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There is no magic diet

Sun, 8 January, 2023

New Year, new gems of advice and nuggets of wisdom drop everywhere. ‘Do only these three things to lose weight!’ ‘Ten effortless ways to improve your health!’ ‘Eat what you want as long as you avoid these foods!’ Mind boggles: is it so easy? How come I never knew before?

Because it’s all clickbait and bull manure. Not straightforward lies: some of those revelatory findings appear in respectable media and are based on scientific research. The problem is, they give you just a snippet of lifestyle advice which – useful as it is – will not work wonders if the rest of your habits are wanting.

Take the relatively new advice on flavonols published by CNN Health. Those substances, a type of flavonoid compounds, act in human body as antioxidants, fighting nasty free radicals and reducing inflammation. Scientists found they can slow dementia, protect from cardiovascular issues and even curb cancer growth. The study looked at some sprightly, compos mentis octogenarians and analysed their flavonol intake, main sources of which are green and leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, tomato sauce and olive oil. Hurray!

However, there's the rub: those good people who eat all those onions (top marks for flavonol content) probably do not ingest them in the form of crispy deep fried topping on a burger every day. That’s the issue (which incidentally the authors of the article do acknowledge): people who eat and do all those marvellously beneficial things are not very likely to smoke, have double fries for lunch and snack on Mars bars. If the subjects’ overall lifestyle is healthy already, whichever snippet of it you analyse, you’ll find proof for your thesis.

There is no magic spell to cancel out the curse. Eat less if you want to lose weight. Don’t stuff your face with garbage if you want to eat healthy. Plus, there’s no guarantee that all the flavonols and plants you eat will make sure you never lose your marbles.

That’s why I have always and will always propose overall moderation instead of fits and starts. Have a pork schnitzel one day but have it without fries, just masses of crunchy cabbage salad. Then the next day you could have black rice risotto with pears and no meat. It's all about sensible balance.

If you make a batch of maple and pecan sticky buns for breakfasts, I won’t blame you but maybe freeze most instead of having them every morning. Homemade muesli is tasty too, you know – and excellent value.

If you crave something a little bit 'tasty' in the dullness of January, go for it. But consider a dish full of fibre, not only cheese and bacon, like the cheesy sweet potato tray bake for instance. And if you simply have to have pasta every third day, make it bacon and cream once in a blue moon and herby courgette more often.

Cheesy chicken nuggets, even fried, will still be a world better for you than anything from a takeaway or supermarkets ready meals aisle. Likewise homemade chow mein or sesame noodles. And if you have a meal like that once or twice a week, make the others less fried, less starchy, less rich. Say, salmon wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Cake is good. It’s much better to have a slice than supress the craving and end up on a binge. If you have any marzipan left over from Christmas, I suggest marzipan loaf cake which is just delightful. Or use up pecans – feel free to mix them with any other nuts you have at home – to make pecan Linzer bars. With jam! Totally right as long as you don't have five at a time.

I hope you’ll find this handful of ideas useful, and that my ‘health tips’ harangue makes some sense. Happy New Year everyone, again!

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About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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