Susannah Taylor: Eat like a veggie-loving cavewoman

I don’t do diets, but I do follow healthy eating plans. About five years ago I decided to follow the paleo way of eating – think fresh foods such as meat, fish, plants, fruit, nuts and seeds. Basically, it is about eating similarly to cavemen, so no junk, nothing processed. It is also low in carbs and high in natural fats making it very good for our bodies, brains and waistlines.

fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs
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I followed the principles for about three years, and though I’ve slackened a bit, I’ve roughly stuck to eating fresh food made from scratch ever since. The results were mind-blowing. I lost about eight per cent body fat and I became the fittest I’ve ever been. However, what really hit me was that I didn’t get ill – I didn’t have so much as a sniffle in over three years. Going paleo showed me the enormous benefits of eating the way nature intended.

One man who understands the benefits is internationally known physician and bestselling author Dr Mark Hyman, who uses food as a primary medicine when treating patients, with amazing results. Equally, through his practice, Hyman has also seen the benefits of a vegan diet such as the reversal of heart disease, lower cancer rates and better gut health. This month he has published a new book called The Pegan Diet*, which fuses vegan and paleo principles. Unlike most diets, which are about restriction, peganism focuses on packing nutrient-dense food into our bodies for optimum health.

When it comes to eating habits Hyman doesn’t mince his words. ‘Each year about 57 million people die globally,’ he says. ‘Three quarters of those are due to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia, mostly caused by poor diet.’ Hyman believes that each bite programmes our bodies for better or worse.

Based on research, he has written this book to help us build a strong, healthy body, boost our brains and live longer. The principles are to eat whole, nutrient-dense, low-glycemic foods, as many plants as possible (more than the daily recommended amount), good fats and high-quality protein (from animal or plantbased sources). Key takeaways are the vital importance of plants and why they should cover 75 per cent of our plates, and why meat is OK but should be high quality and not seen as the main event.

Hyman simplifies the confusion around fats and why good fats are crucial for our brain and body’s health, why dairy isn’t an essential food group and why sugar should be treated like a recreational drug. There are also 30 tasty recipes if you’re stuck for non-processed inspo.

Crucially, the pegan diet isn’t just about our bodies, it is also about our planet. Our current food system is a huge source of climate change, and causes loss of plant biodiversity as well as soil depletion. A pegan diet, Hyman explains, regenerates planetary health, too. ‘Food is medicine,’ he says. ’And food, grown in ways that are restorative and regenerative, is medicine for the planet.’

What peganism is not is a fad diet designed to help you shed seven pounds (although that is likely when you ditch processed food). It’s about harnessing the power of real, nutritious food to overcome our epidemic of chronic disease. It’s the future of food, our bodies and our planet.

Just my cup of tea

offblak tea bagsIf, like me, you need to step away from the coffee machine right now but find herbal tea a little, er, dull, check out Offblak. This innovative new tea brand on the block is spicing things up with funky new flavours – think mint and chocolate, blueberry and mint – and comes in super-cool rainbow packaging that fits through your letterbox. From £4.24, offblak.com.

The latest super-booster

There is currently much talk in the world of wellbeing about lactoferrin – a clever protein found within saliva, tears, white blood cells and sweat – with over 8,800 clinical trials and papers written on its benefits. It has been discovered to be our first line of response to viruses and germs, is effective in skin and gut health – and also important for immunity.

Two lactoferrin offerings to check out are Oskia London’s Lactoferrin + Food Supplements (£64, oskiaskincare.com) and Leapfrog Immune (from £34.99, leapfrogremedies.com).

*21 Practical Principles For Reclaiming Your Health In A Nutritionally Confusing World is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99. To order a copy for £12.74 until 14 March go to books.mailshop.co.uk or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.