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They say ‘You are what you eat’, but how true is this and does it tell the full story? We sit down with YourGP’s Dr Phimister and sink our teeth into the subject of eating for health. Read on as he talks superfoods, reveals why his family laugh at his cooking, and serves up some easy-to-digest medical advice.
‘You are what you eat’ How true do you think this is?
I think this is true, for the most part. What also must be considered is what you digest and absorb into your body. If you cannot optimally absorb the nutrients then the statement is less true.
In addition to the absorption of nutrients, the undigested fibres play a large part of making you what you eat, moving you towards or away from health. The average fibre intake in the UK per person is 20g, which is less than the advised 30g per day. In summary, you are what you ingest and digest!
How has the diet of the average person in the UK changed over the past 100 years?
The most significant change has been the amount of processed foods now readily available wherever you go and consumed in huge quantities across the country.
Health experts say we should aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. What counts towards this?
Fresh and frozen, vegetables and fruits, along with dried fruits all account for the five-a-day goal. However, it’s optimal to focus on vegetables over fruits as the sugar content is higher in most fruits. Dried fruits are very high in sugar so best not to include as one of the five, rather a small number of dried dates, apricots or bananas as a treat.
The optimal health advice would be five vegetables daily and add in low sugar fruits like berries, apples and green unripened bananas. Let vegetables be seen as the main carb in your diet and your health will reflect it.
What would you say are the main things lacking from most people’s diet?
The main things lacking from peoples’ diets are vegetables and natural nutrient-dense foods. Organic food needs to be maximised when possible. If not possible, then one should optimally wash their vegetables and fruits in water and vinegar or sodium bicarbonate to remove the pesticides and rinse with clean water, unless you peel the fruit.
Tell us a little about ‘superfoods’. What are the main ones we should try and include in our diet and what makes them so super?
I just read a great book by nutritionist, Max Lugavere called Genius Foods. I agree with his list of 10 superfoods, namely avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, salmon, grass-fed beef, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, mixed green leaves, nuts (like walnuts, almonds, macadamias), cocoa (the higher the percentage the better), blueberries and eggs.
I would also add herbs and spices as they are truly superfoods with the highest concentration of phytonutrients around!
Are there any particular foods you would recommend to boost the immune system? Or help people recover better after an illness?
Eating a clean anti-inflammatory diet will optimise the immune system to prevent and treat the immune system during times of illness. In addition to the list of superfoods above, garlic, tomatoes and oranges are great for antioxidants and vitamin C.
Two litres of clean filtered water plus teas without sugar or cow’s milk per day is important for hydration and optimising antioxidants to help the immune system in their never-ending role of fighting invaders and putting out the cellular fires of inflammation in our bodies. I would also add avoid processed foods and any alcohol during times of illness and its recovery.
Tell us a little about your own attitude to food – do you love to cook, for example? If so, do you have a favourite dish?
‘Food is medicine’ is my core attitude with food. What we eat, how we eat and with whom are all essential to a healthy diet. I do love to cook for my family but it’s simple, repetitive and boring! My family laughs at my approach to cooking as it lacks ingenuity, recipes and sauces!
I love to bake my vegetables, fish and meat in a little coconut oil sprinkled with a variety herbs and spices to bring out the flavour. I pour on extra-virgin olive oil afterwards as my sauce. Steaming veggies is a great quick way to shorten cooking time without the use of oils.
As for my favourite dish – wild salmon, oven baked for 20 minutes with a mixture of organic vegetables and sweet potatoes baked with a sprinkle of herbs and spices, and coated with extra-virgin olive oil when served. For dessert – organic almond butter, high fat natural yogurt, sprinkle of coconut flakes and a square of 85% dark chocolate. Yum yum!
Should an individual consult their GP before they make any radical changes to their diet? If so, why?
Radical diet changes can affect diseases so it’s always best to consult with your GP first. Detoxification can occur when radical diet changes are made and leave the patient with a flu-like reaction. Conditions like coronary heart disease, type 1 diabetes and irritable / inflammatory bowel disease can all be affected with radical diet change, so best to have advice and follow up with a caring GP.
However, basic diet changes are common sense, like stop eating processed foods and drinks, eat organic food as much as possible, and eating more vegetables can all be started without medical advice.
Find out more
If you would like to speak to Dr Phimister about making positive changes to your diet and / or your overall health, book an appointment online, or email email@example.com or call us on 0131 225 5656 and we’ll be happy to arrange an appointment at a time that suits you.
References and resource links
• British Nutrition Foundation, The Science of Fibre
• Harvard Health Publishing, Foods that fight inflammation
• Max Lugavere, Genius Foods
I needed a quick appointment as I was leaving for America. The doctor listened and allayed any concerns. It was a pleasure to talk to a doctor who wasn’t watching the clock and not paying attention to me. I left confident that if a problem arose I would be able to deal with it until I arrived home. The experience left me feeling confident and positive.