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Red for Danger?

 

 

The UK Government has rightly stressed, in the last months, the importance of improving the health of British citizens. But the solutions and suggestions are actually working at the expense of Italian culinary excellence. England has decided to decrease the intake of certain nutrients: fat, salt and sugar. This project may seem good, but instead of proposing a necessary and irreplaceable method of food education, it decided to put a traffic light on the labels!

Example of a UK label for a burger.

The Minister of English Health, Anna Soubry, invited the English supermarkets to use, from this year, the traffic light colors for nutritional directions. Red means danger, yellow means dangerous on average, green means good. On the labels, though, there aren’t the recommended daily amounts. In addition to this, the recommended servings should indicate the value of the calories and nutrients referred to the daily requirement. In other words, these directions are too general to be properly understood and applied by normal people, i.e. without specialized nutrition knowledge.

Aggravating this situation, the British national health system decided, for a homogeneous representation of the nutritional qualities, to create a unique official direction system. The reason why this system can harm the Italian excellences is that extra virgin olive oil, for example, would receive a big red danger dot, corresponding to an unlikely portion of up to 100 grams instead of the usual 15-30. The same thing would happen to cheese, meat, sweet, etc. And our excellent Italian products and those of the Southern Europe would receive a red light. This system, that is penalizing just for one category of products, had already been rejected not only from Italy but also from the entire European Union, which had suggested to enact a campaign of nutritional education for citizens, especially for children.

The EU has also proposed other regulations, such as exposing on food labels the nutritional information, including their origin. We hope that this educational need for a the proper food consumption will be an emphasized suggestion, when in Brussels all the leaders of the Scientific Committee of the Food Chain of the 28 countries will join, as Italy previously suggested. Foods such as mortadella , olive oil , sauces , Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma or San Daniele ham, gorgonzola cheese, mozzarella, Taleggio cheese, sweets, could be removed from the English tables. The British could do what the European Union recommends and what Italy has been doing and implementing for many years: nutritional education programs for schools and the medical profession. This would make everything easier and enjoyable. It would include the portions to be introduced, their calories, nutrients, especially their antioxidants.

The British are making a mistake not understanding  that these characteristics of Italian food have made our people the most long-living in the world.

Official end of the project

The Healthy Lifestyles Project officially finished at the end of July 2013 but the good work continues! The partners in the five countries are continuing to promote and disseminate the results of the project – as well as using the many outcomes of the project such as the recipe books in their ongoing work. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a part in the project, both as partners and also, perhaps more importantly, as the learners for whom this project was developed. We hope that the legacy of the project will be that more people across Europe will realise the importance of taking steps to improve their health and well-being – resulting in a happier, healthier population who are able to live life to the full as a result of their ‘Healthy Lifestyles’.

Udine Conference & Activities

The final partner meeting of the Project was held in Udine, Italy – July 1st & 2nd 2013. Monday was a day packed with interest and activity. The group travelled the short distance to Campoformido where we were involved in a a range of healthy and traditional food-related activities. A highlight was the demonstration by local artisan cheesemakers of their traditional cheesemaking techniques using the most natural and local fresh produce -unpasteurised milk straight from the cow!

The cheese became part of our lunch menu!

We were also very impressed with the demonstration of tasty, healthy  snack making by Suzanna. There were several versions of the recipe created and the nutritional value was analysed using Food in Focus software provided by Crystal.

The culmination of the partner meeting was the Healthy Lifestyles Conference which included a wide range of speakers which continued into the evening. The speakers and their topics are listed below.

Luigi Attenasio

Il cibo come cultura;  Food as culture

Stefania Marzona

Celiachia: che cosè e come si convive; Celiac disease: what is it and how you live

Marisa Manzano

Come vanno conservati gli alimenti per prevenire contaminazioni e malattie; How are stored foods to prevent contamination and disease

Carmen Crosera

Come valutare il proprio stato di salute; How to value your health status

Giuliana Rossi

Il nordic walking: una tecnica che promuove la prevenzione e il benessere; Nordic Walking: a technique that promotes prevention and wellness

Mattia Serratore

La piramide del movimento ed i vantaggi di una vita attiva; The pyramid of the movement and the benefits of an active lifestyle

Richard Jack

Food in Focus2 – Educare i giovani a fare scelte alimentari sane; Educating young people to make healthy eating choices

 

UK Government & Healthy Lifestyles

 

People’s lifestyles have a major impact on their health and wellbeing.

Eating and drinking more healthily, becoming more physically active, and receiving appropriate health support at work, have the potential to transform lives. Physical inactivity, alcohol misuse, and obesity cost the UK NHS billions of pounds every year and there’s no doubt that they contribute to organisations’ sickness absence figures too.

The UK Government’s overall strategy for public health is set out in the White Paper called ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’. The White Paper makes clear that everyone has a part to play in improving public health, including Government, business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and individuals themselves.

The UK Government’s approach to improving people’s health is based on:

  • positively promoting ‘healthier’ behaviours and lifestyles;
  • adapting the environment to make healthy choices easier;
  • strengthening self-esteem, confidence, and personal responsibility

The Healthy Lifestyles Project has these three bullet points clearly in mind.

OKkio alla SALUTE: decreases in child obesity, but still a serious situation

News from the Ministry of Health – Italy

From 2008 to present the number of overweight and obese children aged 8-9 years has slightly decreased, but Italy remains at the top in Europe for weight excess in children. Among children, some wrong food habits and sedentary lifestyles are still too common, even though children doing physical activities have slightly increased.

This is the picture taken in 2012 by the surveillance system “Okkio alla SALUTE”, promoted by the Ministry of Health within the strategic program “Guadagnare salute – Rendere facili le scelte salutari” (Gaining health – Facilitating healthy choices). The detection involved 46.492 children in 2.623 third grades.

The 2012 data show that 22,1% of children aged 8-9 are overweight when in 2008/09 they were 23,2% (-1,1%), and that 10,2% are obese while in 2008/09 they were 12% (- 1,8%). Overall, then, in 2012 the 32,3% of third grade children is in a condition of weight excess (-2,9% compared to the first detection).

The highest percentages about overweight and obesity were collected in the Central and Southern regions: in Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia e Basilicata the weight excess affects over 40% of the sample, while in Sardegna, Valle d’Aosta e Trentino-Alto Adige the weight excess affects less than 25%.

Food education keeps being fundamental: among children there are still too many habits that can lead to weight increase, especially when concomitant. Particularly, 9% of children skip breakfast and 31% have a non-proper breakfast (that is unbalanced in terms of carbohydrates and proteins); 67% have a too heavy mid-morning snack; 21% of parents declare that their children don’t eat daily fruits and/or vegetables; 43% consume regularly sweetened and/or carbonated drinks.

Data about physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles show a small improvement, though remaining high: 16% of children practice a sport just for an hour a week or less, compared to 25% in 2008/09; 17% didn’t do any physical activity the day before the investigation (in 2008/09 it was 26%); 42% have a TV in their bedroom (-6%), 36% watch TV  and/or play with video-games for more than 2 hours a day (-11%) and just one in four children goes to school on foot or by bike.

These findings underline the need to invest even more in prevention to reduce inequality, and health and social costs.

Nordic walking – a great way to exercise!

Nordic Walking puts in motion approximately 90% of the body muscles.

The help of sticks considerably reduces fatigue, sharing it over the whole body. You can rediscover walking with four points of contact on the ground in the city, in the countryside, in the mountains and by the sea.

Nordic Walking is recommended for all, regardless of age and physical condition because it:

• restores posture and coordination

• improves flexibility and joint mobility

• increases calorie consumption up to 45% compared to normal walking

• boosts aerobic resistance by increasing heart rate (average 10/17 beats per minute) with respect to the normal-walking

• induces increased muscle tone, engaging almost all of the musculature

• reduces muscle tension in the shoulders and neck

• increases the metabolism of the spine intervertebral discs facilitating the prevention and treatment of back problems

• strengthens the immune and cardiovascular system

• is recommended to complete rehabilitation phases of the lower limbs and fast recovery of mobility

• provides out-door activity which has anti-stress and anti-depressive effects.

Why not give it a go!

 

Let’s dispel some myths about food and nutrition!

This thought provoking post comes from our Italian Partners. How many did you get right?

Fasting makes you lose weight   FALSE

Weight lost through fasting involves minimal loss of fat mass, while it involves mainly lean body mass and water, so it is easy to gain that weight again. It takes time to lose weight, and it is necessary to follow a varied diet, eating a little of everything in the correct proportions, keeping the balance between the various macro and micro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein, fibre, minerals) and increasing energy expenditure with constant physical exercise.

Seed oil is more caloric than olive oil   FALSE

The calories of every fat are the same: 9 kcal/gram. Seed oils, in general, are less flavoured than the olive oil, which is an oil extracted from a fruit, so it also has protective characteristics. Extra virgin olive oil is an extremely healthy and genuine, with a high digestibility. It differs from other oils as it bears high temperatures more than any other. It’s absolutely the most suitable for frying, as it preserves its properties without deterioration, resisting temperatures up to 180°C.

If you chew slowly, you eat less   TRUE

The information about being sated takes 15 minutes to reach the brain starting from the stomach. If you chew slowly, you eat less.

Replacing bread with breadsticks helps you to lose weight   FALSE

Bread is made of water, flour, salt and yeast. Breadsticks and crackers contain also fats (vegetable, lard) and so they have more calories (from 350 to 450 kcal/100g), while more dietetic breads, like wholemeal bread and hard wheat bread (bread from Puglia), have respectively 224kcal/100g – 289kcal/100g). In addition to this, bread satiates much more, also thanks to the great presence of fibre, especially in wholemeal bread.

If I don’t have breakfast, I have saved many calories   FALSE

In the morning your body needs to regain what it has consumed while sleeping, and it needs fresh and immediate energy to face the day. All scientific research agrees that, according to facts, skipping breakfast is a wrong habit, often connected to situations of overweight and obesity.

Alcohol has more calories than sugar   TRUE

Alcohol has 7kcal in 1 gram, while sugar has just 4kcal in 1 gram.

Wine is recommended in diets   FALSE

Any alcoholic drink, besides giving ‘empty’ calories (without any nutrient, apart from sugars), implements the production of gastric juices which improve the sense of hunger.

All fibre is the same  FALSE

There are two main types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. The first ones are in wheat bran, in dried fruit and in many vegetables: they are so called because they don’t dissolve in water, so they can pass almost unchanged through the gastrointestinal tract increasing stool bulk (this is recommended for those who suffer from constipation). Soluble fibres are in oat, barley, beans and in some fruits: they dissolve in water creating, in the gastrointestinal tract a gelatinous material, that slows absorption. Moreover, if consumed regularly, they reduce the level of cholesterol LDL (the ‘bad’ one).

Frozen vegetables contain the same nutritional values of the fresh ones   TRUE

Frozen vegetables perfectly keep their nutritional qualities, and sometimes even more than fresh vegetables. During the packaging process, vegetables lose a small part of their vitamins and minerals, but it is a minimal part if compared to the properties lost by fresh vegetables during a few days if not frozen. To keep their nutritional qualities it is important to:

  • Avoid breaking the cold chain using coolbags for transport.
  • When unfrozen, they should be consumed immediately, within a maximum of 4 days. You mustn’t refreeze them, also because they would lose most of their nutritional properties.
  • The ideal way to cook frozen vegetables without making them lose their nutritional properties is to cook them in a pan, or steamed, without unfreezing them.
  • If the package, when you buy them, presents frost or moisture on the surface, it means that the cold chain has been broken.

Wholemeal bread has less calories than normal bread   FALSE

They have the same amount of calories. Wholemeal bread is better because it contains more fibre.

Eating ‘light’ foods makes you lose weight   FALSE

Light foods are foods with a lower amount of calories because they have been processed to subtract fats and sugars, but in their place artificial additives were added, which often are not the best for health.

It is difficult not to believe that light foods can help us to lose weight. But for some psychological mechanisms, on the contrary, we may eat bigger quantities of light foods than we would do with normal food, as shown by many researches. Moreover, light foods hide thinner psychological traps. In fact, our body reacts to food in ways we cannot be conscious of. Brain ‘remembers’ the nutritional capacity of food, and according to its expectations it rules the sense of hunger.

 

The American Dream …

 

Dream or nightmare? What do you think!

Do you have a healthy BMI?

The Body Mass Index (or BMI) is a way of seeing if your weight is appropriate for your height. The actual calculation is your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in metres) squared but it’s also easy to read on the chart. BMI can be divided into several categories and generally the higher your BMI, the greater your risk of a large range of medical problems.

BMI charts are calculated for adults only (separate charts are available for children’s weight and heights). Inaccuracies can also occur if you’re an athlete or very muscular as this can give you a higher BMI even if you have a healthy level of body fat and this BMI chart is not appropriate for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people who are very frail.

 

The BBC have a great tool you can use to check your BMI here!

15-minute daily exercise is ‘bare minimum for health’

Just 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase life expectancy by three years and cut death risk by 14%, according to recent research.

The Lancet study, based on a review of more than 400,000 people in Taiwan, showed 15 minutes per day or 90 minutes per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, can add three years to your life. Meanwhile, work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests a couch potato lifestyle with six hours of TV a day cuts lifespan by five years.

Another benefit is that people who start to do more exercise tend to get a taste for it and up their daily quota. More exercise led to further life gains. Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise further reduced all-cause death rates by 4%. Moderate exercise does not have to be a long jog, it could be a brisk walk to work or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

The UK government recently updated its advice to have a more flexible approach, recommending adults get 150 minutes of activity a week. This could be a couple of 10-minute bouts of activity every day or 30-minute exercise sessions, five times a week, for example.