The Power of food

What do you know about the nutritional content of the last meal you ate? Maybe you were having a cheeky Nandos. Maybe you opted for a healthy salad today. Maybe you’re trying a new diet. I had a barbecued, marinated lunch of lamb.

Now think about this: when was the last time you had actual, formal teaching on nutrition and food? I think the last time someone sat down and taught me about food was back in Year 6. We learnt about the food pyramid and the next day had to make ‘healthy sandwiches’. That’s also when I learnt that tomato in bread makes it soggy…

Increasingly over the last year I’ve become fascinated with the abundance of food around us. Over the past year I’ve tried so many different, alternative diets. To name a few I’ve tried to have a plant only based diet. But I missed meat too much so then I tried only a ‘white meat’ diet. Then I tried to do a ‘no carbohydrate’ diet. Recently I’ve been trying to eat smaller but more frequent meals. The truth is I know very little about the food I am eating and also what’s actually beneficial.

  • Does red meat actually cause colon cancer?
  • Do cereals contain more sugar than grain?
  • Is the acid in fruits causing our teeth to rot?
  • Does peeling a vegetable mean we are loosing the vitamins and minerals from that food?
  • Do onions actually cause hormonal disturbances?
  • Does milk cause inflammation?
  • Does cheese contain pus!?
  • Is the food I am eating, killing me?

I’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that we must never skip it. But for centuries our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. They ate seeds and fruits. They ate when they could. They didn’t have the luxury of an egg and and toast every morning. But cereal, eggs, bagels and bread need a consumer market. They need to be sold. So next time don’t fast-forward the advertisements. Notice how brands like Kelloggs and Burton promote their items? Now look at the packaging of the cereal or yoghurt pot you have at home. It hasn’t been clearer to me that the food industry, like the tobacco industry cares more about money and its business than it does the health of its consumers. After all consumers are replaceable with healthier and younger ones.

Incidentally it was only last month that BMJ released a study that finally proved that alcohol has absolutely ZERO health benefits to us. Remember the days when people would give you a cheeky smile and say ‘red wine is good for the heart’ My mind then went to the tobacco industry. It took researchers 80 years to show the correlation between smoking and lung cancer. For 80 years the media and the government actively ignored medical and health experts and made money off people in exchange for a hospital bed when they got ill. So could the same be happening to food now?

After spending so much time looking at food labels, trying to eat better, trying to feel healthier I’ve only become more confused and a little disillusioned. Recently I picked up a pot of a very famous branded fruity yoghurt. It was something my brother ate after lunch on a daily basis. Yoghurt is good, right? Certainly better than those processed juices and definitely better than a slice of cake. In this 125g pot of mango yoghurt, 13 grams was pure added sugar. I was so disgusted because this very same brand has advertised its yoghurt as a ‘healthy alternative’. Well yes, its healthier than the juice and the cake. But that’s like saying smoke cigarettes instead of a pipe. Whilst one might be healthier than the other, both are still not actually healthy for you.

I could give example after example of similar hypocrisies with different food items but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that as a society we are blissfully unaware of the damage food can do. And it’s unfortunate because food shouldn’t be the reason we are getting ill. And I think half the reason chronic diseases are on the rise is because no one knows what we should be eating.

I’m a medical student and so far in my training I have had one lecture on nutrition. Is this adequate knowledge for a medical professional? Short answer: no. And I’m going to be a practicing doctor in less than two years. If our professionals (barring our dieticians and gastroenterologists) don’t even know what we should be eating how on earth can the society even begin to eat well?




Fitness and health



The world health organisation defines health as:

A complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

This definition acknowledges that health is more than just the physical aspect. It involves a fine interdependence of your physical body, your brain and your mind to work together in providing you with a healthy life. In part our lifestyle is responsible for the degree of healthiness we attain. For example somebody who constantly over eats, drinks excessive amounts of alcohol and is a chain smoker most certainly is at higher risk of developing not only physical illnesses but the mental health and social health of such a person will also begin to suffer. And then there are a whole host of different lifestyle choices we make on a day to day basis which increase of decrease our risk of developing certain mental or physical illnesses.  Continue reading

13 RW – if you get it you should read this

Finally watched 13 reasons why. Phenomenal acting. Brilliant entertainment. I mean I watched 13 episodes in just under a day. The day before my exam. So obviously the producers knew what they were doing. It resonated with me too. Having just recently graduated from being a teenaged girl myself, in Hannah, I saw reflections of the girls I had grown up with.

In previous posts I’ve discussed a lot on depression, suicide and even about a school acquaintance who took her own life. And I’m so glad that there is a mainstream TV show out there which brings people from all backgrounds to the topic at hand: mental illness.

I have certain grievances with the show. The biggest being the game like attitude Hannah Baker has towards suicide. She creates tapes. 13 to be exact. About the reasons why she ended her life. In doing so she creates an immortal remembrance of herself. I fear that many young and impressionable people may see this and get romanticised about the idea of suicide. When the reality for the majority is far from this. My other grievance is of course the content itself. It is rated 18. And certain episodes have warnings. However its the age of the internet. Anyone can get their hands on this show and watch it. I’m not at all triggered by the show. Fortunately I am not depressed nor have any suicidal ideations. But many people watching it will. And they will be triggered. And that is dangerous.

However the show in all its graphic glory continually highlighted one point. There is always another choice. Suicide doesn’t have to be it. There is life beyond what you’re feeling today and there is support out there. Reach out – someone will take your hand.

THE SAMARITANS: 116 123 (UK only)



Killer toothache

My grandad was a dentist. My cousin is also a dentist. I study medicine. And yet I’m on NHS Choices frantically working out why my tooth hurts. (and getting horrified by photos of terrible teeth)

We know very little about our teeth. I don’t know when teeth and gums divorced themselves from the rest of the organs and went off on their separate ways but it is a shame because the last time I had any official teaching on my teeth was back when I was 7 years old and in primary school. I think dentists and the field of dentistry is great. But isn’t the glorious oral cavity – the entry to the human GI system, still part of well – the human? Why is this not part of being a doctor? Why is dentistry its own vocation? Why did we draw the line with teeth?

Perhaps its because I have a toothache and am suddenly very aware of my aching teeth but I’m now trying to do all the things the dentists always tried to tell us to do. Here’s a reminder incase you also forgot:

  • Brush teeth twice a day
  • limit the sugary foods (this includes fruit, chocolates, juice and even bread!)
  • floss!!
  • go see the dentist regularly (last time I went was years ago)

Thing is in most countries healthcare is free. Take the NHS for example…if you have any kind of pain all you have to do is get yourself to the doctor and everything is fine. But for dental care you have to pay. You have to actually find a dentist and it’s a bit like looking for the perfect cake – you’re never satisfied because you paid for a particular type of cake and its not there. The point I’m trying to make is that dentistry is privatised and with it the sense of entitlement goes. And perhaps the state’s vested interest. If the government has to pay for our health then it is in the interest of the government to keep people healthy. Not so much the case with dentistry.

The second reason why I think the general public is so ignorant (like me) is because everyone for some reason seems to emphasise the importance of having ‘good looking teeth’. Now lets get real. Teeth are not meant to make you attractive. They’re purpose isn’t to bag you a marriage but to help you chew foods and remain healthy. So the idea that your teeth should be pearly white and straight is great; but also a bit misleading. They should also be cavity free, not have plaque on them, not be infested with bacteria and not developing gum disease.

Teeth are much more interesting than just providing you with a good smile. Look after them – they’re just as important as your heart, lungs or brain!

Click here  for a dentist’s parody of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ And Click here for Ed’s original song.



That one there

That one there has a cold

That one there is crying.

That one there is old…

…and dying

That one there has cancer

That one there needs surgery

That one there was a dancer…

…but after the stoke she can only count to three

That one there is infected

That one there is in pain

That one there is addicted..

…to cocaine

That one there can’t see

That one there can’t hear

That one there is me

That one there is someone dear