Moderation to food and diet is the key, not scares

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If you believe everything you read in the newspapers, you’d never leave the house, writes Peterborough chef Lee Clarke.

The media seem to thrive on publishing tales of gloom and doom, whether it’s the steady rise in knife crime, increase in burglaries, alarming occurrences of shootings and, of course, not just major cities but small towns throughout Europe have become targets for terrorists.

Crime is one thing, and it’s reasonable to be worried about it, but if you really took some newspapers at their word, you’d also never eat anything. Inaccurate reports surrounding certain foods and how bad they are for your health are churned out week after week. Scare stories sell newspapers, and there’s nothing more alarming than reading that your favourite food might kill you - even when it’s blatantly not true. It’s become fashionable for the media to tell people what to eat, or what not to eat, and while saying we should cut down on junk food, sweets and fizzy drinks is fair enough, telling us a vegetable is responsible for causing cancer is nothing but a scaremongering tactic to shift more papers.

In 2013 The Daily Mail reported that ‘blueberries may cause cancer’, along with a host of other antioxidant foods such as broccoli. If you click on the story online you will see that the headline is completely misleading, and that one controversial doctor in the US said that, despite scientific research showing the opposite – a diet high in antioxidants help keep you fighting fit. In the next breath the same media will run a story about how eating more blueberries staves off diseases. If you Google ‘blueberries cancer’ you’ll see what I mean.

A few months ago avocados were deemed bad for you - too much fat, apparently – but then not many people eat 10 avocados a day, so as with everything, it’s fine to eat it in moderation, and besides, it’s ‘good’ fat, not junk food fat! Last month we had another scare story linking asparagus to breast cancer. When I read it I sighed; here we go again, I thought.

When I read the whole story and not just the headline, I could see – unsurprisingly – that this was utter rubbish, and another example of how some scientific research got taken completely out of context yet again. A study published in the journal Nature suggested that a protein called asparagine could promote certain types of breast cancer. Hours later, the media exploded with articles warning against eating too much asparagus. As it happens, scientists explained that this protein is made naturally by the human body and is found in almost every food known to man, so no, it doesn’t ‘cause cancer’ and we’d have to stop eating altogether to avoid it.

Sadly, most people don’t look beyond a headline these days (one of the reasons so much fake news circulates on social media; nobody actually reads it and questions its authenticity before hitting ‘share’).

So, please don’t believe everything you read about fruits and vegetables being ‘bad’ for you. They are not. To prove that point, we’re serving a beautiful dish of Norfolk quail with asparagus and wild garlic at Prévost, and will be incorporating this wonderful, versatile vegetable into many other dishes as we go through spring - and you should, too!