Stoptober 2014

It’s July and, at the risk of spoiling the summertime fun, it’s not too early to remind you that October is not far away. This means it is time to start planning for the 3rd annual Stoptober campaign. Stoptober challenges smokers to quit for 28 days of October with help offered in the form of support packs, social media, advice and personal help if needed. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Know your fats

Fat is an important part of our diet and is essential for maintaining health. However, too much fat, particularly the ‘wrong’ kind, increases the risk of disease.

Fat is important because it is a source of energy and provides fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids (EFAs). It transports the fat-soluble vitamins around the body and provides protection to the internal organs. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Diabetes: Prevention and control

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food you eat is turned into glucose, used by the body for energy.

The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of your body. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its insulin efficiently. This leads to a build up of sugar in the blood. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Pedal Power

Bike Week 14 – 22 June 2014

Bike Week is an annual opportunity to promote cycling, and show how cycling can easily be part of everyday life. By demonstrating the social, health and environmental benefits of cycling, the week aims to get people to give cycling a go. Whether this is for fun, as a means of getting around to the local shops, school, the library or just to visit friends. …to read the rest of this article click here »

World No Tobacco Day – 31 May 2014

Raise Taxes on Tobacco

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day. The aim of the day is to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and campaign for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. World No Tobacco Day 2014 is urging countries to raise taxes on tobacco. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Walk to Work Week May 12 – 16

Walk to Work Week aims to help people to discover where walking can take you. It encourages workplaces to get some healthy competition going and feel the benefits. Walking is one of the easiest ways to increase your fitness and improve your health. To count as moderate exercise you should walk at about four miles an hour, which is about the pace you’d walk if late for an appointment. Do this five times a week and you’ll soon feel the difference. Walking is a great way to stay trim and helps keep your heart healthy. It saves on petrol and bus fares, and is better for our planet. It’s easy to fit some more walking in to your working week. Whether it’s making changes to how you travel to work, or getting out more at lunchtimes. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Public Health experts warn that many people do not have enough income for a healthy diet

The UK Faculty of Public Health has written an open letter to the Government warning them that many people cannot afford to eat a healthy diet. Because the situation has become so serious they are calling on the government to set up an independent working group to monitor nutrition and hunger in the UK. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Live longer with 7 or more fruit and veg a day

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day is healthier than the minimum five currently recommended and would prolong lives. This is the finding of a new study of 65,226 men and women that indicated that the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to die – at any given age – by cutting the risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

Researchers from University College London used the Health Survey for England, which collects data from people in England each year through questionnaires and nurse visits, to look at diet and lifestyle. They analysed data between 2001 and 2008, which provided a snapshot rather than people’s continuing dietary habits.

By looking at general mortality as well as deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke, they found that the risk of premature death from any cause decreased as fruit and veg consumption increased. Risk of death by any cause over the course of the study was reduced by 42% for seven or more (up to around 10 portions a day). Fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, followed by salad and then fruit. Fruit juice has no benefit, while canned fruit seems to increase the risk of death. This may be because of the sugary syrup the fruit is stored in.

Lead researcher, Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, emphasised that the more vegetables and fruit you eat the better. She said the size of the effect was “staggering”, but added that eating a few portions a day was still better than nothing. Fruit and vegetables could have a protective effect against disease as they contain antioxidants, which repair damage to cells, she said. Dr Oyebode added that both fruit and vegetables contained micronutrients and fibre, both of which are good for health.

5-a-day vs. 7-a-day+
The research findings have attracted a great deal of publicity but no changes, as yet, in Government policy. Public Health England said that they are staying with the ‘5-a-day’ message for now as it is simple to understand and because two thirds of people were not eating five or more portions a day. Other health professionals have pointed to the fact that those who eat lots of fruit and veg are the better-off, educated and more health conscious. This could account for the reduction in risk. Health charities admitted that there would be a real problem promoting a ‘7-a-day+’ message and that it would require subsidies for fresh vegetables and fruit to attempt to reduce the inequalities.

Achieving 7-a-day+
Dr Michael Mosley, wrote an article for the BBC News Magazine, with suggestions on how to reach your seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

  • Aim to eat at least four portions of vegetables a day and around three portions of fruit.
  • Eat them, not drink them. The study found no real benefit from drinking fruit juice.
  • Consider starting the day with an omelette with spinach. Spinach is rich in folate and betadine – vitamins that help regulate homocysteine (high levels of which are associated with heart disease).
  • Add strawberries or blueberries to your cereal, or eat an orange.
  • For lunch and evening meal you need to eat vegetables, with fruit as a dessert.
  • Eat them raw or lightly steamed rather than boiled to death.

Which vegetables?
It is recommended that you add as much colour as possible to your diet. The different colours of different plants represent some of the thousands of different bioactive compounds, known as phytochemicals, which keep plants alive and healthy

Leafy greens include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale. They are a good source of minerals like magnesium, manganese and potassium. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the brassicas family contain sulphur and organo-sulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant, as well as amino acids like methionine and taurine.

Orange and Yellow
Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids include carrots. Carotenoids in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A which is important for healthy eyesight, bone growth and regulating our immune system. Carotenoids are also found in melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. Red tomatoes contain lots of lycopene. Cooking tomatoes actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available. Heat can destroy Vitamin C in fruit and veg so it is a trade-off.

Blue and purple
Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. You’ll find these flavonoids in blackberries, blueberries, purple carrots and red cabbage.

Garlic, white onions, shallots and leeks are rich in alliums and allyl sulphur compounds.

Portion size
The NHS advises a fruit and vegetable portion to weigh about 80g.

  • One fresh apple, banana or peach
  • Half an avocado
  • Two handfuls of blueberries
  • Seven fresh strawberries
  • One corn on the cob
  • One medium tomato, or seven cherry tomatoes
  • Three tablespoons of peas
  • Two spears of broccoli
  • Half a pepper
  • Two-inch piece of cucumber