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Our Diet As We Age

borlotti beans growing  What we eat is fundamental to our good health,  good food can only be grown in good soil and in a  real sense we are the soil that our food has grown in  and when we take good care of the soil we take  good care of ourselves. It is unfortunate that we have  become divorced from the land and have contracted  the production of our food to agribusinesses and  chemical companies.

 A growing body of evidence shows that the western  diet is making us ill. The assumption that food should  be cheap has led to the industrial production of food  much of it highly processed and far removed from  any thing grown in soil. Look at a food label, if it has  more than five ingredients and has ingredients you  would not have in a home kitchen then you can be  pretty sure that what you are holding is Ultra  Processed Food (UPF).

fruit bowl  A diet comprising good nourishing food is not cheap  and we may have to change our priorities in order to  eat well. As a society we eat more meat, especially  processed products such sausages and bacon, than  is good for us and at great expense to the health of  the soil and ourselves. All things being equal current evidence suggests that a diet based around organic fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses is full of the nutrients and micro-nutrients necessary for a healthy life.

Along with exercise we need to appreciate that the food we eat is crucial to our well-being and how we age. There is a lot of great advice on the internet but we need to be discerning. One reliable source from scientists working at the cutting edge of health and diet research is ZOE (Chief scientist is Professor Tim Spector), ZOE is a healthcare science company using data-driven research to tackle the world’s health issues. You can find their podcast channel at ZOE.

July allotment harvest  If, like me, you are fortunate enough to have an  allotment or other growing space then it is a  priviledge to grow food whilst caring for the soil and  the organisms that create and maintain it. I find it  deeply rewarding to sow seeds, tend the plants as  they grow and then harvest and eat the produce. At the same time I have a feeling of responsibility to the small piece of land of which I am the guardian.See below for some growing resources.

I would like to share some ways I maintain a healthy organic diet on an income that is less than half the national average. The key is not to buy convenience food or ready made meals but to cook from ingredients using whole grains, beans and pulses, fresh veg, salad, fruit, wholemeal pasta and home made wholemeal bread. Typically I spend around £55 a week on food in the winter and around £40 in the summer when the allotment is abundant. Even in the winter there are leeks, kales and chard to be harvested.

I have cooked from ingredients for over 50 years but what now comes easy to me now was once hard but by giving our full attention to the task we soon learn and there are many great recipe sites with clear instructions. It will become a piece of cake!

These are some examples of my diet:

making up muesli  Breakfast is usually a five grain muesli with seeds  and dried vine fruit which I put together myself and I  add full cream natural yoghurt, milk, a banana and  Kiwi.

Lunch is typically a green salad to which I add olives, tomatoes, Florence fennel or celery and home made mustard. Followed by four slices of home made wholemeal bread with yeast extract or peanut butter.

Dinner might be a bean stew, curry and rice, vegetables in cheese sauce with roast potatoes, egg fried rice, baked potatoes with cheese, lentil bake, nut roast, roast vegetables. Usually with some variety of green vegetable. So nothing clever but all nourishing. I often bulk cook a bean stew in the slow cooker so that there is always something to eat in the freezer.

Snacking can be a problem as I seem to have inherited grazing genes so I can’t resist at least one bag of crisps a week, I also snack on nuts and fruit. I won’t mention my love of liquorice.

Diet Resources

Spoon-Fed, Tim Spector, ISBN 0781787332294, Jonathan Cape, 2020

Unprocessed, Kimberley Wilson, ISBN 9780753559765, W H Allan, 2023

Age Proof, Pro. Rose Ann Kelly, ISBN 9781788705042, Lagom, 2022, particularly Chapter 9

Soil Soul Society, Satish Kumar, ISBN 978-1-78240-235-0, Leaping Hare Press, 2017

See also diet on the ageing resources page.

How to Create a New Vegetable Garden, Charles Dowding, ISBN 978 0 85784 474 3, Green Books, 2015

Organic Gardening, Geoff Hamilton, ISBN 978-1-4053-2853-1, DK, 2008

The Allotment, David Crouch and Colin Ward, ISBN 978-1-915068-23-1, Little Toller Books, 2023

Lots of growing information on the Charles Dowding YouTube channel.

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