Which foods are actually good for you?

13 December 2016


Bowl of fruit



Anyway, it seems that more and more anecdotal "good for you foods" are panning out. Would be nice to see a show where you debunk some and showcase some actual ones...


We put Dirk's question to geneticist Giles Yeo...

Giles - I think all foods are good for you at the right amount is the most unfashionable answer in all the world.

Chris - That right amount be zero.

Giles - That right amount.

Chris - In the case of some junk food I think.

Giles - Very little of it is going to actually be zero. I think you can probably get a little bit of.

Chris - Cyanide's not very good for you is it, you must be honest?

Giles - No, that's true, that's true.

Chris - No neutron stars either. You probably wouldn't want one of those.

Giles - Clearly. But stuff that's not going to kill you. Everything is good for you at the right amount. So I think the question probably is: if we consider good food as something you can eat as much of as possible without it killing you, if we go as that as good food. I think a lot of fruit are clearly going to be good for you. Stuff in a mediterranean diet, so foods that are actually eaten.

Chris - Isn't that classed as World Heritage UNESCO recognised as a phenomenon - the mediterranean diet, isn't it, I think?

Giles - Do you know what? A lot of things I had heard was anecdotal previously until I sat at a meeting just a couple of weeks ago and I saw some really compelling data about the benefits of a mediterranean diet. This was a study, which I saw in Spain, so this is the caveat, it was actually done in Spain, so people tend to have a mediterranean diet.

Chris - There are some quite good scientists in Spain?

Giles - No, no. But they tend to eat a mediterranean diet anyway. Now a mediterranean diet just for people out there, our stuff is going to be high in whole grains, a lot of extra virgin olive oil, fish, lower in dairy products and lower in meat. Okay, so kind of like a typically Spanish type of meal. And if you actually compare that, so they took people who were at risk of dying of heart attack and getting type 2 diabetes so obese people between 50 and 75. Put a few thousand of them on a mediterranean diet and put a few thousand of them on an American Heart Foundation low fat diet, just all the way across the board. And people on the mediterranean diet who were not restricting their food intake did better. The caveat is that it's in Spain. I don't know how applicable it can be in Texas or, for that matter, in Cambridgeshire, where fish is nearly impossible to get, but the mediterranean diet seems to be good for you.

Chris - So you would say rather than going for one food stuff specifically and in particular and exclusively, actually, the real good for you food stuff is the mixed diet that the mediterranean diet represents?

Giles - Undoubtedly. I think it's stuff which just takes a little longer to digest, high in polyunsaturated fats, that's what you really, really need. So not single, individual food groups.


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