Tag Archives: well

Sugar tax must apply to sweets as well as drinks, say campaigners

The sugar tax should be extended to cover sweets, not just soft drinks, according to public health campaigners. The charity Action on Sugar said it wanted ministers to get tough on childhood obesity by forcing confectionery manufacturers to reduce the sugar in their products.

Chocolates and sweet confectionery account for 9% of all the sugar eaten by children aged between four and 10 and for 11% by those aged between 11 and 18.

The levy, which is due to come into force in the UK affecting heavily sugared fizzy drinks from next year, should also be applied to sweet treats sold in coffee shops and restaurants because those often contained a lot of sugar and calories, the campaign group said.

Under the new rules, producers or importers of soft drinks will have to pay a sugar tax of 18p per litre on drinks containing five grams or more of sugar per 100 millilitres and 24p per litre more if their products contain eight grams or more per 100 millilitres. The Treasury expects the levy to raise £520m a year.

“Action on Sugar is urging the next government to implement a mandatory sugar levy on all confectionery products that contain high levels of sugar to ensure maximum impact to help tackle the obesity and type 2 diabetes crisis,” said Graham McGregor, Action on Sugar’s chairman, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

“The levy should be structured by the Treasury as per the soft drinks industry levy, whereby it is aimed at manufacturers to encourage them to reduce sugar in their overall product ranges. The next government needs to bring in tough measures to ensure compliance and put public health before the profits of the food industry.”

Dentists in Britain backed the move as a way of tackling tooth decay. “When the sugar levy is already showing that progress is possible, it makes no sense to draw an arbitrary line and ignore the likes of sweets or energy drinks that are so aggressively marketed at children,” said Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association. “Ministers keep giving the impression that it’s ‘mission accomplished’ on sugar controls. Dentists are confronting an epidemic of tooth decay and government must show it is prepared to go further on advertising, reformulation targets and through the tax system.”

A sugar tax on sweets had to be mandatory because “voluntary sugar reduction vis reformulation alone will not combat obesity”, said McGregor.

Conservative sources said they would not be extending the sugar tax. “Reducing childhood obesity is vital, and we’re pleased that Public Health England says that our plan to address it is the most ambitious in the world,” a source said.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, recently warned that the 20% cut in sugar content of most types of foodstuffs being sought by Public Health England by 2020 was highly unlikely to happen because it would not be “technically possible, or acceptable to UK consumers”.

Fact check: how well does your birth control work?

Hello, how are you today? If you’ve got a uterus, maybe the answer is “not so great” – especially if you’ve heard reports about Donald Trump’s latest appointee. The woman tipped for a key family planning role, Teresa Manning, has previously worked with an anti-abortion group as well as an anti-LGBT rights lobbying group.

If Manning is appointed as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, she would have oversight of the federal program that provides contraceptive services to low-income and uninsured women and men.

Manning, who is a law professor, has said “family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God, and it doesn’t really involve the federal government”. I won’t be fact-checking that statement (because it’s tricky to prove who does and who does not have a direct line to chat to God), but rather Manning’s claim that contraception doesn’t work well.

Here’s Manning’s statement in full which she gave in full during a radio interview:

Its efficacy is very low, especially when you consider over years – which, a lot of contraception health advocates want to start women in their adolescent years, when they’re extremely fertile, incidentally, and continue for 10, 20, 30 years. The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous.

Let’s fact-check this.

Step 1: Do an internet search for “contraception efficacy rates”. You’ll very quickly land at this summary published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It shows that the effectiveness of contraception varies depending on which method is being used.

They range from spermicide (which is the least effective, with about 28 out of every 100 women who use it becoming pregnant on average within the first year of typical use) to the hormonal implant (which is the most effective, with one out of every 200 women becoming pregnant in the first year of typical use).

Step 2: Check the reliability of your source. While Wikipedia is certainly not the most accurate site on the internet, the thousands of editors who regularly work there can be more inclined to dig up criticism than the standard “about” page on a website.

The Wikipedia page on the CDC offers few leads about a corrupt, biased organization – rather, the CDC is simply described as a federal agency whose “main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in the US and internationally”. The organization doesn’t seem to have an interest in overstating the effectiveness of contraception.

Step 3: Understand the terms used. The CDC talks about “typical use” and that seems kind of important, so I repeat the same internet search but this time with those two words added in there.

I land at this New York Times page, which has been built using data compiled by James Trussell from the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and also the Brookings Institution. Here’s how they define typical use:

“This is the norm, reflecting the effectiveness of each method for the average couple who do not always use it correctly or consistently.”

That makes sense. It is part of the reason why methods that require planning (eg “Babe, do you have the spermicide?”) or some other action before or during sex (“Don’t worry, I’ll pull out in time”) are much less effective than those that don’t (hormonal implants, intra-uterine devices and sterilization require much less upkeep).

Perfect use, by the way, is defined as:

“A measure of the technical effectiveness of each method, but only when used exactly as specified and consistently followed. Few couples, if any, achieve flawless contraceptive use, especially over long time periods.”

If 100 women were to use the pull-out or withdrawal method “perfectly”, 34 of them would wind up pregnant within 10 years (yep, that’s the 10-year use period Manning mentioned). But even with perfect use, there’s still a significant gap between different contraceptive methods. If those same women were to use a hormonal implant, chances are only one would be pregnant at the end of 10 years.

By appointing Manning, an opponent of Planned Parenthood, Trump takes another step towards his goal: defunding it. As a result, the availability of contraception such as the hormonal implant will be curtailed.

Step 4: Find a sexually active woman and listen to what she has to say. Ask her whether she wants to have the freedom to choose.

Would you like to see something fact-checked? Send me your questions! mona.chalabi@theguardian.com / @MonaChalabi

How Well Do You Know Your Medicine Cabinet?

We live in a self-prescribing society where many of us like to self-diagnose our symptoms and treat them with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), without OTC drugs, approximately 60 million Americans would not seek treatment for their illness.

The CHPA also estimates that U.S. households spend about $ 338 a year on OTC products.  Although OTC medicine is convenient and easy to use, many people may not know about the potentially dangerous side effects that can result in using such medicines.

How well do you know the OTC products in your medicine cabinet?

  1. Pain Relievers

If you check out any “must have in your medicine cabinet” list, pain relievers usually make the top of the list. An OTC pain reliever is either ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve).

Although these types of pain relievers seem less dangerous than pain medication prescribed by a doctor, they can cause an increase in blood pressure, kidney damage, and gastrointestinal issues. Always talk with your doctor before taking a seemingly harmless pain reliever.

  1. Cold Medicine

Although there’s no tried and true cure to getting rid of a cold, many people rely on cold medicine that often contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine, and pseudoephedrine.

One of the biggest dangers of OTC cold medicine is simply failing to read or follow the directions. Cold medicines should never be mixed with other pain relievers, like acetaminophen, because one could end up taking more than the daily dose without knowing.

  1. Vitamins and Herbal Supplements

Vitamins and herbal supplements are a great way to fill in any “gaps” that may be missing from your diet. Some supplements are designed to be a “safer” remedy for similar medications. It’s important to note that most vitamins and herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

Many people who take these kinds of OTC products have little knowledge on the ingredients and may mix them with other OTC medications; the results can be dangerous. Take the supplement St. John’s Wort (for anxiety) and cold medicine. Mixing the two have been known to have a fatal outcome.

  1. Laxatives

Some individuals take laxatives to help stay regular, and while this seemingly safe OTC drug is used by young and old alike, it can cause dehydration and kidney issues due to improper dosing.

Considerations Before Taking

While there are hundreds of OTC drugs that are safe and effective, it’s always important to know what you are taking before you try to treat any symptoms. Dangerous side effects are more likely to occur when people don’t read the directions and don’t give or take the proper dosage.

Additionally, some adverse effects happen because people don’t know enough about their health, such as allergies, blood pressure, or any underlying issues. Even if you would rather take OTC drugs than prescription medications, it’s a good idea to have a check-up with your doctor and always tell him or her what OTC medicines you take.

Boys as well as girls should be told about the evils of FGM

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat parliamentarian who was once a home office minister, and Justine Greening, the education secretary, have written to Theresa May asking that she will allow girls’ schools to teach pupils what a bad idea female genital mutilation (FGM) is, so that the poor things will know how they can avoid being so tortured.

I can’t remember when I first heard of FGM – presumably when being told all about strange foreign places and habits, while absorbing the oddities of geography at school or later. The tiresome fact is that while the clitoris exists to make reproduction agreeable so that the species will continue, FGM makes reproduction the exact opposite when its painful removal is deemed necessary by any tribe or group.


I know that it is often older women who do the actual chopping

So there is no harm in warning young girls, but you would think the males ought to be the ones to be lectured on the subject. (I know that in the hot places where the habit comes from, it is often other women, older women, who do the actual chopping – perhaps partly to be sure that lush young girls are not keen to attract all the older chaps.)

I do think that it should be the boys’ schools that make sure the pupils are aware of the awfulness of FGM, so that girls and women will not be in for a bad time at the mercy of boys and men who don’t see the usefulness of the clitoris at all.

There’s no harm in sensible information being available for all, but surely it’s the males that need educating.

What do you think? Have your say below

Soon we’ll be able to spot diseases like cancer before we even feel sick

The sooner a disease is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be well managed or cured. The challenge to finding a disease early is that most of us don’t seek treatment until we have symptoms, which means the disease has already progressed.

But breakthroughs in nanobiotechnology techniques mean that in five years we will be able to examine and filter bodily fluids for tiny bioparticles that reveal signs of disease like cancer before we have any symptoms, letting us know immediately if we should consult a doctor.

Information about the state of our health can be extracted from tiny bioparticles in bodily fluids such as saliva, tears, blood, urine and sweat called exosomes. These particles were first discovered in the 1980s as vesicles secreted by immature red blood cells, but later they were found to be secreted in all cell types. Scientists discovered that exosomes carry information from the cell they originated from, including proteins, RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA. Because the state of the originating cell can be inferred from these exosomes, they have been considered as potential biomarkers of disease for more than a decade. Besides cancer, exosomes are being considered as insightful for central nervous system diseases (Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and stroke), renal fibrosis and cardiovascular disease.

At the moment it’s difficult to capture and analyse these bioparticles as they are thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a strand of human hair. But at IBM Research we are developing lab-on-a-chip nanotechnology that can separate and isolate bioparticles down to 20 nanometres in diameter, a scale that gives access to DNA, viruses and exosomes. These particles could be analysed to potentially reveal signs of disease even before we have symptoms.

This technique is known as liquid biopsy, designed to be more accessible, comfortable and convenient than the traditional tissue biopsy or cancer screening techniques many of us are familiar with. The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyse a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.

In the future, the lab-on-a-chip technology could be packaged in a convenient handheld device to allow people to measure the presence of biomarkers found in small amounts of bodily fluids, streaming this information into the cloud from the convenience of their home. There it could be combined with health data from other IoT-enabled devices, like sleep monitors and smartwatches, and analysed by artificial intelligence systems for insights. When taken together, this dataset will give us an in-depth view of our health and alert us to the first signs of trouble, helping to stop disease before it progresses.

Young woman suffering from cancer


Treating a disease like cancer is expensive. According to Cancer Research UK, there was a 10% annual increase in cancer drugs prices from 1995-2013. Photograph: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The next five years will see significant advances in the application and development of this technology. Practically speaking, it’s difficult to say confidently that it will be in widespread use in our homes by 2022, but based on current developments and advances in research, this innovation will likely be used by physicians in some capacity by that time.

The vision for this technology is that it could be used anywhere in the world, from remote rural locations to developed urban areas. To reach the people who need it most, the technology must be affordable. Putting these capabilities on a regular silicon chip means they can be manufactured inexpensively. The challenge will be to do so at a scale that can reach people worldwide while also educating users and physicians on its benefits.

As we all know, treating a disease like cancer is expensive, and rising. According to Cancer Research UK, there was a 10% annual increase in cancer drugs prices from 1995-2013 and many new immunotherapies have price tags of over £100,000 per patient per year. When your doctor can diagnose cancer in its early stages, your odds of financial hardship – and death – decrease significantly. By making it nearly as easy to detect early stage cancer as taking a home pregnancy test, you could argue that we will change the economics of cancer. If all goes well, we may greatly diminish the physical and emotional toll of this terrible disease for future generations.

Gustavo Stolovitzky is program director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology at IBM Research

The Guardian view on social care: a crisis of politics as well as finance | Editorial

No one who has experienced adult social care – whether as patient or provider – will have been surprised by the Care Quality Commission’s verdict this week that cuts to local authority services had reached a “tipping point”, with grave consequences for the NHS. Council-run care services were not included in the Treasury “ringfence” around health spending. Since local authorities face cumulative budget cuts of up to 40%, much of the burden of looking after elderly people is transferred to hospitals. Elderly inpatients, many of whom should be discharged for treatment at home, then “block” beds on wards. There is nothing sustainable or conscionable about a system that treats the elderly as a liability to be shunted around an unfathomably complex system.

For that reason a consensus in policy circles has emerged around the idea that NHS and social care services should be merged. But there is no agreed method. One attempt to integrate a range of national services in eastern England failed last year in the ninth month of a five-year contract worth £800m. The National Audit Office blamed failure to anticipate demand on services, underestimated costs, and structures that meant patient accountability slipped through gaps between commissioners and outsourced providers of care. Many people do not realise that social care is a labyrinth of NHS, local government and private-sector provision until they are lost in the maze. And ministers have shied away from confronting voters with painful truths about cost. A cap on the amount any individual should expect to pay, originally due this year, has been deferred to 2020. Even then, the cap will not include bed and board, so residential care will quickly consume the savings of those who do not pass a stringent means test.

The government has tried to divert a few extra resources towards this cinderella service, but there has been nothing to match the scale of the challenge, which grows as society ages. The number of citizens over 85 will double within a generation. A first step towards grappling with the crisis involves setting aside tribal party hostilities. When the last Labour government considered a levy on inheritance to fund social care, the Tories cynically denounced the measure as a gruesome “death tax”. Labour’s preference in opposition for impugning the motives of Conservatives – as if they are incapable of compassion – hasn’t raised the tone of debate.

Politicians will have to decommission these old rhetorical weapons. The left will have to accept that Conservatives who see a role for the private sector in reforms are not driven by evil intent to denude the public realm of assets. The right must concede that Labour looks at taxes not because it relishes confiscation from the middle classes, but because taxation might be the best way for a society to pool resources in the collective interest. As Theresa May told the party faithful, tax is “the price we pay for living in a civilised society”. A crisis of this order transcends party allegiance. Social care and the NHS will have to be better integrated. Any feasible solution will involve a mix of public and private provision, coupled with public funding through higher taxes. Traditional divisions at Westminster make it difficult to build the kind of consensus required to design a solution along those lines. But without such a consensus, the prospects for a solution – and an ageing society – are bleak.

Free movement of doctors has served the NHS well | Letters

The government, the NHS and the public need to value and support all NHS staff, wherever they are from (Hunt promises to end NHS reliance on overseas doctors, 4 October). The recent announcement of 1,500 extra medical school places is welcome. But, as over a quarter of current NHS doctors are from overseas, the extra places will not in themselves produce a self-sufficient UK medical workforce, and we will still need our overseas doctors.

The announcement has led to our colleagues from overseas feeling that they may not be as valued as UK doctors and is affecting morale. We cannot let this happen.

Currently a quarter of NHS doctors are from overseas, and the NHS has benefited from their talents, their abilities and their will to work with us in the UK. We must continue to support them, despite the insecurity caused by the Brexit situation, and reassure them that they are valued and needed.

Diseases know no borders, and medicine has therefore developed as an international profession, with global cooperation in research, drug development, standards of patient care, and free movement of doctors around the world. This model has served the UK and the NHS well for decades. Moving away from it is a major risk to the success of the NHS.
Professor Jane Dacre
President, Royal College of Physicians
Clare Marx
President, Royal College of Surgeons

While the government’s proposed ban on UK-trained doctors working overseas may sound appealing, it is a tacit admission of failure.

As part of my training I benefited greatly from working in a rural African setting. Quite apart from what I hope I contributed, I returned to the UK with new skills, greater knowledge and full of enthusiasm for my chosen profession.

Ever since, I have encouraged my junior colleagues to embrace any opportunity to work in a developing country. Many choose to do so after two years of working – the logical time in the highly structured and inflexible (government-imposed) training structure.

I suspect the health secretary imagines doctors are rushing to work in Australia and New Zealand – and of course some do. But a thoughtless blanket four-year ban will have consequences for many developing countries that benefit from UK doctors. The proposed ban is necessary only because the failure to support the NHS has led to it becoming such a stressful place in which to work. People do not choose to go and live thousands of miles from their family and friends if they are enjoying their work.

Rather than yet another negative restriction on junior doctors’ working lives, can I suggest the health secretary reflect on a more carrot-oriented approach: that of making the NHS such a fulfilling and exciting place to work that anyone who chooses to spend some time overseas spends that year moaning about how great it is back in the UK and returns promptly.
Dr Ed Moran
Consultant in infectious disease, Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham

Jeremy Hunt has proposed that young doctors should be prevented from working overseas for a period of four years after qualifying in order to alleviate the staffing crisis in the NHS, or else face a fine by paying back some of their training costs. Perhaps I could propose that former cabinet ministers be prevented from taking up lucrative directorships or consultancies with private companies for four years after leaving office. After all, much of their expertise and their contacts would have been accrued at taxpayers’ expense while they were in post.
Dr John Nottingham
Ravensthorpe, Northamptonshire

Jeremy Hunt should also commit himself and his government to ending our reliance on bricklayers, plumbers, joiners and workers in many other trades and industries. How could they do this? By making employers offer decent pay and conditions. That would make such employment attractive to Britons who, justifiably, expect to be treated decently and are not as desperate as others.
David Hibbert
Chadderton, Greater Manchester

Theresa May’s statement “Our NHS” (Key points, 6 October) needs to be backed up by immediate real-term funding. Her quote is reminiscent of the phrase “the NHS is safe in our hands”. Yet under every Conservative prime minister since 1980 the proportion of the nation’s GDP going to health has fallen.

Who can disagree with Margaret Thatcher’s “we can only have the services we can afford”? But over the years we have not afforded as much as other western nations – currently running at 9.1% compared with Germany’s 10.3% and France’s 11.6%. Yet our research shows that the NHS is still one of the most effective and efficient in reducing feasible adult deaths.

Every prime minister should be held to account so we can test between rhetoric and delivery.
Professor Colin Pritchard
Southampton

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

This victory on abortion has empowered Polish women. We’ll never be the same | Krystyna Kacpura

They call us Nazis and say that we are no better than Hitler because we think a woman should have be able to choose whether she gives birth to a seriously sick child – but we are used to such comparisons. They say these things about us because they are frightened. The government of Poland did not expect such huge protests against its proposed ban on abortion. In the last week, 7 million women were on strike all over Poland to protest against the draconian law and pushed the government to back down.

In Warsaw our protests, involving over 30,000 people, locked the city down. I was trembling at the sight of all these women. I have worked in reproductive rights in Poland for 25 years, and we used to be happy if 200 women attended our protests.

At first politicians ignored us, then they enraged us with their words. The foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said: “Let them have fun. They should go ahead if they think there are no bigger problems in Poland … We expect serious debate on questions of life, death and birth. We do not expect happenings, dressing in costumes and creating artificial problems.”

These words mobilised even more women. I have never seen such huge protests. Something snapped in Polish women; we are empowered and we won’t stop. The protests were so spontaneous: with barely a few days’ notice thousands of women were walking out of work, and if they couldn’t get the day off, many told me, they said to their bosses they would not return because they could not work alongside people who did not believe in their rights.

Poland signals U-turn on total abortion ban after protests

On Saturday, at one of the protests, I gave a speech to the crowd that was directed at Polish gynaecologists. “Where are you?” I asked. “Why don’t you care about your patients? We need to rely on you, but instead we are afraid of you. We are afraid of your ‘conscientious objections’, we are afraid that you won’t tell us the truth when you are examining us or giving us blood-test results. Break your silence. We are your patients and we need you to support our health.”

Afterwards I received several anonymous messages from gynaecologists telling me that they will help Polish women, promising that they will work in their regions to tell the ruling party the truth about the real threat to women’s health if a ban on abortion was passed. I have been seeking this kind of support for years, there are maybe five or 10 doctors in the whole of Poland who will speak out for women’s rights, so for me this was a personal victory.

Although the Catholic church is seemingly silent in Poland, we know it was the bishops who also rejected the stop abortion law, despite helping to instigate it in the first place. They are threatened, and now they say they “don’t want women to be punished”. Women make up the majority of the people who attend mass, who give money. Many people have left the church lately.

Warsaw abortion rights protesters


‘In Warsaw our protests, involving over 30,000 people, locked the city down. I have worked in reproductive rights in Poland for 25 years, and we used to be happy if 200 women attended our protests.’ Photograph: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

The rejection of the proposed law, which would make all abortions illegal – even in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, with prison terms of up to five years for women seeking abortion and doctors who perform them – is only a small victory in the ongoing battle for women’s reproductive rights. We are expecting the church and the ruling party to prepare a compromise which would allow abortion when a woman has been raped, or there is a direct threat to her life, but they will seek to withdraw access to legal abortion if the fetus is damaged.

We want women to be free to make a decision on whether she gives birth to a seriously sick child herself. It is her right to choose, and if she does choose to have the child we advocate that she should be supported economically and psychologically, but all women should not be pushed to give birth in such circumstances because the politicians have ruled it so.


Women make up the majority of the people who attend mass, who give money. Many people have left the church lately

At the protests I spoke to many women and girls, young and old, and talked to them about how we are second-class citizens in our country. That the existing law is restrictive on paper, but even more so in practice. We don’t have adequate sex education, we don’t have access to modern contraception and we barely have access to legal abortion. In southern Poland nearly all doctors have signed conscientious objections making access to legal abortion all but impossible.

So our fight must continue. There is such solidarity among Polish women right now that we will take our fight to the European level and find a space to seek protection under EU law. We have international backing, and I have never been so proud of all the empowered, European, Polish women. We will never be the same again.

Health without wealth: eat well for less

A healthy diet is not about Instagrammed asparagus, glowing skin or a feeling of wellbeing – it’s about eating foods that help you to avoid disease. That simple message has been muddied by pseudoscience nutritionists and celebrity health gurus, clambering over each other to persuade you to buy their products.

With a healthy diet you can avoid risk factors such as being overweight, having high blood pressure and developing diabetes, which lead to serious cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. It’s concerning, then, with the burden of obesity and disease falling on the poor, that health is being packaged and sold through a soft-focus lens as an aspirational product beyond many people’s means.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The much-vaunted Mediterranean diet, for instance, is one of peasants. Born of a needs-must school of eating, it emphasises varied, seasonal, humble and largely plant-based ingredients: fruit and veg, fibrous carbs, legumes, nuts, a bit of meat, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Doesn’t sound too expensive, does it?

Most nutritionists and health gurus agree with doctors and scientists on the fundamentals of a healthy diet – the idea is to eat more protective foods and fewer damaging ones. Anything else is a selling point people use to stand out in the marketplace.

Here we look at the basic pillars of a healthy diet with ingredients and recipes that follow three guiding principles: they are accessible, inexpensive and simple to cook.

Fruit and veg

Fruit and veg are good for you, but even this message has been spun to make money.

They’re not good for you because of magical detoxifying properties. Whether it’s goji or acai berries or concentrated vegetable gloop, these things often come with scientific-sounding words, such as flavonoids and antioxidants, attached, usually just to sell you something.

Catherine Collins, dietitian at St George’s hospital, London, says that pseudoscientists latch onto the fact that there are chemicals in all fruit and veg which affect our health. “But they cherrypick scientific concepts and make simplistic, unproven associations with human health and specific outcomes to justify their viewpoint,” she says.

What we do know is that by eating fruit and veg you can lower the risk of disease. Because they contain artery-relaxing nitrates, familiar vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and radishes, can lower blood pressure. The potassium in green leafy veg, squash and mushrooms does the same. These vegetables might not be glamorous, but given that high blood pressure has overtaken smoking as the leading risk for disease and death you’d be foolish to push them to the side of your plate.

Fats

That saturated fats aren’t as bad as once thought has led to PR spin that has only confused matters. A prime example is coconut oil. With no good evidence that eating coconut oil regularly will keep you healthy, inaccurate marketing has used interesting theoretical health properties to make it more desirable.

Saturated fats such as butter, if enjoyed sensibly, are neutral to your health: they are not protective like olive oil but are not damaging like trans fats or excess sugars. It’s unsaturated ones from whole food sources such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil that should be your fats of choice.

Where evidence is strongest is with boring olive oil. There’s no need to fork out for the expensive stuff, the economical extra-virgin type will do fine. Watch out for processed spreads and fats branded as omega-3 fortified and mayonnaise with 5% added olive oil. If you’re eating it in a bid to be extra healthy, you’re wasting your time.

Oily fish can be a little trickier – its shelf life can make it difficult to squeeze into a busy family’s schedule Its expense, too, can be prohibitive. Unless you’re Richard Branson or a grizzly bear with a fishing rod, you’re unlikely to be able to eat as much salmon as you’d like, but there are options that aren’t so hard on the wallet.

Grilled mackerel in the summer is always a winner. Cornish sardines are increasingly popular since their rebranding (they were once the more drab-sounding pilchards). Canned fish such as traditional sardines can be store-cupboard superstars but tuna, although classified as oily when fresh, loses much of its omega-3 when canned.

Avocados, nuts and seeds are another good supplementary source to top up your intake. Know where to buy them and they don’t have to be expensive. Ignore them altogether and they can cost you a healthy heart.

Carbs

It seems we have a limited capacity for understanding what bad foods are. As fats have benefited from a PR makeover, carbs have been put in the stocks. Restricting your carb intake is an effective way to lose weight, but to vilify a whole food group by banishing them forever would be to make the same mistakes all over again.

Good carbohydrate sources are unrefined, fibre-rich ones such as oats, wholegrains, quinoa, sweet potatoes, squash and legumes, all of which release their sugars slowly. Bad carbs are refined ones such as the white flour used to make white bread and pasta: the refining process takes out all the fibre and leaves you with easily digestible sugar.

There’s only one problem: refined carbohydrates are delicious. We’ve evolved to crave energy-dense foods so don’t deny yourself – just manage how much refined carbohydrate you eat. You can do this by eating a cauliflower crust pizza but, if you’re anything like us, you’ll end up wanting to throw that pizza in the bin after a few bites. If you want pizza eat a proper one, just don’t make it a habit.

Brown pasta, too, is about as fun as eating cardboard. Italians don’t eat it so why should you? You can have regular pasta, but limit it to about a quarter of your plate and balance it with other fibre-rich elements such as vegetables that will slow down your digestion and limit the spikes in sugar your liver turns into harmful fats.

An obvious way to avoid sugar spikes is to avoid sugar. But there’s no point splashing out on apparently healthy alternatives such as agave nectar, honey or date molasses. These alternatives, says Nita Forouhi, a diabetes clinician-scientist at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, are marketed as “having antioxidants or a lower GI [glycemic index] value, but there’s no convincing evidence to support swapping table sugar for any of them for health benefits – they are all ‘free sugars’ which as a rule we should limit”.

Protein

The apparent health benefits of protein have been thrust into our faces one Instagrammed workout at a time. This link between protein and health, though, is the embodiment of the misunderstanding of what health is: it’s not about six packs and bubble butts, it’s about the avoidance of disease and premature death, admittedly unsexy but undeniably important factors that eating more protein will not improve.

That’s not to say proteins aren’t important. They’re the building blocks of what makes you (muscles and bones), what holds you together (skin and cartilage) and what keeps everything ticking along (enzymes and hormones).

Eating meat is an easy way to get your protein – the animal does all the hard work and concentrates the nutrients for you – but it can be expensive, you can’t eat it if you’re a vegetarian, and if you eat too much of it you won’t have space left for more protective foods.

Although meat is not essential for health, for many it’s a key part of any meal. The good news is that we can get those satisfying umami flavours we crave as often as we want without breaking the bank or eating too much. As with many peasant dishes of the Mediterranean diet, cooking techniques such as stewing and braising stretch the flavour to other ingredients, such as fibre-rich vegetables. You can also use cheaper cuts such as shin and skirt steak: just go for quality over quantity.

Vegetarians, fear not: fibre-rich beans and pulses (legumes), while being a great source of protein, are associated with long-term health protection and so should also be a go-to food for meat eaters. Nuts and seeds, too, can bulk out a salad and their protective fats will leave you fuller for longer.

Other than low-quality processed meats there are no bad proteins. Try to trade up excess meat for more protective foods whenever you can – a healthy diet will protect you from disease more than a six-pack ever will.

Green mango salad (som tum mamuang)

Green mango salad (som tum mamuang)


Green mango salad (som tum mamuang). Photograph: Tara Fisher for the Observer

South-east Asian cooking transforms a salad from a side dish to the main event, giving a perfect opportunity to eat more fruit, veg, healthy proteins and nuts. These textures together with the taste explosion of sweet, savoury, spicy and sour dressing mean you won’t miss unrefined, fibreless carbs.

Mangoes are also rich in a protective, soluble fibre that will slow down the digestion of the entire meal. Add chicken left over from a roast for extra thrift.

Serves 2 as a main course
fine green beans a handful
peanuts a handful, toasted and crushed
red onion ½ (or whole shallot), finely sliced
cucumber a handful, finely sliced at an angle
red chilli 1, with seeds
tomatoes a handful, quartered
mint and coriander 1 tbsp of each, chopped, stalks included,
leftover roast chicken torn strips (other good options are prawns, griddled and sliced, or chicken breast)
mango 1 large, under-ripe

For the dressing (the important bit)
chilli 1-2
garlic 1 large clove
palm sugar 1 tbsp (you can substitute honey or normal sugar)
fish sauce 2 tbsp
lime 1, juiced
extra-virgin olive oil

This salad is easiest to make with a Japanese mandoline, but there are other options if you don’t have one: you could use a combination of a knife and a potato peeler or a cheap julienne peeler.

The beans will need blanching in salted boiling water for around 3-4 minutes until they are tender but retain a little bite. Drain and “refresh” by cooling with cold water – it’s nice if they are warm but not hot in the salad.

Toast the unsalted peanuts in a dry non-stick pan until they have a golden colour. Roughly crush – best done by bashing in a mortar and pestle.

Slice the onion, cucumber and chilli and quarter the tomatoes. Finely chop the herbs and include the fragrant coriander stalks as well as the leaves. Add the chicken (or prawns) and incorporate all together in a large bowl with the sliced mango, green beans and crushed, toasted peanuts.

The dressing is best made in a mortar and pestle, although you can pulse the ingredients in a blender.

Add together the dry ingredients and bash into a smooth paste – the sugar helps with abrasion. Now add the wet ingredients and stir them together.

Dress the salad and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes for the flavours to marinate. Then pile high on a large serving plate and enjoy.

Mortar and pestle pesto pasta, courgette tagliatelle and baby spinach

Mortar And Pestle Pesto Pasta, courgette tagliatelli


Mortar And Pestle Pesto Pasta, courgette tagliatelli. Photograph: Tara Fisher for the Observer

Ready in 20 minutes. The simple, fresh flavours and textures complement each other perfectly: hot peppery notes (raw garlic and olive oil), mellow comforting richness (pasta, parmesan and pine nuts) and clean perfumed bite (basil, spinach and courgette). A mixture of pasta and courgette “tagliatelle” keeps the comfort and satisfaction of pasta but packs in more veg alongside other protective ingredients such as garlic, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil and dark green leafy spinach. With the fat from the cheese giving additional satiety, you won’t miss that extra pasta, especially if you pair with a simple sliced tomato and onion salad dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Serves 2
courgettes 2, medium
linguine pasta 100g (50g per person)
baby spinach 2 large handfuls
garlic 1 large clove
basil leaves a big bunch
pine nuts 2 small handfuls (dry toasted)
fresh parmesan a handful, grated
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Make the courgette tagliatelle by taking long length slices of the courgette with a mandoline (largest tooth setting) or a potato peeler until you get to the soft water centre. Keep the soft cores, you can finely chop and add them as they are with the tagliatelle.

Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water. Wash the spinach, drain and place in a large bowl.

Make the pesto while the pasta is cooking. We like to make the pesto in a mortar and pestle for that chunky, fresh-made texture but you can add all the ingredients straight into a blender or food processor.

Bash a whole peeled garlic clove with a pinch of salt for extra abrasion until a paste. Add the basil leaves and do the same. Add the toasted pine nuts and parmesan. Drizzle in olive oil to loosen the mixture. Bash and stir away until you have a chunky mixture that’s loose enough to stir into your pasta.

The pasta should nearly be ready. Throw in the courgette tagliatelle for the final 2 minutes or just enough to soften but retain a slight bite.

Drain and immediately add the hot pasta into the bowl with the spinach and stir. The heat of the pasta will wilt and soften the spinach. Now add your pesto and mix thoroughly. Season with black pepper and a final fresh sprinkle of parmesan. You don’t need to add any additional salt as the cheese and other elements have enough.

Stuffed coquina squash and sweet roasted beets

Stuffed coquina squash and sweet roasted beets


Stuffed coquina squash and sweet roasted beets. Photograph: Tara Fisher for the Observer

The soft coquina squash with chewy, candied edges, the concentrated sweetness of roasted beetroot, and the warming, meaty filling make this dish one of our favourites. The squash and legumes, being high in fibre, are the good type of carbs that prevent spikes in blood sugar and subsequent fat storage, the slow-cooked meat stretches that umami satisfaction through the filling, allowing you to use less meat and pack in more protective veg. The roasted beets, too, are rich in artery-relaxing nitrates that can lower blood pressure (it’s why athletes drink beetroot juice to improve their endurance).

Serves 4 (makes enough sauce for 8-10, freeze leftovers for another meal)
minced beef 500g
extra-virgin olive oil
onion 1 large
celery 2 sticks
carrot 2 large, skin on
courgette, sweet pepper, aubergine 1 each
garlic 4 large cloves
large chillies 2 (leave seeds in if you like it hot or add more)
salt and pepper
tomato puree 2 large tbsp
tomatoes 2 x 400g tins
bay leaves 3
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
green lentils 100g
chickpeas 1 tin
beetroot 12 small, uncooked
large coquina squash 1

Use a large heavy cast-iron casserole dish that can be placed in the oven. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3.

Over a moderate high heat brown the minced beef in a little splash of olive oil until the edges are crispy and golden brown. While the beef is cooking chop the onions, celery, carrot, and other vegetables along with the garlic and chilli – use a food processor if you have one.

Remove the browned beef with a slotted spoon and add the chopped vegetables to the pan to soften in the same oil. When the veg looks softened and the onions are translucent add back the beef.

Season the mix now with salt and black pepper. Add the tomato puree and cook out together for another 2 minutes

Now add the tinned tomatoes and equal amount of water (by rinsing out and filling the tomato tin). Add the bay leaves and bring back to simmer.

Transfer to the oven to slowly cook for 3 hours to develop a beautiful melting texture and deep umami flavours. Portion out around half to cool and freeze for an easy meal another day.

Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and the green lentils (rinsed, boiled for 10 minutes, drained) and chickpeas (rinsed and crushed to a pulse) for the final 30 minutes of cooking.

Now to the squash and beetroot. Individually wrap in foil and bake the beetroots, leaving the skin on, for an hour at 180C/gas mark 4 or until a knife passes through the flesh easily. (It’s fine to turn up the heat on the base sauce for the last hour if you’re cooking both at the same time.) Cut and deseed the squash, leaving skin on, season and drizzle with olive oil and roast for an hour or until the flesh is deep orange and the edges are darkened. The tip of a knife should pass easily through the thickest bit of the squash. When cooked and cooled, the skin of the beet will slide off easily; dress with a splash of balsamic if you like. Scoop some flesh out of the squash, mix with the filling, pile high and enjoy.

Mediterranean fisherman’s stew: leek, courgette and cod with chilli and lemon seasoning

Mediterranean Fisherman’s stew: leek, courgette and cod with chilli and lemon seasoning


Mediterranean Fisherman’s stew: leek, courgette and cod with chilli and lemon seasoning. Photograph: Tara Fisher for the Observer

Humble and sweet courgette and leek, a rich tomato sofrito sauce and subtle white fish highlighted with lemon, parsley and chilli. The plentiful courgettes and leeks become the base of a genuinely healthy meal. The combination of olive oil, tomato, garlic and onion forms the base of the sofrito sauce, a mainstay of Mediterranean cooking. When combined, these ingredients might have a synergistic, protective effect but, most importantly, they give that delicious flavour that transports you to the Italian Riviera. We’ve gone for cod because it’s the nation’s favourite, but experiment with your choice of oily fish.

Serves 4
courgettes 4 large
leeks 2 large
garlic 4 chunky cloves
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
tomato passata 500g
dried chilli flakes
cod loin skinned and filleted, three nice chunks each
parsley a handful, including stalks
lemon wedges

Cut the washed courgettes and leeks into rounds (approx 2cm thick). Slice the garlic.

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan and add the sliced veg. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the temperature down so that the veg sweat without colouring. Make a cartouche with some greaseproof paper (YouTube it for a quick tutorial) and pop on top. This slow-cooking process accentuates the natural sweetness of the veg. Check on them in 10 minutes and add a splash of water if drying out.

After about 20 minutes when the veg have softened add the passata. Sprinkle a pinch of dry chilli. Re-cover and cook until meltingly soft (around 40 minutes).

Cut the chunky fish fillet across the length with a sharp knife into scallops. Taste the sauce – grind some extra pepper and if required add more salt. Pop the fish scallops around the dish on top of the sofrito sauce. Re-cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Finely chop the parsley and sprinkle over the dish with extra chilli and a squeeze of lemon to finish.

Enjoy scarpetta style with a sensible mop of crusty wholemeal bread, eat light with green side salad or throw in some borlotti beans and cook as a stew.

Aromatic braised chicken, hidden veg and quinoa hot pot

Aromatic braised chicken, hidden veg and quinoa hot pot


Aromatic braised chicken, hidden veg and quinoa hot pot. Photograph: Tara Fisher for the Observer

One pot and you’re good to go. The braised, browned and caramelised meat intensifies and spreads the meaty flavour allowing you to sneak in plenty of protective fibre and veg. Quinoa? Because it’s not that fancy any more and with its low glycaemic index it’s better than eating refined carbs.

Serves 4–6 (good to make a big batch, you’ll want the extra)

chicken 8 skinless, boneless thighs
extra-virgin olive oil
onions 2 large
leek 1 large (or add a third onion)
garlic 6 cloves
ginger a thumb-sized piece
chillies 4 red or green (seeds out for a milder version)
tomato puree 2 large tbsp
honey 1 tbsp
soy sauce 6 tbsp
star anise 1
chestnut mushrooms 2 handfuls
Chinese leaf cabbage ½ a head
quinoa 50g per person
spring onions 4, chopped

Use a heavy cast-iron dish in an oven (preheated to 160C/ gas mark 3) for the best, slow-cooked meltiness. You can also just simmer on the hob.

Roughly chop the chicken into large strips and brown over a high heat with a splash of olive oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan and if necessary brown the chicken in two batches. Stir occasionally but you are aiming to get some crispy caramelised bits on the edges and bottom of the pan to add umami intensity to the dish.

Peel, half and roughly chop the onions into large strips. Do the same with the leek and wash thoroughly to get rid of any muddy bits in the layers. Add to the pan with the browned chicken and start to soften.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic and ginger together with the chillies. Leave the seeds in if you like spice or remove if you prefer perfumed warmth. Add to the pan with the tomato puree. Cook together for another couple of minutes.

Now add the honey, soy sauce, star anise and enough cold water to barely cover (around 2 glasses usually). Bring to a simmer and scrape around the bottom of the pan to dislodge any crispy bits. Place in your preheated oven to slow cook and braise for the next 2 hours.

After 2 hours remove, stir and check the hot pot. You should have a reduced, intensely umami-flavoured sauce. You want this to be strong because it will become diluted by the water in the additional veg. Now add your washed and sliced mushrooms and Chinese cabbage. Return to the oven for another hour.

Towards the end, boil the quinoa separately until the seeds open. Drain and then add straight into the hot pot and stir together. Fish out the star anise and taste for final seasoning – add a final splash of soy sauce if you like. Garnish with finely chopped spring onion for a fresh finish.

Ali Khavandi is a consultant cardiologist. alikhavandi.com; daramohammadi.com

9 Established Well being Benefits Of Apples (#6 Will Surprise You)

Red, yellow and green, apples come in in excess of 7500 different types, offering you loads of choice for the world’s healthiest meals. Whether or not you consume them crisp and raw, or slice them into fruit salads and dessert, or no matter whether you choose to bake them or eat them in tangy dry loops, apples are often offered for a stunning wellness kick and a burst of refreshing flavor.

Here are 9 surprising health rewards of eating at least an apple a day:

  1. THEY ARE AN Exceptional Source OF FIBER

Just one medium apple and its beautifully washed skin will give you over 17% of your daily recommended volume of dietary fiber. Fiber positive aspects your digestive wellness tremendously, helping to preserve bowel movements normal and activating the digestive juice and gastric juices that aid to breakdown meals for nutrient absorption. It also helps to cleanse your colon, scraping away excess body fat, cholesterol and built up residues, giving you the feeling of becoming happier, more healthy and completely refreshed, from the inside out.

  1. THEY Help YOUR DENTAL CARE EFFORTS

Each the skin and the flesh of apples are highly beneficial in dental care, as they operate collectively to cleanse out bacteria, plaque and acidic buildup. Chewing a chunk of apple stimulates the secretion of saliva, which alkalizes your mouth and leaves bacteria no choice to thrive. An apple a day keeps the dentist away!

  1. THEY DEFEND YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR Program

Apples are packed with fiber, antioxidants, flavonoids, nutritional vitamins and mineral which all operate collectively to keep your heart sturdy and healthful. They contain a wealthy source of soluble fiber identified as pectin, which has been verified to assist in reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, leaving your arteries clean and strong. Apple flesh includes strong antioxidants, which aids to minimize the oxidation of fats and to neutralize the stress in blood vessels. The skin is made up of quercetin, which is a superior flavonoid that alleviates irritation in the cardiovascular system. There’s each reason to consume apples if you want a powerful and wholesome heart- take your select!

  1. THEY Aid YOU TO Shed Weight

Research have uncovered that apples are incredible metabolic process boosters, which means that no matter what you eat will be burned off that significantly quicker alternatively of packing on in your reserves. One particular apple includes much less than 100 calories, but lots of fiber and natural sugar, which indicates that you will feel fuller for longer, and preserve your sweet tooth at bay. Apple skins also have a unique compound known as ursolic acid which has been confirmed to decrease the chance of weight problems by stimulating brown excess fat and muscle development. This will definitely improve your caloric burn, leaving you slimmer and healthier even though licking your lips.

  1. THEY Boost LUNG Function AND Decrease ASTHMA

Scientific studies about an apple’s impressive capability to reduce the signs and severity of asthma are still underway, but what’s for certain is that they most definitely do help those with breathing difficulties! A lot of have pointed this healing impact to the potent flavonoid identified as quercetin, which is situated in the skin of every apple and has been linked to drastically bettering lunch function. Apples also incorporate great and effective anti inflammatory compounds which support to hold your breathing crisp and your lungs light and fluffy. A lot of asthma sufferers have began to supplement their natural healing with apples, and have reported to truly feel dramatic relief.

  1. THEY Increase YOUR CONCENTRATION SPAN

Many studies have shown that consuming an apple in the morning will wake you up more than a cup of coffee, and this is due to an apple’s impact on your brain. Apples not only get rid of harmful free radicals from your entire body, leaving you searching younger and more powerful, but they also offer strong antioxidants and phytonutrients which increase brain power. A certain chemical in your brain recognized as acetylcholine is responsible for your degree of concentration, memory retention and dilemma solving, and apples naturally stimulate it. Consuming apples a lot more often have also been linked to lowering the danger of establishing Alzheimer’s condition an Parkinson’s.

  1. THEY Fight Widespread COLDS

1 apple provides you 15% of your suggested daily dose of Vitamin C, which can make it an immune boosting and cold fighting must have. The quercetin and antioxidants found in the skin and flesh of apples help in fortifying your strongest soldiers and give germs no chance to kick you back into bed. 500 milliliters of apple juice provides only 6% of your daily demands of Vitamin C, which means that raw, fresh apples are your ideal bet when you are fighting off colds or striving to give your immune program some assistance.

  1. THEY Assist TO Balance BLOOD SUGAR Ranges

Apples may possibly be sweet to the taste, but they are excellent sources of blood balancing nutrition, even for Diabetes sufferers. They have polyphenols, which are compounds that decrease glucose absorption and improve the good quality of carbohydrate absorption in your colon. They also stimulate the insulin receptors of the cells in your entire body, which aids to send sugar appropriate to your vital organs exactly where it is essential most rather of lingering around in your blood stream. The substantial volume of dietary fiber also prevents any blood sugar disruptions, working with the carbohydrates and nutrients to give your entire body optimum nutrition with out any damaging side results.

  1. THEY GIVE YOU Strength WHEN YOU Truly feel WEAK

Apples give a refreshing jolt to even the weakest of sufferers, which is why numerous hospital meals incorporate apple slices! The strong antioxidants combined with the purified water located in apple flesh aids to detoxify your complete system, as nicely as offering you a amazing, crisp feeling from your lips to your toes. Apples are also an alkalizing meals supply, which indicates that germs, bacteria and even cancer cells will not be capable to thrive, as effectively as supplying you power, vitality and vigor for quicker recovery from sickness.

Sources:

http://healthyhubb.com/12-outstanding-overall health-benefits-of-apples/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/

Far more Posts By Writer Sophie Robinson.