Archive | January, 2011

Carrots are sexy say researchers

30 Jan

Me with a fake tan

Being the very fair skinned child in a family of olive skinned naturally tanned siblings and parents, I have always fantasised about waking up one day with a tan.  I did try fake tan once – but I looked more like an oompa loompa at Madame Tussauds than an actual person. Well – according to this article on St Andrew’s University website – all I need to do is eat a lot more carrots.

St Andrews University ran the study jointly with Bristol University and tell us in the article that, ‘people who eat more portions of fruit and vegetables per day have a more golden skin colour, thanks to substances called carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help soak up damaging compounds produced by the stresses and strains of everyday living, especially when the body is combatting disease. Responsible for the red colouring in fruit and vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, cartenoids are important for our immune and reproductive systems.’

That’s great of course, but I have to say the real news was deeper in the actual paper.  Here’s the extract that explains that the joy of carrots goes beyond a healthy immune system; as in the case of the rear ends of our monkey friends, reddened skin apparently enhances our sexual attractiveness.

Being attracted to a suntanned (reddened) mate is primitive instinct

‘Stephen et al. (2009) found that the physiologically relevant cues of increased skin blood perfusion and oxygenation color enhance the healthy appearance of faces. This relationship shows similarities to color signals displayed in nonhuman primates, particularly Old World monkeys (Dixson 1998). Increased redness due to increased blood perfusion is associated with aspects of health such as hormonal status (Czaja et al. 1977; Dixson 1983; Rhodes et al. 1997; Setchell and Dixson 2001) and reproductive status (Rhodes et al. 1997; Setchell et al. 2006) in this group. Redness in nonhuman primates is also associated with social factors such as dominance rank (Setchell and Dixson 2001; Setchell and Wickings 2005) and is preferred by the opposite sex (Setchell 2005; Waitt et al. 2003, 2006).’

I love carrots and often juice them and add them to salads but this is an incentive to eat more of them that reaches a whole other level.  However, I can tell you from experience that sunburn isn’t attractive to anyone, including monkeys.

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Raw pesto pasta – german style

24 Jan

Raw pesto pasta thanks to Spiralschneider

Winter is never an easy time to be raw and as you can imagine, my inner-hypocrite has been dominating my food choices heading me towards anything warm and cooked with a particular leaning to pastas.  I wish this wasn’t the case for the sake of my thighs – but until I met my new RBF (raw best friend) last night – I’m sorry to say it just has been.

Otherwise known as a spiral slicer, my German Spiralschneider has expanded my raw repertoire into a delicious new dimension of raw pastas galore.  My first foray last night was raw pesto zucchini (courgette) pasta.

First I made a traditional raw pesto using a recipe from an earlier blog post here.

TRADITIONAL RAW PESTO
1 big bunch of fresh Italian basil
3 generous dollops of olive oil
1 cup of pine nuts
Sea salt for seasoning
½ garlic clove (or less – it will be very strong)

Then I spiralled the zucchini and mixed in the pesto. It was so yummy, easy and filling, my raw dinners have a new lease of life.

Raw zucchini pasta one night - raw carrot pasta the next

As it says on the back of the box, ‘with the spiral slicer you can conjure up endless Julienne strips of carrot, radish, cucumber and all kinds of other vegetables.’  Spiralisers are usually about £120 so at £19.99, it is an accessible life changing piece of equipment and you can get yours here.

Great Swapathon is a big step forward for the obese

17 Jan

The British are swapping deep fried mars bars

FOR lovely carrot sticks

I’ve read conflicting views of the Department of Health’s recently launched Change for Life Great Swapathon. A mouthful in itself, the idea is that the British government, with the help of the world’s biggest food businesses (Asda, Birds Eye, JJB Sports, Nestle, Mars, Unilever, Warburtons and Weight Watchers), The Sun and News of the World, bribe the British general public to drop their deep fried mars bars and pick up an apple instead. We’re offered a book of £50 vouchers to swap bad for good and that’s the problem. The ‘good’ is not necessarily that good especially if it is a branded box of still highly sugared yet ‘baked’ cereal that costs twice as much as the usual without the coupon.

British magazine Marketing Week wrote recently of the ‘Great Swapathon rip off’ and the BBC reports that Professor for Food Policy at City University in London Tim Lang called it a ‘corporate brand protection strategy rather than a public health one.’

At first I agreed with them. You can no doubt pick up a hint of cynicism in my intro and having a marketeer’s DNA I can smell a brand campaign a mile away. At first glance, spending £250m to convince fatties to be healthy seems like a giant waste of my hard earned taxes. I’ve only just convinced my Mum to drink freshly squeezed lemon juice and warm water in the mornings. However, and a big however – something has to be done. Obesity in children as one impact of bad nutrition has increased to 30% from 25% in 1995,  and the statistic is due to grow.

People like me, who care about and know about basic nutrition are the unusual and the extreme. Others have a clue that they should be eating better, but not even heart attacks or cancer scares can make them cut back and change. Will this work for a generally ignorant general public looking for a quick fix?

When I do my sums, the campaign only costs taxpayers a fiver a head and, having worked on a proposed arts council campaign to bring the arts to the general public, I can say that £250m is peanuts and alone would make no headway whatsoever. We need the additional food manufacturer and retailer budgets and distribution channels to reach the masses and then we need their ‘healthier’ range of products to ease them into making life long changes.

The 5-a-day campaign is working - so will The Great British Swapathon

And – most importantly when you look at statistics for the 5-a-day campaign. It is working. 21% of children now eat 5 portions of fruit and vege a day compared to just 10% in 2001.

Charlene from Essex may not swap her daily bacon butty for a carrot stick for a million pounds but she might choose omega plus enhanced granary bread instead of preserved white plastic slabs.

It’s not raw food, and not chlorella smoothies but I think the programme is a brilliant step in the right direction, superb value for money considering the long term benefits to children in terms of fundamental education and awareness and the food companies, for once, are doing something positive too. This is marketing. Marketing works to change behaviours in this case – for good. The critics, including the Children’s Food Campaign, who said, ‘this analysis exposes the Great Swapathon for what it really is – a great marketing opportunity for the companies involved, but of little benefit to consumers’ pockets or health’, should get over it and behind it, unless of course, they have a better idea.