Did anyone watch The World's Best Diet last Monday, on Channel 4? Sometimes I skip programmes like this – because most of my working day is spent thinking about food, diets, health, healthy eating, and so on, in the evening I have been known deliberately to switch onto Mr and Mrs or QI or something, just for a change of brain input (in the case of Mr and Mrs, no input at all, quite lovely).
But I did watch The World's Best Diet, intending to swop channels after a few minutes, and found it watchable and fascinating. Particularly the bit about Campodimele, an Italian village known as the 'village of eternal youth' because its residents tend to live a good while – the average life expectancy is 95. Even better than that, the residents hang on to their health, rather than spending the last decade or so helpless in a chair.
Apparently the people of Campodimele – whose nearest supermarket is 50km away – still exist on the classic Mediterranean diet of plenty of veg and fruit, tons of olive oil, enough red wine, and cooking everything from scratch. They eat very little in the way of red meat.
They are often smallholders, growing food and keeping chickens – such a lifestyle keeps you active, burns calories, keeps you supple, gets you plenty of fresh air. One family buy only milk and coffee; for the rest they are self-sufficient, and consume a whole litre of olive oil every week, the minimally processed kind, full of things great for your heart and health.
No wonder the people here have lower cholesterol levels than almost anywhere else in the world.
We can't all be like that in the UK, it's not feasible. But we could try to be a bit more like that perhaps. So how ironic that in the same week as the The World's Best Diet programme, I have read that despite not really being out of our recession and few of us having so much cash that we can afford to throw it around – we ARE throwing it away. On food. That goes in the bin.
The UK Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) finds a horrifying quarter of what we buy, we discard. Not just leftovers but, for the most part, unopened unused food. That must be costing each family here at least £20 a week, probably more. Sadly, much of what we throw isn't the less healthy, more fattening food such as pies, cakes, biscuits and confectionery – but fresh salad, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, yogurt and cheese.
If only we were all 50k from the nearest supermarket and had grown or produced our food from scratch, we'd be eating every last morsel, for sure – and eating well, to live long.
I know I don't quite practise what I preach – I went to a local event last weekend which somehow combined a food festival with a flying display, held at a local airfield, and ended up buying a massive pork pie (it – the pork not the pie - was outdoor reared and local at least). But this week I have, at least, harvested the first of our broad beans and peas, pounds of raspberries (they freeze perfectly) and masses of different coloured salad leaves and herbs. So I''m trying, even though in the 30 years I would have left if I were a Campodimele resident, I'm not going to get there. I'm trying.