Read & Watch

You Are What You Eat

We are constantly bombarded with health tips, new practices and diets that promise excellent results within a short time span. As the average person tends to lack in expertise in the fields of medicine, biology, biochemistry and nutrition, it is difficult to decide what is credible and what is totally unfounded mumbo-jumbo.

A good example of a controversial weight loss regime is associated with a TV show  aired on the UK’s Channel 4 between 2004 and 2007 and with the associated book, both entitled “You Are What You Eat”.  The programme was hosted, and the book written, by (Dr.) Gillian McKeith, a holistic nutritionist. She came to attention as she delivered excellent results in her above mentioned TV show. She quickly became a celebrity and a best-selling author, whose dietary programme was subsequently scrutinised by medical practitioners and nutritionists. That scrutiny revealed substantial controversies with regard to the science behind her dietary programme and her academic credentials, including her MA and PhD degrees from the already closed down, unaccredited Clayton College in the United States.

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For example, Ben Goldacre, a doctor and Guardian columnist extensively criticised McKeith’s regime on the pages of the Guardian and on his web site He even called her “The Awful Poo Lady” referring to her diagnosing methods, (namely analysing stool samples) and referred to her dietary programme as “cargo cult science”. Professor John Garrow, the emeritus professor of human nutrition at the University of London also questioned the scientific claims of McKeith. So did Amanda Wynne, senior dietician with the British Dietetic Association, who suggested that if McKeith’s regime was to be “followed to the limit, her advice could be dangerous” (Daily Mail:

Being only a nutrition enthusiast, not a medical professional or qualified nutritionist, I am not in a position to judge her regime, question her methods or evaluate her credentials. Nonetheless, I have read her book and reviewed some of the criticism against her regime. While I concluded that the science behind her regime may not be well-founded and may be questionable, I do believe in some of her tips and I find some of her advice actually very much helpful for those who wish to lead a healthier lifestyle and wish to lose weight or shape up.

In my opinion, the book is very readable and its presentation style is good, catchy and attractive. It is not too text-heavy, it is illustrated with beautiful photography and is right in its tone to address a general audience.

I like the fact that McKeith gives a review of her personal story which led her from being a junk food eater to being passionate about food and health. In the foreword of the book, she suggests that “it’s simply going to be about changing a few habits and recognising the harm that certain foods are inflicting on you”. As long as one takes this as the core message of the book, uses it as a general guidance and does not get overly concerned about the science behind it, then it is a good and helpful book.

Kristin Hahn, Pinterest

In Chapter 1, we get a review of negative nutrition-related health facts and a calorific overview of the most commonly consumed foods in the United Kingdom. She tells us about the benefits of eating good food and the negative impacts of consuming junk food on our health. In Chapter 2, we are presented with stories of overweight and obese people; and a list of common symptoms of bad eating habits, in a generic sense. This overview, I believe, is intended to provide a tool for a self-assessment and is based on some diagnostic principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, it does not elaborate on the source and principles of the diagnostic tools, so perhaps we should not take these too seriously.

In Chapter 3, we get insights about good and bad foods. We get an overview about the benefits of grains, healthy protein sources, good sweets and the reasons why “the nasties” are bad for us. We also get tips for food combination principles, which may or may not be scientifically founded. Nonetheless, “The Abundant Food List” does contain foods that are definitely from the healthy group, based on general, common knowledge.

Chapter 4 goes through the “Top 5 Bummers”, i.e. conditions that can be improved with healthy eating habits. Nutritional tips are offered for all and a self-help questionnaire is provided too.  This aiming to help the reader find out whether they suffer from any of these “bummers”. Chapter 5 elaborates on the importance of detoxifying the body, offers ideas and recipes and useful tips that help the reader to go through a detox day. Also, it elaborates on the importance of exercise.

Chapter 6 offers specific advice for certain conditions, including acne, stretch-marks, eczema, varicose veins, dull hair, unhealthy teeth & gums and a dull sex life. Again, I am not in a position to evaluate the advice here, but if anyone suffers from these conditions, perhaps the tips are worth giving a go and see whether they deliver any positive change. Chapter 7 offers a 7-day plan to boost the reader into a healthier eating regime. It offers recipes and shopping tips, including how to read labels and what to avoid in packaged food. (If you are interested in knowing more about food labels, check out my previous blog post in this topic: “Understanding What Is In Your Food”).

Chapter 8 offers “20 Super Quick Tips” that are quick fixes for dietary & other habits, while Chapter 9 give an overview on some “superfoods”, including greens, grasses, herbs, sea vegetables, leafy vegetables and sprouts. It also gives a few reasons for eating raw food. (On the topic of superfoods, perhaps you might be interested in checking out my previous blog post: “Superfoods in Action”).

I think the message of the book about healthy eating habits is definitely welcome. It emphasises the importance of eating a balanced diet that consists of lots of fresh and organic produce and fibre. Fresh fruit & veg, complex carbs, whole grains, nuts, seeds, seaweeds and healthy fats are recommended to be consumed in abundance. McKeith’s regime does not exclude the occasional egg, fish and chicken from a healthy diet, either. The book also draws advocates for variety and moderation. Some supplements are also recommended, in certain cases. It is mentioned that a healthy diet must be supplemented with mild exercise that the reader finds enjoyable. I also like the “holistic” approach of the book toward overall health and wellbeing, happiness and fitness.

J Hansen Pinterest
J Hansen, Pinterest

Having read this book, I don’t think it is a hardcore or fanatical health programme. I cannot judge the science behind it, but common sense suggest that its nutritional tips are largely beneficial to the health-conscious reader, who is interested in dropping a few pounds, or managing their weight more effectively. I would recommend trying a few recipes from its jumpstart or from its detox programme and seeing how they work for you. Giving it a go may help you decide for yourself, whether it is something for you to pursue. In order to achieve balanced health and wellbeing by way of choosing to eat healthy food, one may not need to go very deep into the science of nutrition anyway.

Foods to Fight Cancer

Cancer is a disease (or more accurately a series of diseases) of the modern age that “is the leading cause of death worldwide [which] accounted for 7.6 million death (around 13% of all death) in 2008” according to the World Health Organisation. The prevalence of cancer cannot be ignored.  As a consequence, prevention and the fight against cancer are matters that deserves our utmost attention.

With the number of cancer deaths continuing to increase, it is natural to look for ways in which our exposure to the disease can be limited. A scientifically well-founded argument about a nutritional route to preventing and fight certain types of cancer is presented in the book: “Foods to Fight Cancer” by Richard Béliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D. The book does not promise to cure the disease, nor does it suggest that cancer is wholly preventable.  However, it does advocate a sensible dietary route that may help to with prevention.  The book also offers good advice for those who have already been diagnosed as having cancer.

Part one of the book elaborates on what cancer  is, the types of cancer there are, the distribution of the disease and its risk factors. It provides some statistics and briefly elaborates on the link between cancer and the modern life, as well as the connection between cancer and obesity. We learn quite a bit about cancer and its nature as well as the stages of its evolution. Additionally, the books gives insight into the currently available therapies and treatments. Once a base understanding of the disease has been established, the authors proceed to explain that food is an abundant source of anticancer agents.  Further, how plant hormones (phytoestrogens) act against tumors and how nutrition therapy can help us prevent and fight this disease. We learn what nutraceuticals (a combination of “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”) which include potent anticancer agents.

Although it is a highly technical subject, the authors provide a perfectly understandable overview for general readers, without medical knowledge. Flow charts and graphs provide visual aids for understanding the content of the book, making sure that anyone with interest in this subject can grasp the content.

Part two of the book contains eleven chapters. Each of these chapters gives an informative overview on a nutraceutical, a food that fights cancer.

We learn that “cancer hates cabbage” and that the members of the cabbage family (e.g. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) have therapeutic virtues due to the fact that they contain the largest variety of phytochemicals. We also learn that “garlic and onions ward off cancer” and what kind of anticancer properties onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives contain. For example, garlic contains a compound named “allicin”, a antimicrobial agent that prevents the formation of carcinogens.



The chapter “Benefits of soy” provides an introduction to soy, which is an integral part of Asian diets, but which is much less commonly used in the West. We also learn that soybeans, miso, soy milk and tofu contain isoflavones, a type of molecule that can influence events associated with the growth of cancer cells. The book also introduces us to “turmeric: the anticancer spice”, which is primarily consumed in India, where certain cancer types occur are much more rarely than in Western countries. It is believed that the consumption of tumeric makes a significant contribution in this regard.

The book educates us as to why we should drink lots of Japanese green tea. In short, green tea – especially the Japanese type – contains complex molecules called catechins, which have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

The chapter “A Passion for Berries” provides insights into the benefits of eating delicious raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and cranberries. These are particularly abundant sources of polyphenols.



Béliveau  and Gingras explain that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in the human diet for the synthesis of anti-inflammatory molecules. These are unsaturated fats that should be consumed preferably in the form of whole foods e.g. sardines, herring, mackerel or salmon. Vegetarians may also boost their intake of Omega-3s from flax seeds or walnuts. Omega-3s not only play a role in cancer prevention but they block the formation of cardiovascular diseases, too. The book also suggests that tomatoes are the friend of prostate, especially in cooked form. Lycopene, a pigment that gives the red colour to the tomatoes, can potentially interfere with cancer formation, in particular prostate cancer.

General wisdom is that citrus fruits including lemons, oranges, grapefruit and mandarins are abundant source of vitamin C. Additionally, citrus fruits contain significant amounts of phytochemicals. Scientific studies have demonstrated that the consumption of citrus fruit can decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancers, in particular digestive tract cancers. The book recommends moderate consumption of red wine, as it has unique health properties thanks to a plant hormone, which is exclusively found in red wine, called reservatrol. It is an extremely powerful and potent anticancer molecule. According to the book chocolate is a “good obsession”, at least a good quality version of dark cholocate. It is rich in important polyphenols and due to its antioxidant activity its consumption may have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, too.



Part three of the book explores the role that supplements play in our diets. It provides a solid argumentation against taking supplements as a substitute for a diet rich in nutraceuticals. It also promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables and other anticancer foods as opposed to pills and capsules.

To conclude, the book suggests simple and practical lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, lowering calorific intake, reducing red meat consumption, exercising regularly, as well as focusing on a diet containing a variety of anticancer foods.

The book is inspiring and gives a good guidance for nutrition.  Following its advice won’t of guarantee any outcome but it may contribute to helping any of us avoiding one of the most frightful diseases of the modern times.

The book is available on Amazon:

Foods to Fight Cancer


Have a good read and let me know what you think.