrooms, both cultivated and wild, contain chromium, copper and pantothenic acid, a B vitamin. Shitake mushrooms are said to be protective against cancer, especially of the breast.
Whole grains have not been refined or adulterated. They may have been processed in some way – by milling, rolling or flaking – but nothing should have been extracted and nothing added. Whole grains are good sources of carbohydrate, particularly fiber and vitamins, including the B vitamins, copper, manganese; iodine, selenium and magnesium, and together with legumes or pulses (or other dietary components) can provide complete proteins. Foods made from whole grains – pasta etc. – contain the same nutrients. Buckwheat is a good source of bioflavonoids, corn of zinc. Oats are naturally cholesterol – lowering. Brown rice is rich in Vitamin E and B vitamins, including niacin (nicotinic acid), which are helpful in the metabolism of the rice. Whole wheat is a rich source of Vitamin B6 and niacin; the bran contains niacin, Vitamin B6 and folate; the germ has B1, B6 and folate.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are often the richest sources of aromatic compounds and essential oils, bioflavonoids and minerals.
Basil is reputedly helpful for migraine, nervous tension, constipation and insomnia. It is a natural disinfectant. Bay leaves help stimulate appetite and aid digestion. Cardamom is a natural diuretic and can help digestion. Chervil is rich in Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and beta-carotene. It acts as a diuretic and benefits the liver; it’s good for treating gout, rheumatism and eye troubles. Chives, being a member of the Allium family (see Onions), share many of the Allium properties, and also stimulate appetite and aid digestion. Cinnamon is useful in treating some gynecological conditions and suppressing some viral infections. It contains chromium, which helps the body to use sugars. Coriander, herb and seeds, combines sedative and stimulant effects; the seeds if chewed are an aid to digestion. Cumin is a good general tonic, and is antiseptic and antibacterial.
Dill, herb and seeds, can be stimulant and sedative, and is digestive, often used in the treatment of infant colic. Fennel has many medicinal properties, and is diuretic, tonic and sedative; it is particularly effective in digestion, very good with fish. Fenugreek contains carotenes, and can improve glucose tolerance in diabetes.
Garlic contains active sulphur compounds, alliins, as do the rest of the Allium family, which are widely believed to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. It is a natural antiseptic and antibiotic, can lower cholesterol in the bloodstream, lower blood pressure, and enhance the immune system.
Ginger, a rhizome spice, is available fresh, dried and powdered, is warming and carminative (relieving intestinal gas, relaxing and soothing the gastrointestinal tract). It is anti-inflammatory, and analgesic, used in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.
Horseradish is a member of the Cruciferae cabbage) family, and is pungent (like mustard); it is an excellent digestive, stimulant of salivary and other digestive juices. Lavender is diuretic, calming for nervous diseases of the stomach, and stress. Lemon balm is said to cure many nervous afficions. Lemon grass has been used as an antiseptic, a sedative (reducing anxiety and promoting sleep) and digestive. Lovage seeds, leaves and roots may be beneficial for rheumatism, and the leaves are good for treating urinary problems and jaundice. Marjoram is an excellent digestive, and mint is antispasmodic and carminative. Mustard, containing active compounds similar to horseradish, is also a crucifer; it is an excellent digestive, can help joint pains and problems of the chest and lungs, and can have anti-cancer properties. Oregano is sedative and calming, and a good diuretic.
Parsley is rich in vitamins A, B and C and many of the other nutrients of green leaves, notably iron and calcium. It is a natural antiseptic and diuretic. Rocket, used as both salad leaf and herb, is a recognized antiscorbutic because of its Vitamin C content. For medicinal purpose, the plant is most effective when gathered while still in flower. Rosemary is a very rich source of many bioflavonoids, and has many medicinal qualities; it is diuretic and stimulant, and can assist with stress. Saffron contains carotenoids. Sage is a natural antiseptic, tonic and stimulant. It is also antispasmodic and an antidote to fatigue and aids in the digestion of rich and fatty foods. Sorrel is rich in potassium and Vitamins A, B and C. It has a high oxalic acid content, so should be avoided by people suffering from gout, rheumatism or arthritis. The leaves may be used as a diuretic, tonic or mild laxative. Savory aids digestion and is diuretic.
Tarragon acts as a stimulant and calmant at the same time, aiding digestion. Thyme is a natural antiseptic because of its high thymol (essential oil) content; it is also diuretic and digestive. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. Watercress is rich in iron, Vitamin C and other minerals. It is effective in combating bronchial problems, protective against lung cancer, and stimulates the circulation.
MEAT, POULTRY AND GAME
The meat of animals, poultry and game is the principal source in the human diet of complete protein, and is a good provider of many B vitamins and minerals; lean meat, for example, is a good source of manganese, potassium and selenium; red meats (beef, lamb, pork, venison) contain a lot of iron. Offal, especially liver, is a good source of iron, copper and iodine, and is rich in B vitamins. All meats contain saturated fat. Game is often lower in this than farmed livestock.
Absorption of copper from goose liver (foie gras) is higher than from goose meat; women are able to absorb far more copper from goose liver than from other sources of foods.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts and seeds contain incomplete protein, essential fats, many nutrients and vitamins. The same applies to the oils pressed from them. In the diet, their fats help to slow absorption of sugars. Almonds are rich in protein, essential fats and some of the vital B vitamins. They are also good sources of zinc, magnesium, potassium and iron. Brazil nuts and chestnuts are rich in vitamin B1. Coconut has rich fats, but these are well digested, as the flesh contains minerals to assist with its own metabolism. Hazelnuts are a rich source of vitamin B1. Pine kernels contain essential oils as do peanuts (B1 and niacin too) and pumpkinseeds. Sesame seeds are rich in Vitamin E and essential fats, and contain a sulphur-rich amino acid, which is a useful protein source. Sunflower seeds are rich in niacin and Vitamin B6. (Sprouted seeds are healthier still, containing Vitamins B1, B2 and C; alfalfasprouts have E as well, and are reputed to reduce cholesterol significantly.) Walnuts, particularly those grown in the West, are a good source of Vitamins E and B (young green fruits contain C).
Organic and cold-pressed oils are a good source of essential fatty acids and, although they contain calories, are healthy, particularly the mono-unsaturated oils such as olive oil. Most oils are rich in Vitamin E. Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is the very best of all for flavor and properties (it plays a huge part in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet). Keep all oils away from light so they do not denature.
Pulses or legumes (peas, chickpeas, beans and lentils) are the dried seeds of members of the Leguminosae family, and are very nutritious because, like grains and seeds, they contain everything for the next generation of plants. They are rich in vegetable protein, which is incomplete (apart from the Soya bean). They contain little fat, and are good sources of B vitamins, particularly B6 and folate, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They are good dietary carbohydrates as well, providing dietary fibre, which helps gastrointestinal function. Beans can lower cholesterol. Soya beans are as near to a complete protein as is possible in the vegetable kingdom, and possess natural estrogen-like properties, which help symptoms of the menopause and may help protect against cancer of the breast.
All pulses, apart from lentils, contain toxic substances, which must be inactivated by correct cooking.
Fish and shellfish are high protein foods. They also contain fat-soluble vitamins, many minerals (particularly iodine, phosphorus and sodium), and essential fatty acids. Canned fish with edible bones are a rich source of calcium. Oily fish and oysters are rich in B vitamins, iron and zinc. Sardines are also rich in iron, and tuna in niacin. Shellfish are a good source of chromium and copper.
All vegetables contain good carbohydrate and many fibrous components for effective intestinal transit. They are also rich in minerals and vitamins, and are amongst the most vital elements for health. Red and yellow vegetables in particular contain carotenoids, among them beetroot, carrots, sweet and chili peppers, pumpkins and squashes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The darker green and leafy vegetables also contain rich nutrients, particularly Vitamins A and C; spinach, for instance, is a rich source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and bioflavonoids. Artichokes can help balance intestinal flora, and asparagus contains an active compound which is beneficial for the liver and kidneys. The dark skin of aubergines contains bioflavonoids, which can prevent the formation of ‘plaque’ in blood vessels, and hence reduces angina and the risk of stroke. It can also help to lower cholesterol. Fresh beans contain many of the principles of their dried counterparts, as well as Vitamin C.
The cabbage (cruciferae) family includes red and green cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale, all of which contain Vitamin C and sulphur and are said to have anti-cancer properties. An over-usage of them can be a problem, so although they are superfoods, they must be eaten in moderation.
Onions are rich in alliins; the active sulphur compounds in garlic, leeks, shallots and other members of the Allium family, and are widely believed to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Onion also has blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol lowering effects. It is anti-inflammatory and enhances the immune system.
Pepper, both sweet and chili, are rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene. The hot oils in chili peppers can be digestive, but should be used in moderation. Potatoes contain potassium, and good amounts of fibre in the skins. Seaweed contains iodine and niacin. Tomatoes are particularly rich in vitamins, bioflavonoids and iron, so are good for the blood and nervous system, and help protect against cancer.
Many scientific studies have been searching for the answer to the so-called ‘French Paradox” this concerns the anomaly of people in southern French and other Mediterranean countries having an incidence of coronary heart disease which is significantly lower than that in other developed countries, despite a high consumption of fat. Scientists now think that diet, in particular regular intake of red wine, is responsible for this cardio-protective effect.
All wine contains what are known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins. These contain many principles, which are protective of health in a number of ways, but it is red wine that is the most significant. This is because of the skins, which in red wines are left to ferment with the crushed grapes and juices to add flavor and color. (In white wines, fermentation takes place after the skins have been removed.) A substance called resveratrol is present in grape skins which is thought to contain many healthy properties: in a study the most resveratrol was found in a red French Bordeaux, the least in its white counterpart. Resveratrol has anti-clotting properties and this protects against atherosclerosis and heart disease. Other wine compounds, including flavonoids and antioxidants, are though to protect against infection, cancer and dementia.
A friendly word of warning, though, to those tempted to hit the bottle at this point. Two to four daily glasses of red wine are the level associated with decreased incidence of disease. Moderate drinkers live longer and are less likely to die from heart disease than teetotalers, but those with a tendency to drink too much place huge strains on heart, liver and digestive tract. It is interesting and healthy to note that red grape juice has the same properties as red wine.
Wine in itself is not a cure-all, nor is it the only reason for the French Paradox, but it is certainly the most fun. A votre santé.
Vitamin A (Retinol, Animal Sources)
(Beta-Carotene, Vegetable Sources)
Important for skin and mucous membranes helps with eyesight and may be important in the utilization of iron by the body. It is a powerful antioxidant. Retinol, which is fat-soluble, resists most cooking processes except frying at high temperatures. It is sensitive to oxygen and light. Betacarotene, which is water-soluble, is sensitive to light, oxygen and heat. It is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Cod liver oil, halibut liver oil, ox liver, chicken liver, lamb’s liver, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato, dried apricots, broccoli, cabbage, mature carrots, cooked carrots, cantaloupe melon, cheddar cheese, cherries, eel, kale, papaya, mango, sweet peppers, chili peppers, peaches, prunes, tomato, watercress, dark green leaves and herbs, water melon, whole powdered milk, eggs, fresh apricots, organic butter.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant women (but too much can be a risk to the foetus), those who are under stress, the elderly, faddy eaters and dieters. It helps to protect mucous membranes against infections and cancer.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Essential for the proper functioning of nerve tissues, and all muscles including the heart. It aids digestion and promotes energy and growth. It is water-soluble, and is lost when food is soaked and water is discarded, when cooking-water is discarded, and when meats and other foods are cooked at high temperatures.
Brewer’s yeast, wheatgerm, liver, peanuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, sprouted pulses, whole grains and seeds, oats (raw), dried peas, green peas (fresh), Soya flour, pork, butter, peanuts and haricot beans.
Especially Need By:
Pregnant and lactating women, women on the Pill or HRT, those indulging in high physical activity, junk-food eaters, and the elderly.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Essential (with other vitamins) for the synthesis of hormones by the pituitary and adrenal glands to meet stress by fight or flight, for energy production in the body, for healthy eyes, skin and hair, and plays a part in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It prevents soreness of the lips, mouth and tongue. It is water-soluble, and is lost when cooking water is discarded, although fairly stable when heated. Exposure to light diminishes it (i.e. milk bottles left in sunlight on the doorstep).
Kidney, liver, whole and sprouted grains, legumes and seeds, yeast extract, wheatgerm, dairy produce, green leafy vegetables.
Especially Need by:
Pregnant and lactating women, children who are growing fast, women on the Pill or HRT, and the elderly.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin / Nicotinic Acid)
Prevents gastro-intestinal disturbances. Helps in energy production and blood circulation. Needed for the metabolism of fats, protein and carbohydrate. It is water-soluble, and is fairly stable in cooking, although it may be lost when cooking water is discarded.
Yeast extract, dulse seaweed, kidney, liver, peanuts, poultry, sunflower and sesame seeds, oily fish, wheat bran, wheatgerm, whole brown rice, wholemeal flour, dried apricots, beans (sprouts especially), lentils, mushrooms.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant and lactating women, by children undergoing rapid growth, by those who physically exert themselves and those who are stressed.
Pantothenic Acid (Pantothenate)
Essential for proper functioning of the adrenal glands, helps in allergy, involved in the formation of antibodies, accelerates the healing of wounds of all kinds, and protects skin and mucous membranes. It is water-soluble, and is lost when boiling vegetables and cooking fruit, and when there is prolonged dry heat in cooking.
Yeast extract, cod’s roe, offal (all kinds), avocado, wheat bran, cauliflower, cod, eggs, mushrooms, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheatgerm and royal jelly of bees.
Especially Need By:
Those who are stressed or depressed, or who do not have enough fibre in their diets.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Necessary in the metabolism of proteins and fats, is involved (with zinc) in the production of antibodies and red blood cells, prevents certain skin disorders, and a variety of nervous disorders. Involved in the formation of adrenaline and insulin, etc., for the production of RNA and DNA. It is water-soluble, and although fairly stable in cooking, can be lost if cooking water is discarded.
Wheatgerm, liver (beef, calf, chicken), kidney, oily fish, Soya beans, pulses, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts (English) wheat bran, bananas, brie cheese, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red), carrot, dark green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, chestnuts, chicken, cod, sweetcorn, crab, cress, heart, kale, lentils, yeast extract, peanuts, pork, rabbit, rice bran.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, vegetarian and vegans (most B6 is from animal sources), junk-food eaters, dieters, insomniacs and those under stress.
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamine)
Essential for the functioning of all cells, in partnership with folic acid, helps to regenerate bone marrow and maintain nerve tissue, and play an important role in the metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrate. It is water-soluble, and is relatively stable in cooking, although up to 50 per cent can be lost if cooking water is discarded.
Cod’s roe, eel, heart (beef), herrings, kidney (beef), liver (beef, lamb), mackerel, oysters, sardines, cod, chicken liver, egg yolk, heart (lamb), trout. There are no vegetable sources of vitamin B12, so vegetarians and vegans may need to supplement.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant and lactating women, vegetarian and vegans (B12 is found only in animal foods.) and the elderly.
Folate (Folic Acid)
Involved in cell growth, particularly red blood cells. Also important for proper function of the thymus gland. Important in pregnancy to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. It is water-soluble, and can be lost easily in cooking by overcooking, by prolonged cooking and by reheating.
Yeast extract, wheatgerm, egg yolk, liver and kidney (beef, lamb, pork), wheat bran, almonds, beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peanuts, sesame seeds, wholegrain cereals, pulses.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant and lactating women, by women on the Pill or HRT, by children during times of rapid growth, by those who are stressed, and by the elderly.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Maintains collagen, connective tissue in the body, promotes healing of wounds, burns, injuries etc., helps to promote the integrity of the capillaries, and is essential for the specific metabolism of amino acids and iron. It increases resistance to infection. It is water-soluble, and a powerful antioxidant. C is easily lost in cooking, as heat, light and oxygen affect it; even cutting up vegetables can reduce their C levels. Cook whole vegetables if possible in minimum water for the minimum time.
Black, currants (raw), grapefruit, guavas, lemons, spinach, kiwi fruit, orange, parsley, rocket, sweet and chili peppers, cauliflower, watercress, blackcurrants (cooked), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, dark green leafy vegetables, red currants, blackberries, gooseberries, mustard and cress, papaya, liver, kidney, potatoes, sprouted pulses, whole grains and seeds.
Especially Needed By:
Infants, children, those suffering from stress women during the menopause, and the elderly.
Vitamin D (Calciferol)
Needed for the absorption and use of calcium (bones and teeth). Might also be involved in maintaining the appetite. It is manufactured in exposed skin in sunlight. It is fat-soluble, and is fairly stable in cooking, although it is destroyed by light and oxygen
Cod liver oil, halibut liver oil, egg yolk, herring, sardine, eel, mackerel and other oily fish, oysters, tinned salmon, dairy products and liver.
Especially Needed By:
Infants and adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, vegetarians, women going through the menopause, the elderly and those with dark skins living in more northerly countries.
Vitamin E (Tocopherylacetate)
Important for protecting the body joints from oxidation and may also protect against heat disease. It is fat-soluble. Little is lost in home cooking, except when frying in fat, but it is unstable when frozen. Oils lose E content when exposed to light.
Wheatgerm, alfalfa, cod liver oil, corn oil, rapeseed oil, rice, bran, safflower oil, sesame seeds, sunflower oil, wheatgerm oil, almonds, buckwheat flour, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, wheat bran, avocados, oats.
Especially Needed By:
Everyone, because of its protective character.
Needed for bones, teeth and muscles. Adequate Vitamin D is necessary for its absorption.
Dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and canned fish with edible bones, pulses.
Especially Needed by:
Pregnant and lactating women, children, junk-food eaters, dieters, women on the Pill or HRT or undergoing the menopause, insomniacs and the elderly.
Necessary for blood sugar control.
Whole grains, shellfish, nuts, mushrooms, and wheatgerm.
Especially Needed By:
Those under stress
Needed in the work of the enzymes
Whole grains, pulses, shellfish, nuts, mushrooms, offal (especially foie gras), eggs, poultry, dark green leafy vegetables, and chocolate.
Especially Need By:
Needed for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. A diet too rich in brassicas (the cabbage family) can interfere with iodine absorption.
Seafood, especially oily fish, seaweed, liver, pineapple, eggs, whole grains, dairy products.
Especially Needed By:
Infants and pregnant women.
Needed by the blood to carry oxygen. Vitamin C helps its absorption. Too much tea or coffee depresses iron absorption.
Liver, kidney, red meats, dried fruits, nuts, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, prune juice, oysters, eggs, watercress, tomatoes
Especially Need By:
Children, adolescents, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, strict vegetarians.
Part of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, needed for conversion of calories into energy. Tap water in hard-water areas supplies magnesium.
Dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seafood, chocolate, bananas
Especially Needed By:
Junk-food eaters, dieters, pregnant women, those under stress those with high cholesterol.
Needed in the work of the enzymes
Wheatgerm, liver, kidney, green leafy vegetables, red meat, tea, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, chocolate
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant women, or women undergoing the menopause.
Needed for the teeth and bones, and release of energy.
Meats, fish poultry, eggs, dairy products, and grains, fruit and vegetables.
Especially Needed By:
Those under stress
Needed for heart, muscles and maintenance of normal blood glucose levels.
Lean meat, pulses, wheat germ, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, nuts, orange juice, avocados, apricots.
Especially Needed By:
Those under stress.
Needed to work with the detoxifier glutathione as a co-factor and antioxidant.
Liver, kidney, meat, seafood, dairy products, whole grains, pineapples
Especially Needed By:
Needed for bones and enzymes
Oysters, herring, milk, meat, egg yolks, corn, beets, peas, almonds, pulses.
Especially Needed By:
Pregnant and lactating women, adolescents, children experiencing growth spurts, junk-food eaters, dieters, strict vegetarians, those suffering stress, women during the menopause, those physically exerting themselves, the elderly.