Once upon a time there was a very, very big family who had to eat a diet of oats, wholegrain bread, home grown vegetables and some home grown fruit, but very little sugar. Meat, cheese, butter and hard cooking fat were scarce, and even milk and tea were limited. They had to walk and cycle a lot because cars weren’t so common as they are now, and fuel was rationed. The family weren’t very happy because lots of bad things were happening in the world but they were terribly healthy. When the world settled down and peace came, they all wished for sweeties, cakes, bacon, sweet drinks and white bread.

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The magic industry goblins who worked closely with government felt they could answer all the wishes of that big family, and were able to remove the whole in whole grains – producing whiter than white bread – adding sugar, fat, bright colours and artificial tastes to many food ingredients and, encouraging invitations to eat, drink and be merry. In the 1970’s scientists started to report that these diets were bad for our health and actually people weren’t so merry and had too many hospital appointments. In the last 50 years work has focused on re-balancing diet and activity by small (but not very well funded) fairies.

Positive diet message number one – Wholegrains!

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There really are no magic ways to change our dietary intake but there is some good news that needs to be acted on by more people, more often. One of the big positive messages about diet is to eat more wholegrain cereals, beans and pulses.

Last year the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) reviewed carbohydrates in the diet – a mega task which involved reading and analysing many hundreds of papers. Two big recommendations emerged:

  1. Sugars should not exceed 5% of total dietary energy
  2. The average population intake of dietary fibre for adults should be raised to 30g/day.

The committee also highlighted sources of fibre where it is present as a naturally integrated component (rather than than using bran or purified fibres).

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The European Code Against Cancer has three very clear messages about diet – the first of which is “Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.” (See scientific justification). Most people know about eating more veggies and fruit, but it really is time to focus on the whole grains! So after many years of dietary fibre being considered unimportant, we have a clear 21st century guideline!

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This is a message I have enjoyed working on for many years. As a student in the 70’s in Aberdeen, I can still remember the lovely smell of grains in the food co-op called Ambrosia, and then later the spicy, tempting aromas of the Arjuna Wholefoods shop in Cambridge. So many happy memories of sharing meals of brown rice, wholegrain wheat berry, barley, oats and wholegrain pasta. Adding spices (who needs salt?), rainbow vegetables and olive oil to produce veggie bakes, beaney stews and sandwich fillings.

At the SCPN, we have been lucky to have lots of very creative wholegrain recipes from Kellie Anderson and volunteers. All will soon be available on our website and this month we hope that you will help us share these recipes widely and help promote a very positive healthy eating message.

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