Health Promoter Paul Curran Asks If You Are Getting Your Five A Day.
How long is it since you were told of the importance to eat at least five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day?
Or of the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle for good health – no smoking, maintaining healthy weight, regular exercise, 5-a-day diet and low alcohol consumption?
It seems the advice has been around forever but I can no more remember it coming in than I can remember when warning signs first appeared on cigarette packs. At some level we know it’s important but for many of us ‘life gets in the way’. The easier option is the fast option, there isn’t time to mess about in the kitchen and habits are hard to break.
What a shame, because the evidence is in living a healthy lifestyle really is important.
At this years’ Nutrition and Health conference, of the Northern Ireland Dairy Council, Dr Peter Elwood of Cardiff University reported on the findings of the Caerphilly study, a 30 year programme which tracks the health outcomes of over 1000 participants related to their adopted lifestyle.
The headline findings are that although only 0.5% of the participants claimed to have a ‘five a day’ lifestyle, this group had one third the number of heart disease conditions and dementia of the entire population. On average, those eating ‘five a day’ enjoy longer lives – typically six years.
Controversially, however, Dr Elwood also reported that for those who couldn’t manage five a day, taking of a ‘junior aspirin’ each day afforded a massive degree of protection. I say controversial since I’m personally more comfortable with Hippocrates’ approach – ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’.
Our modern diet however has eroded our immune systems to the point that we are more vulnerable than ever to illness. Even worse, we no longer think twice about taking medicines to treat the symptoms of diseases we inflict upon ourselves. Most of us bounce along oblivious to the full healthy life that we were born to have. Instead of realising our potential we exist as consumers of junk food and pills just to keep us going. What a waste.
For most of my life I was on the same self-destructive path making poor food choices in the belief that my health was guaranteed by high levels of exercise and that I didn’t smoke. It was a rude awakening indeed to find out how wrong I’d been. To some the experience has made me an insufferable ‘Food Fascist’.
Others, with whom I’ve travelled as their coach, have broken free of their unhealthy lifestyles and transformed their lives. All of them prefer their new look – fewer tablets, more sleep, better skin, more energy and less weight. They have all come around to the realisation that food is the best medicine. It’s certainly more tasty and enjoyable. They now look upon exercise as a reward for their revised diet and find the ‘five a day’ lifestyle both easy and sustainable. As no two people are the same I’m constantly learning with them.
So set your goal for Christmas and for a new you in 2014. Dust off your steamer pots and saucepans and start dabbling with those green vegetables. Soon you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier. The only downside is the cost of your new wardrobe. Next time I’ll take a quick run through the benefits of our most common vegetables. Until then enjoy the bounty of the autumn harvest.