Discovering real food

In choosing real, fresh, unadulterated food over processed and ready-made meals you will be doing your body a huge favor. Not only are the nutrients in real food packaged in the way that nature intended, but also the body will not have to deal with additives that it was not designed to digest

 Fruit and vegetables

Food always tastes better in season. This is particularly true when it comes to fruits and vegetables Nutritionally there is a huge advantage to choosing fruits and vegetables according to their local season, because the majority of vitamins and minerals fade with time, so the sooner you can eat them after they have been harvested, the higher the nutritional value

Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to notice when things are in season these days the shops, markets and supermarkets are full of all kinds of items, throughout the year. Buyers scour the world for climates that can produce the fruits and vegetables when our climate can’t The problem is further complicated by the fact that some fruits and vegetables can be stored for a very long time (up to eight months!) before they on our shelves as fresh Until there is legislation to force growers and vendors to tell us when they were picked. our search for genuinely fresh food will remain problematic.

Herbs

These days the selection of fresh herbs available in the shops is fantastic Super markets sell herbs growing in pots, which stay fresh longer than packs of cut herbs, but if you can grow your own herbs this is the best scenario, as you can pick what you need and they couldn’t be any fresher. Fresh herbs have a range of wonderful flavors, some subtle, some vibrantly you are looking to replace salt, butter and cream in your diet, herbs add variety to all kinds of dishes

Dried herbs have their uses, but remember that they do not last forever, they fade with time, heat and light, to buy just a small amount and keep them in dark airtight jars in a cool place.

Shellfish

Shellfish are divided into two groups: crustaceans, such as crabs, lobsters, prawns and shrimps, which have jointed shells: and mollusks, such as mussels, oysters and scallops which have hinged shells Fresh seafood has a reputation as an aphrodisiac this is partly due to the suggestive appearance or method of eating some shellfish. but they are also rich in zinc one of the main minerals involved in sustaining a healthy libido.

Zinc also helps to maintain a strong immune system, so seafood is one of the healthiest of foods, besides being low in fat. Unfortunately, some people cannot enjoy seafood because their body produces an allergic reaction. Many of my patients are puzzled as to why it happens with some shellfish and not others or why they can sometimes eat a particular type of seafood without suffering any ill effects.

While some people have a clinical allergy, others react to the presence of toxins that can build up as the shellfish feeds on other tatty sea creatures (this reaction depends on the conditions and food availability in the water in which the shellfish lived). I strongly recommend that you never eat mollusks you have harvested yourself as water conditions are very unreliable, and the shellfish are likely to be riddled with toxins.

Another reaction is to preservatives such as benzoic acid that are used to treat some shells, especially that vacuum packed in controlled atmosphere packaging Taste you check the labels carefully. I think that it is best to wait until your child is two years old before you give them shellfish as this can help prevent their body from adversely reacting. This can be a particular problem for hyper active children. Not every town has an independent fishmonger but supermarkets often five a fish counter, the best way to be sure you are getting the freshest shellfish is to build up a good relationship with the fishmonger.

He or she will be able to advise you on which seafood is fresh and how to prepare it. Remember that harvest fluctuate and so should availability, if they always sell the same shellfish it is likely to be frozen – some varieties lose their succulent tenderness and delicate flavor to become rubbery and bland when frozen. You should never refreeze seafood.

Fish

Fish cooks quickly, so it is a good choice for an evening meal when you are in a hurry, it is a good source of protein white fish are low in fat, and the fat found in oily fish has been shown to be effective at protecting us against heart disease. White fish are often divided between flat fish – such as brill, Dover sole, halibut lemon sole, plaice, skate and turbot – and round fish,

which include codicology, grey mullet. hake. haddock, John Dray, monkfish. sea bass and sea bream Only fish include herring, mackerel, tuna, pilchards, sardines, anchovies. red mullet, salmon, freshwater and sea trout sprats and white halt the drawback to fresh fish that it needs to be bought on the day it is to be catena which is not always a viable option When buying fresh fish look for • bright, rounded eyes doll sunken eyes are a bad sign) red gills into greyish) •

• firm flesh a sea-fresh smell (it is the fishy smell of past-its-best fish that puts many people off fish) Frozen fish is an option although usually inferior in taste. they can be quite acceptable in casseroles and soups When you cook with frozen fish, you should not then refreeze the dish, as there is a risk of food poisoning Fish fingers and other shaped products are often made up of scraps, so they are not very healthy to begin with and are frequently oozing with additives and preservatives

CANNED FISH

Canted fish such as salmon, sardines, pilchards and anchovies, which have soft, edible bones, are rich sources of calcium and are good to keep in the store cupboard for simple supper dishes

Poultry

factory farming became widespread in the 1960s, what was once a delicious treat has become an everyday meat with little of its former flavor First chicken but now duck, turkey and quail are all being reared intensively with the result that their meat is often bland, spongy textured and fatty.

If we want a tasty chicken, we have to be prepared to pay up to double the price. The best-tasting and most nutritious poultry come from birds that are well looked after they’re given space to exercise and make nests, natural light natural feed and allowed a natural life as far as possible.

Unfortunately, all too often our poultry is reared in factories overcrowded, windowless sheds which contravene the basic recommendations of animal welfare. A high-protein diet is designed to put on maximum weight in minimum time, and in cramped conditions the spread of disease and infection can pose serious problems.

This means that antibiotics and other preventive drugs may be routinely fed to the birds, these drugs produce adverse reactions in some people. Unless poultry is clearly labeled Tree range you should assume that the burst has been reared in less than ideal conditions. There is some concern regarding the fact that some birds labelled free range are not allowed to roam out of the bare and, while not kept in cages, do not have a great deal of space This may be more strictly regulated in the future, but in the meantime,

I would encourage! you to buy organic free-range chicken Organic birds are fed mainly on grain, which contributes to their Flavor Organic chicken also tastes better because it is more mature. A ready-to-eat organic bird has to be at least 82 days old, whereas a barn-reared bird only has to be 42 days old. (There is no legal requirement for the age of a free-range chicken. You have to be prepared to pay up to 100 per cent more for an organic, free range chicken, but it is well, worth it. Many parents will still be tempted to buy chicken or turkey burgers and other poultry food for their children.

I warn them that they will usually be buying recycled (or re-formed) inferior meat that has been dyed processed and flavored to make it look like real poultry. Such products scam a great deal cheaper than free range organic poultry, but if you think about what you are paying for in terms of meat and fillers such as breadcrumbs and starches they represent poor value. Turkey, duck and quail remain more of an occasional treat- all the more reason to make sure you are buying the best.

Game

The term game is applied to wild animals and birds that are hunted and eaten. It includes grouse, partridge, pheasant, mallard, hare, rabbit and venison to mime but a few. In many countries, there is a close season for certain species when hunting them is forbidden. Others, such as rabbits and pigeons, are not protected by law and are usually available fresh throughout the year.

Game farming is on the increase, and we can now buy farmed wild boar, venison, rabbit and quail Although many types of game are commercially frozen and therefore available all year round the flavor is at its best in freshly killed and well-hung game which is available in autumn and winter Game is generally low in far, rich in protein and minerals such as iron and zinc Before game is ready for cooking, it must be hung in order to tenderize the flesh and develop the flavor Hanging time depends on the weather and on individual taste.

Game birds are hung by their beaks, unlocked and undrawn. in a cool airy place and are traditionally considered ready when the tail feathers can be pulled out easily. Furred game is hung by the feet for one or two weeks. For roasting and grilling, game birds should be young: the beak and feet should not be stiff, the plumage or fur soft, and the breast plump. Older birds are best casseroled. These days, many of us buy our game prepared and ready for cooking, which takes away a lot of the hassle, but makes it difficult to know the age of the birds. The best thing is to find a reputable butcher who knows the origins of what he is selling.

Lamb

Choosing good lamb is relatively simple. Lambs cannot be factory farmed, and the only issue tends to be the grass they graze on Organic sheep are bred on pasture that has been certified free of chemicals, but pasture is not normally sprayed, so most lamb is free of chemical residues. Lamb is a rich source of B vitamins, iron and other important minerals. The time of year affects the appearance of the meat. Good quality winter lamb is dark red, with creamy, marbled fat Spring lamb is slightly lighter (dark pink) in color with white fat. Some cuts are naturally leaner, such as the fillet and lean chops but cuts such as knuckle can make delicious casseroles, and if you make them a day ahead and leave them to cool the fat will solidify on the surface and can be lined off .

Beef

In Argentina, North America and Australia, most beef comes from animals raised exclusively for meat in Europe at least 60 to 70 per cent comes from herds that produce both milk and meat, although the finest beef comes from dedicated beef breeds such as Aberdeen Angus The best beef comes from young animals about eighteen months old, but even this must be matured or ‘hung for ten to twenty days at low temperatures to tenderize the meat and to improve its flavor and keeping qualities.

However, since each carcass takes up quite a lot of (expensive) refrigerated hanging space this is one area where producers may be tempted to save time and money, On properly hung beef, the lean meat should be a deep plum-red in color and slightly moist. It should have a good outer covering of fat, creamy to pale yellow and of firm texture.

Very bright red meat denotes that the beef has not been hung sufficiently and is therefore not very render or tasty Very dark red. sinewy beef indicates that the meat comes from an animal which is not of prime quality and is likely to be a little tough Such cuts are suitable for slow cooking, provided they are well flecked with fat, butchers must label beef with the country of origin. If they are proud of their meat,

they will probably supply further information about the region or farm it came from, the breed, and how it was reared. Be aware that producers often use label terms such as ‘heritage and traditional, but there is no legal definition of these terms. As most farmers try to maximize profits by producing meat quickly and cheaply, one method was the use of growth-promoting hormones.

These have been banned but are still permitted in other countries Unscrupulous farmers have found that certain drugs. normally used to treat disease, will promote rapid muscle growth and minimal body fat where fed to healthy cattle Drug residues have been found in meat products Another bone of contention is what the cattle actually eat. The image of a Cow grazing on green pasture is sometimes far from the truth, dairy cows are often kept inside and cattle feed can legally contain unnatural extras such as dried skimmed milk powder, dried blood ground fish and dried poultry manure (chicken litter and carcasses of intensively farmed poultry.

sheep or other cattle, but animal protein from poultry is still allowed Unless you buy beef which is labelled as coming from a beef herd, you can assume it is from a dairy herd Your best bet is to choose organic beef, approved by the Soil Association Farmers who maintain organic standards use natural food.

no growth promoting drugs, and have animal welfare very much in mind. Good-quality beef will be more expensive, but will taste better and you will not be exposing your body to all sorts of potential health risks as with other foods, you get what you pay for Having said that while grilling steaks are expensive because only a given number can be cut from one animal, that still leaves a lot of meat which is just as tasty and nutritious,

but which needs longer cooking in order for it to tenderize (the fat marbled through the meat melts and bastes the meat as it cooks). The cheaper cuts such as brisket chuck and shin are ideal for casseroles curries and hot pots. Many of these dishes are even more tender if made a day ahead, and this is excellent for anyone who needs to watch their saturated fat intake because once the casserole is cooked, you can let it cool, then lift off the solidified fat.

Pork, ham and bacon

The tastiest and healthiest pork comes from pigs that are kept outside and allowed the freedom to live as natural a life as possible. Organic park is definitely a good option Lean pork is highly nutritious, it contains more thiamin (vitamin B1 – which prevents fatigue than any other meat, along with other B vitamins and minerals such as zinc the best pork should be pink, smooth and firm to the touch freshly cut surfaces should look slightly moist and there should not be excessive far.

The fat should be firm and clear, milky white. Avoid cuts with soft, grey and oily fat. The skin, or rind, should be thin, pliable, smooth and free of hairs, in older pigs the skin tends to coarsen and thicken. For crackling, make sure that the butcher scores the rind carefully so that the cuts are close together and penetrate the rind otherwise the heat will not reach to the meat.

In order to enjoy the meat of the pig all year round, our ancestors devised many delicious ways to preserve pork by salting, smoking and air-drying. as bacon, gammon. hams and sausages. Somewhat unfortunately, they also discovered that nitrates and nitrites help to preserve meat: these preservatives though traditional, are not helpful to our health,

so we should limit our intake of bacon, sausages and salami. Ham should be less of a problem with the proviso that what you buy resembles the thief of the pig. If it is cut off the bone before your very eyes, it will be a far purer product than ham that has been formed into boneless blocks so they are easy for the retailer to slice. In any case, ham should never be shiny and watery, just matt and slightly moist Cheap sausages and meat products are likely to contain poor quality,

recycled meat  as well as cereal fillers. As with most food you get what you pay for – in this case, not much eat in addition, they will be packed with additives such as flavor enhancers, which can adversely affect your body in various ways.

Dairy products

Western societies traditionally rely on milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream and butter a major food sources However, in many parts of the world dairy products are not eaten in any form, so vegans and people who cannot tolerate lactose (milk sugar) should be assured that they are not essential, although I think they are by far the best way to take in calcium and a range of other vitamins and minerals, Some regions use mainly sheep’s goats and buffalo milk, but here I shall con cent rate on cow’s milk products,

MILK

Commercial pressure to produce vast yields of milk can lead dairy farmers to feed the cows concentrated, high protein pellets derived from grains, fish meal, Saia beans and animal waste: far removed from the cow’s natural diet of pasture. This can upset the cow’s gut and cause excessively swollen udders, both of which lay the animal open to infection;

the farmer then has to use antibiotics Despite strict screening procedures, there have been cases of the antibiotics breaking through the testing protocols and entering into our diet. Cow’s milk is also a very sensitive indicator of environmental pollution. If the cows are farmed in polluted areas, the pollutants can easily pass into our milk To avoid such problems the simple message is that organic milk produced your exposure to toxins,

antibiotics and other undesirable components Organic herds are generally smaller and the good health of the cow is maintained by high standards of welfare, including natural feeding Most milk is pasteurized, then sold as full fat (whole), Semi-skimmed and squirmed. All contain practically identical amounts of calcium and other nutrients. Full fat milk contains between 3 and 5 per cent fat, semi-skimmed contains 1.5-18 per cent fat and skimmed milk contains (1-0.3 per cent fat. Many

people are under the impression that full fat milk is very high in fat and therefore unhealthy. This is really not the case, although if you do need to reduce your saturated fat intake, switching to semi skimmed is an easy way of doing this. Young children need to have whole milk up until the age of three years as they need its beneficial fats. It is usually inadvisable to give a child under the age of one large amounts of cows, milk, small amounts in cooking are fine. but glasses of milk can cause problems in the immature gut.

BUTTER

Butter is made by churning cream the fat solidifies to form butter Salted butter can have up to two per cent salt added. People sometimes ask me whether it is healthier to eat unsalted butter, but it really makes very little difference unless you have severe high blood pressure or kidney problems, when you are advised to change to unsalted butter: Unsalted butter tastes better in some dishes whereas salted butter can enhance the For the best taste and to avoid the possibility of chemical residues, it is worth spending a little extra for good quality better Organic butter is excellent as are some of the butters from small on firm dairies. Some French butters are protected by AOC (Appellation origin Controlee) status, the provenance of the milk is strictly controlled

YOGHURT

Yoghurt has a reputation as a healthy product, but with so many different styles this can be misleading In simple terms yoghurt is milk either whole or skimmed, that has been heated and soured by the addition of lactic cultures, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus Streptococcus thermophiles, or bifid us and acidophilus, which are most beneficial to the gut.

Set yoghurt has had the cultures added to it in the pot Yoghurt can be made from cow sheep’s and goats’ milk, and from soya milk From age frays and quark are not yoghurt, but fresh cheeses made by curdling milk with enzymes, which means that they don’t contain the beneficial lactic bacteria I recommend people include in their diet. The fat content of yoghurt ranges from 0.1 per cent to about 10 per cent in some thick.

Greek style strained yoghurts. So plain, natural yoghurt can be a healthy alternative to cream in soup or with your dessert, as the faun content of even single cream is around 20 percent. However, I have serious reservations about fruit-flavored yoghurts. Firstly, they often contain no fruit, just flavor- kings and colorings, Secondly, along with the fruit flavors, there is often a large amount of added sugar. Thirdly, just to complete the cocktail of additives. reduced fat yoghurts, whether fruit flavored or plain, are often thickened with modified starches.

Parents of hyperactive children who have problems with additives should be aware that many yoghurt-based desserts are certainly not a healthy or helpful option. Instead, choose a plain yoghurt, preferably organic, and add your own chopped, pitted or stewed fruit. Yoghurt is also good a. a savory sauce or dip add chopped cucumber and mint, or see page 312 for more suggestions.

CHEESE

Names like Brie, Parmesan and Cheddar refer to so many different qualities of chase that it is hard to recognize a good cheese Farmhouse and handmade cheeses are usually worth buying, as are labels which use the French term AO Appellation origin Controlee. Specialist cheese shops generally stock good quality cheese, often from small producers who cannot meet the high yields the supermarket demand. They will usually let you taste a few cheeses:

Although cheese is sally high in saturated fat. It is well worth splashing out on a good one to that your taste buds will be happy with only a small amount! Using mature cheese by success along with a small amount of mustard to enhance the flavor means you will need less cheese. Avoid ‘low fat and diet cheeses:

they are usually tasteless The finest choses are made with raw (unpasteurized) milk: these tend to have a better flavor and overall character. Hard, unpasteurized cheeses are the best choice for pregnant women as the natural organisms in the cheese will have fought off the bacteria that cause food poisoning (listeriosis).

If you are pregnant you need to avoid all soft cheeses, whether pasteurized or not, including those with white rinds and blue veins Here are some guidelines to bear in mind when buying cheese! Cheeses should be appropriately wrapped and not wrinkling or drying at the edges. • Hard cheese should look smooth, not with large dry crack Soft cheeses should look moist, not withered. .

If you get the chance to taste the cheese it should smell inviting Anything without a smell is probably a cheap cheese. Strong-smelling cheeses shouldn’t be rancid or smell of ammonia • The cheese should taste good not bland soapy or metallic Processed cheeses and cheese spreads can contain many additives and preserve actives. Mild goats’ milk cheese or Brie and Camembert types have a similar creamy, cheesy flavor, and it is much better to start your children on these rather than the processed cheeses, as they will receive health-giving calcium and other beneficial nutrients, and less health hindering additives and preservatives

Eggs

A fresh egg provides you with a cheap. good source of lean protein and lots of vitamins and minerals, all in one little unit. I would not suggest you eat them every day, however we need a varied diet Choosing an egg which is fresh and tastes like an egg is becoming increase ingle difficult.

Many eggs are either pale, tasteless and insipid or their yolks are bright orange, the chickens having been fed artificial colorings. There have been cases of children developing allergies not to the eggs themselves, but the additives in the chicken feed. We really cannot expect hens kept under the appalling stress of battery farms to produce decent eggs,

but whether you are concerned with animal welfare or the taste of real food, you should always try free tinge eps, organic if possible. Pregnant women, elderly people and those already suffering from line should avoid raw products, these carry a greater risk of food poisoning Fir. healthy individuals can to some extent cope with a bout of food poisoning but for these vulnerable groups can be particularly hazardous