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Eat your greens

PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 September 2015

Mediterranean-Style Salad with Feta Cheese

Mediterranean-Style Salad with Feta Cheese

Archant

We all have our food downfalls, but eating healthily doesn’t have to be a hardship, says our health columnist, GP Dr Matt Piccaver.

Think of Norfolk and many things spring to mind. The marvellous countryside and coastal resorts draw many to Nelson’s county. When I used to visit Cromer as a child, and even as an adult, I would be asked if I would go crabbing. Think Norwich, and mustard is not far from our thoughts. Visits to Brancaster aren’t complete without sampling locally produced mussels, and let us not forget the large poultry and pork industry within our county borders.

Diet is one of the most important things in terms of keeping us healthy. An unhealthy diet is often pretty obvious. Diets high in saturated fats, devoid of fresh fruit and vegetables, and high in calorie soon take their toll.

There is an old adage “You are what you eat”. Never a truer word was spoken. We’re made of matter. Atoms and molecules. We consume food and assimilate that matter, building cells, tissues and organs. Food has such an important role, and yet so many of us pay little attention to what goes into our mouths.

Many of us are guilty of the occasional “salad avoidance”. The lure of energy-rich quick fixes is often difficult to avoid. We all know where we go wrong. My downfall is biscuits. I’m a sucker for a chocolate bourbon. Oh, and chocolate. Er ... and sausage rolls. I like the occasional scotch egg.

So if I, a doctor with years of training, can occasionally stray from the path of celery and salad, what hope for the rest of us?

Just what is a good diet? This seems to change with every newspaper article I read. It is often hard to tell if we’re eating something good for us. There are many food myths. High sugar fruit juices are “good for you”. Chocolate ultimately comes from a plant (so does tobacco for that matter) and we all know that polishing off a tin of sweets at Christmas is probably a bad idea.

Another old adage, “Everything in moderation” is probably not a bad maxim by which to live. A diet rich in fresh fruit vegetables, with a little poultry, oily fish and low in refined carbohydrate (sugar by the rest of us) is often called the Mediterranean diet. While Norfolk might seem a little far from the Spanish coast or Greek islands, following the diet isn’t too tricky.

So how do we follow the Mediterranean diet? In short, eat plenty of veg. Green, leafy, lovely, yummy veg. Mum was right all along: Eat your greens. Go easy on the red meat, and use vegetable oils such as olive oil, rather than animal fats such as lard. Try to avoid fast or processed foods. Eat oily fish and poultry. Ditch the cakes, crisps and chocolate. Have a little red wine now and again, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

There are plenty of dietary fads around, from low carb, low fat or even no food at all. Eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables, get some exercise and you won’t go far wrong.

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