Try This One Simple Thing For Better Health (And Maybe Even A Longer Life)

woman standing near yellow petaled flower
Photo by Edu Carvalho on

Yesterday,  a man named Carl Mattson celebrated his birthday. Like many others, he might’ve had some friends over. Maybe there was birthday cake, flowers and a present, too.

But Carl is not just any other person. He’s officially the oldest person in Sweden. Looking at an image of him, I’d have guessed this sprightly-looking gent to be not a day over eighty. He’s 111.

His answer to the usual ‘what’s your secret?’: ‘Don’t overeat. Eat about half of your meal.’

I don’t want to  promote waste and tell people to bin their food, but I think he’s on to something. And he’s not the only one. The people of the Japanese island of Okinawa — best known for their longevity — have a phrase for it: Hara Hachi Bu, or ‘eat until you’re eighty percent full’.

No doubt there’s more involved in reaching a ripe old age than just not overeating, with your health fairly intact. Genetics, for example. But lots of studies show that overeating is, indeed, very bad for your health.

Many people, myself included, overeat. Mostly because it tastes good. And also because you tend to overestimate your hunger — you ‘eat with your eyes’. Sometimes hunger is confused with being peckish, or bored.

And once you’ve eaten, it takes about twenty minutes for your brain to register that you’re full. So, by the time you’ve devoured that second portion, you feel sick and curse yourself for being greedy.

And if the contents of your fridge doesn’t tempt you, a key stroke or screen swipe can have whatever your stomach desires delivered to your door before you can say ‘egg-fried rice’.

Food is everywhere, twenty-four seven. And much of it lacks nutrients while being chockful of calories, leading to a perverse paradox where you can be overweight yet malnourished.

Your body’s a bit like your car. Put the wrong fuel in the tank and it won’t work very well. And sooner or later it might break down.

So make sure to fuel yourself properly. The Okinawans don’t just eat until they’re eighty percent full, their diet is based on plant foods, with very little animal protein, such as pork and fish.

How do you know you’re eighty percent full? Well, one way is to stop eating when you feel satiated. Satiety is that feeling that you’re no longer hungry; it comes before the feeling of being stuffed. It’s a feeling of just enough. Or as people back home in Sweden would say, lagom.


So, if you’re someone who overeats, try that or put a bit less on your dinner plate than you normally would. Yes, I know, that does require a teeny bit of willpower. Especially when you’re famished.

And to prevent waste, take any leftovers to work the next day.

Then once you’ve eaten, remember to give your brain time to catch up. Chances are that twenty minutes later you’ll feel satisfied. And maybe even a tad more alert. You might even find yourself skipping over the usual I’m-so-full-cum-beached-whale impersonation routine.

Obviously, people suffering from diabetes or eating-related disorders should not experiment with this.

* A note about Okinawa: with several fast-food outlets on the island these days, the healthier Hara Hachi Bu way of eating is sadly something that’s now mostly the preserve of the older generation.

Check out this link for more info:

Until next time,







How To Slow Down Skin Aging


abstract beach bright clouds
Photo by Pixabay on

Many of you think wrinkly skin is a consequence of aging. As inevitable as that extra candle on your birthday cake every year, right?

Wrong. Lines and wrinkles have little to do with aging, but a lot to do with exposure to sunlight. (There are, of course, other factors as well. Diet, lifestyle and genetics to name three, but this post will focus on sunlight.)

Think about it. Most, ahem, mature adults have smoother and more line-free skin on the parts of their bodies that are not usually exposed to the sun. Coincidence? No.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned free radicals and how they’re responsible for aging our cells, and ultimately, us.

And that’s what happens when sunlight hits your skin: it triggers a blast of free radicals. While damaging your cells’ DNA in the process, bad enough on its own, it leads to skin losing its elasticity, becoming thinner. While those may sound like mostly cosmetic changes, the worst-case scenario has got to be skin cancer.

And as if that’s not enough, damaging enzymes are also released, causing an inflammatory reaction. Inflammation, as you may recall from my ‘mushroom’ post, particularly the chronic variety, is an underlying element of most western diseases.

According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburned just once every two years can triple the risk of getting malignant melanoma, or skin cancer.

Now, that’s scary, when I think back to my teenage years and early twenties when having a tan ranked pretty high on my list of priorities. Sunscreen, what sunscreen?

I vaguely remember someone suggesting cooking oil; apparently you’ll tan quicker! (Please, please, don’t try that!) Which wouldn’t have worked for me, anyway. The times in my life I’ve had a proper tan I can count on one hand. I burn.

So, now I wear SPF all year round, come rain or shine. That’s right. Even on a drab and rainy Tuesday in November. The sun emits UVA and UVB radiation even on cloudy days.

So, anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Before anyone says anything: yes, we all need a certain amount of sun exposure to get our daily dose of vitamin D.

And many of us that live in northern Europe are deficient in this vitamin and would likely benefit from supplementing (still debated among experts, as so many other things).

So, no, I’m not advocating sitting indoors with curtains drawn and hoodie up.

But do take care when out in the sun. According to those in the know, as little as fifteen minutes’ exposure could be all you need to top up with that essential vitamin D.  Per day, that is.

After that, do put on some sunscreen. And make sure you get one with both UVA and UVB protection: one causes sunburn and the other goes deeper into the skin, causing aging.

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Until next time,

References: Clayton, P. (2004). Health Defence (2nd edition). Aylesbury: Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd.










Here’s Why You Need to Eat More Mushrooms (part 2)

three white mushrooms on beige wooden table
Photo by Emma Jones on

So, where were we? Oh yes, I ended my last post gushing over ET, found in mushrooms. Not ET ‘Phone Home’, obviously. But ET — or Ergothioneine — the antioxidant.

And how it’s able to get into the cell’s energy factory where it cleans up the mess caused by free radicals, the bad guys resulting from energy production.

And oxidation in the mitochondria causes… you got it, Sherlock. Aging. Think wrinkles, impaired memory, to name but two.

But our favourite fungi are so much more than mere one-trick ponies. (Yeah, I know they’re mushrooms, not ponies. Sheesh! But it sounds good. Okay?)

Pyrogallol,  a nutrient found in all sorts of mushrooms acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Great news, I hear you say, as inflammation is linked to all the common diseases: cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, plus others.

And there’s more. Those clever scientists have also found that mushrooms help boost our immune system. And no, you don’t need to eat gallons of them.

Studies show that just a cup a day of the humble button mushroom for one week results in fifty percent more antibodies (they’re the good guys fighting your corner against bacteria and viruses).  Fifty percent!

Pass the shiitakes, please.

Until next time,

Oh, and please visit the site below for references and more info:

Here’s Why You Need To Eat More Mushrooms

food wood kitchen cutting board
Photo by Pixabay on

Mushrooms seem to me to be an understated food. I had no idea how great they are until just recently.

I know they taste great sautéed in a little butter, pinch of salt and pepper, on a piece of wholegrain toast. Yummy.

Which brings back memories of autumnal afternoons spent foraging for chanterelles in the woods back home. Then off home to cook them… But I digress.

Mushrooms are… wait for the drum roll… the only plant food to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. And vitamin D, as we know, helps keep ’em ole bones strong.

And for those calorie-conscious folks out there: six medium-sized button mushrooms contain roughly 22 calories.

Being a fan of antioxidant-rich foods, mushrooms must surely come with some of those. And they do. Namely Ergothioneine. Or ET, for short.

If asked to name foods with antioxidants in them, most of us will say things like: berries, citrus fruits, peppers, green tea, etc. The usual suspects.

But mushrooms. Who knew? Let’s just say they’ve gone up more than a notch in my estimation. But there’s more.

Remember my last post on aging and free radicals? And I spoke about mitochondria, our little cellular power plants where energy from the food we eat is turned into a form the body can use.

Well, listen to this: ET is one of two antioxidants that can get into the mitochondria. And once inside, it helps clean up some of the mess caused by oxidation. How cool is that?

There’s so much more to tell you, so I’ll post a Part 2 on this topic shortly.

Until then





Eat This To Slow Down The Rusting



Maybe you saw this headline and thought, a) there’s a typo, or, b) the author of this blog has gone a bit doolally. Well, it’s neither because the truth is: we really are rusting inside. You, me, everyone. But, it doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. Read on and I’ll explain.

In A Little Known Reason You Should Eat Your Greens I talked about how a diet rich in fruits and veggies helps you smell sweet. All thanks to those little things called antioxidants.  In this post I thought I’d sing their praises some more.

Back in the 70s, scientists came up with a theory to explain why we age. Put simply – we rust. Except it’s called oxidation. And it doesn’t look like rust. But the principle’s the same.

Oxidation, aka free radical damage, aka oxidative stress, happens in our cells all the time.

Whenever food passes our lips (every couple of hours or so, in my case), mitochondria, little power plants in our cells, work overtime to convert the energy in that lasagna you just ate into something a bit more user-friendly.

So, while oxidation is a by-product of natural cellular processes, it also causes our cells to age. And by extension, us.

Then, of course, we go and add insult to injury by doing stuff that adds to the damage. Think smoking, binge drinking, and gorging on foods high in sugar, salt, saturated- and trans fats. You name it.

Is there a good part to this story? you may ask. Yes, and here it is. We’re all the proud owners of an enzyme (please Google it, or I’ll go off on a tangent) called Superoxide Dismutase. SOD, for short. And?

Well, SOD works hard to neutralise those pesky free radicals busy causing mayhem inside the mitochondria. SOD is to your body what Batman is to Gotham City. Or Spiderman to New York… you get the picture. In short, a biochemical super hero.

Now, here’s the even better part. The part where we can actually do something to help our poor, hard-working SOD. Ready? OK, so what do you reckon helps boost it?

A pack of twenty Marlboro Lights? A 6-pack of Stella? Hours in the sun with no SPF? No. No. And no.

By now, you must have an inkling… Yep, you got it: antioxidant-rich foods. Think berries, citrus fruits, green tea, black tea (minus milk and 3 sugars), veggies — the deeper the colour, the more antioxidants. Think rainbow. And there’s many more.

So, you see, there’s hope. You can stay as ‘rust-free’ as possible, just by ‘eating a rainbow’, every day. And look after your SOD — think of it as a pet. Nurture it. Nourish it. Love it.

You know what you need to do.

Until next time


What Kills 11 Million People Worldwide? (Hint: it’s not smoking.)

collection of junk food

Just last month The Lancet published a study showing that 11 million people worldwide die because of…  Have a guess.

Smoking? Nope. Drugs? Nope again. OK, so, globally 11 million deaths are linked to… you got it, bad diets. The one thing that most of us, at least as adults, have some control over: what we put in our mouths.

A healthy diet is not about fancy ingredients. It’s about real food. Food that’s as close as possible to its natural state. The kind of food your gran would recognise.

You know, something that’s grown in the ground. Or in a tree. Or a bush. The type of foods humans were meant to eat.

Not something that started life on a conveyor belt and comes packaged in polystyrene with an ingredients list longer than your arm.

This is such a big topic and one that’s close to my heart, so I’m going to write more about it in upcoming posts.

Until next time



A Little Known Reason You Should Eat Your Greens


“I make sure I get a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit. I am a big fruit man; I am a vegetable man, anyway.”
Magic Johnson

It might surprise you that smelling good is about more than dousing yourself with Lynx Africa or Burberry’s Her. Namely diet.

How so? Eating your greens (and reds, oranges and purples, too) really do make you smell sweeter. Let me explain.

It’s to do with free radicals: atoms with unpaired electrons causing mayhem with your cells in their search for other lonesome electrons to pair up with.

Far from being some abnormal reaction, the formation of free radicals is a byproduct of lots of processes like metabolism and other cellular stuff.

It’s the accumulated damage over time that becomes an issue. Years or decades of smoking (who would’ve thought?) and eating junk adds to it. Even sunbathing and strenuous exercise produce free radicals.

Now, don’t take that to mean you should stop exercising – don’t! The pros of keeping fit far outweigh the cons. For sure.

So, what to do? Well, here’s the good part. Fruits and veggies contain antioxidants. Like the friend who stays to help clear up after the mother of all parties, antioxidants help mop up the mess caused by those pesky free radicals.

Now, if your plate is usually covered with beige and brown foods (potatoes, fries, deep-fried stuff, etc. ) and your idea of veg to go with it is a couple of peas, chances are that eventually — and this might not happen for years — a sour smell could be making its way out of your pores.

And it’s nothing to do with poor hygiene. It’s just a sign of the harm caused by free radicals and not enough antioxidants to neutralise them. In other words, too much beige and not enough green.

The above is obviously a simplified explanation of something much more complex so check out for more info.