So here's the thing. I suddenly realised the other day that everything I know about good nutrition and healthy food habits I learnt from my granny. The advice she would give to us kids over and over again (which we largely ignored) was so timeless it's now seen to be incredibly modern. I've come to the conclusion that we don't need doctors, nutritionists, psychologists (and heaven forbid) "lifestyle gurus" to tell us what is good for us, we just have to listen to our nans! It seems to me that there was a point in time when we began to reject the homespun wisdom of elderly women. What with modern culture's preoccupation with extreme youth, and a kind of unspoken denigration of women's traditional skills (perhaps because these skills are rarely practised in the market place?), and more importantly the break-up of the extended family, these things have left us with an over-complication of what was once simple good sense. Anyway, enough of my cod-sociology and on with the talk about grub! Here's what my granny used to say, coupled with the modern research which backs up her ancient wisdom.
- (This is my favourite one). She used to tell us that fish was "brain food".This would make us all laugh...but we were laughing on the other sides of our faces when in 1994 an American research department found that the fatty acids in oily sea fish contributed healthy brain function and optimum eye function. Apparently, they're also linking lack of EFAs to increased instances of childhood depression. For a bit of modern information on what my granny knew all along, go here! Oh, and don't forget EFAs are good for your heart too (granny may have told me this as well, but I can't be sure...I need more brain food to help my memory, lol!)
- "Sit down and eat your dinner at the table!" Granny knew that sitting down to eat as a family was good for us kids. We could have time together as a group, learn proper manners, and importantly eat a nutritious meal under adult supervision. There's something of a renaissance in family meal-times going on at the moment. Thank God for that, I say. Here's an excellent article which shows all of the research into why family meals are important to a child's development, both socially and nutritionally
- "Eat your greens." We all know that greens are a nutritional power house...your granny told you, my granny told me and now trendy life-style nutritionists are telling us! Go here for the modern take on what we've always known.
- "Eggs are the perfect food." Now, granny used to say this right in the midst of the various egg controversies which were going on during the 1980s. "No," she would say, "they're wrong! Eggs are good for you!" For years now, we've seen eggs as packed with cholesterol and riddled with salmonella and therefore something to be avoided...but perhaps to the detriment of our health. Eggs are a good, inexpensive, source of choline which is vital for healthy brain function. They also contain anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals and are excellent in helping macular degeneration. This is only half the egg story. Go here for a really comprehensive look at why my granny was right!
- "Fruit is good for the skin, because it cleans you out!" Yes, my granny thought that because fruit made you go to the loo more often all the badness in your body (which she thought caused teenage spots) would be (ahem) pooped away. Of course, we now know that all the of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes contained in fresh fruit are good for our overall health, but here is an article, especially written for teenage acne sufferers, which shows my granny's take on the "elimination of toxins" may not have been that far off!
- "A little bit of what you fancy does you good." Now, I have my own take on this particular piece of good advice. Portion sizes have grown since my granny's time and we've all got fatter. However, my grandparent's generation rarely denied themselves anything; dumplings, beer, cake, pie, mashed potato, fatty meat...they just ate smaller portions of everything and manged to keep their daily calorie intake within the realms of reason. Modern diets are marketed on the "eat as much as you of like" idea. That is, we can eat as much carbohydrate as we like but must cut out fat and eat less meat OR we can eat as much meat and fat as we like but must cut out carbs. This leaves the dieter with a natural craving for the "bad" food, after a few weeks of these punishing regimes, but no idea of what constitutes a healthy portion size. These are the diets of the modern age, where nobody does anything with any sense of moderation...we live in a binge and purge society. But granny knew best. It's good for the soul to eat what you like. It's good for your body to eat a varied diet. However, you just can't be a greedy guts!
Well, there you have it. I'm passing on my granny's wisdom over the very modern tool of the internet! Do you have any good advice your gran gave you? Or, and here's a good question, what other things did granny advise on, which make good sense, but we're still choosing to ignore?