Back in the dark ages circa 1998, I wrote an encyclopedia of sorts titled The Food Bible – an unbiased guide to healthy eating, is what I intended it to be. And indeed, I think I achieved that as the book, with all its 190,000 words, sold around 300,000 copies across the world and became a go-to tome for libraries, schools and universities.
It was last revised nearly ten years ago, then a few years back fell out of print, as books do.
Now, out of the blue, I have been asked by a different publisher to do an updated version to spearhead their new food and health division. I’ve happily said yes to the chance as really there’s been nothing quite like it since and I’d love to see it given another whirl.
But revising the title is probably going to take me as long as writing a normal book from scratch. And it’s not just because it’s such a big volume. It is, quite simply, that so very much has changed in the world of food, health, disease prevention, weight control and diet in the past decade – and continues to change, apace.
I’ve been involved in this world for the best part of 45 years, since, at 21, I was made beauty editor of a teenage magazine and thus had to write the occasional weight-loss story. And I have never seen so much flux, change, dispute and innovation over those years as I have in the past few. Nutrition and diet advice seems to alter almost day on day, depending on who or what you read.
Read Judith Wills on healthy eating during the 60s
Carbs or fat?
For example, after decades of being the black sheep of the food world, a high fat diet has been gathering vast numbers of fans and followers in the past year, culminating, last week in pandemonium and panic in the academic foodie world and within Whitehall when a report by the well-respected National Obesity Forum said current official Dept of Health advice to eat lots of carbs is wrong, and it’s more fat and fewer carbs we should be eating, both for heart health and weight loss.
But then, what do we find a few days later, the results of an extensive world survey concluding that in fact it is eating fibre-rich carbohydrate that keeps you healthy and slim and what you mustn’t do is cut hard back on them or, heaven forbid, give them up! A view endorsed by Public Health England.
Carb Wars indeed! It’s worse than Brexit or Remain.
And we have the celebrities doing their usual bandwagon jumping but at the moment they’re just not sure which way to jump. This week there’s dear old Nick Knowles saying he’s lost weight and feels great having avoided dairy, eggs and meat for the past six months while most others are for the fat. Meanwhile, clean eating is over peak and being dropped by the rich and famous as fast as they can say ‘butter’.
Read more about carbohydrates and the cases for and against
Sugar and salt
The fat-carb dilemma is just one of the more prominent and recent examples of endless nutritional confusion. The pundits also heatedly debate whether agave nectar or date syrup are better for us than plain old sugar, and whether carbs can help diabetes type 2 symptoms or make them worse. We read, after decades of being told salt is bad for us that, actually, it may not be after all, and too little salt might be worse! And this week we find out that our cholesterol levels have little bearing on our lifespan once we hit old age, so bring on the streaky bacon, please.
And so it goes on. I’m confused – you must be. And here I am, having agreed to update a massive food book by presenting all the FACTS. Facts? Perhaps it should be a digital book only, then at least I will be able to update it every two minutes when the latest ‘facts’ on any topic appear…
Wish me luck!
Find out about the sugar alternatives available
A sort of salad nicoise
Here’s a recipe for a nice summer salad that’s been around for years but that I haven’t made in ages. It contains eggs – which, as I write, are ‘good for you’ and ‘in fashion’ too – I apologise in advance if by the time you read this they are the subject of a new scare story, and old hat to boot. Oh, and it also contains canned tuna, which has never been fashionable and never will be, but never mind.
- 3 hard-boiled tasty eggs (try Clarence Court), halved
- 1 can no-need-to-drain tuna
- 4 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
- Bit of cucumber, chopped
- Green crisp lettuce leaves
- 4 pieces cold cooked potato
- 6 drained anchovy fillets in oil
- 8 stoned black olives
- 2 tbsp French dressing, preferably home-made with extra virgin olive oil
Arrange the leaves on serving plates and arrange all the ingredients except the eggs, anchovies and dressing on top. Spoon the dressing over and then finish with the hard-boiled eggs and anchovies. Serve at room temperature.
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