It's definitive: Eating well is the key to living longer

A major international study has put poor diet – which means eating processed, sugary and salty foods – ahead of smoking, high blood pressure and malnutrition in pregnancy and infancy as the number one factor worldwide in shortening human life, writes Roisin Armstrong

Get 'em into you – fresh fruit and, especially, fresh vegetables are crucial to overall health
Roisin Armstrong

THIS is the year for all of us to totally embrace a change in diet – and we definitely can't argue with the rationale behind that, given the findings of a recent study, labouriously entitled Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factor Project.

The information gathered in this international study, which created 17 groups of risk factors likely to shorten the lives of men and women all around the world, have allowed researchers to work out how many years of our lives are lost to ill health, disability or early death.

Their findings were that the biggest threat to health is eating a poor diet, potentially wiping more than nine years from a life. Nowadays a poor diet is generally one rich in processed foods, fast foods and fizzy drinks and deficient in fresh fruit and vegetables.

Reflecting the global nature of the project, malnutrition in pregnancy and early childhood came second, high blood pressure third, and smoking has slid down the rankings to fourth place.

What the study discovered is that the single most important thing you can do to help yourself to live a long and healthy life is eat a healthy diet, full of as many good-quality fruit and vegetables as possible. It has been deemed more important than exercising and supersedes the effects of stress. Pretty stark – and also pretty simple.

So, make sensible changes; bin the processed foods; cut out white-flour products, milk chocolate, potato crisps, fizzy drinks, and do your best to get five portions at least of fruit and vegetables every day.

A really interesting piece of research from Purdue University, Indiana, has found that eating cooked egg with raw vegetables greatly increases the absorption of the available carotenoids in the salad.

A group of volunteers were split into three groups: one group ate just the salad, the second ate one-and-a-half cooked eggs with the salad and the last group had salad plus three eggs. The ultimate absorption occurred with the three-egg meal, with nearly four times the uptake of nutrients.

So there is supper sorted for one night this week: a three-egg omelette with a big salad of as many raw, highly coloured vegetables as you can think of.

Vegetables such as sweetcorn, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, carrots and fresh beetroot are all rich in beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin – all massively protective against serious diseases and great for your eyes, skin and protection from signs of ageing, both visible and the unseen issues that go on internally.

This is going to be a great year for local producers, with the recent launch of 2016 Year of Food and Drink. We are completely spoilt for choice here, with exceptional producers from every section – breakfast oats, honey, meats, vegetables, eggs, oil, poultry, fish, dairy, specialist cheeses, goat's milk and hundreds of other ranges.

We have masses to get excited about too in terms of beer and wine and I am so looking forward in the coming months to figuring out how I can manage to put a healthy spin on to some of the excellent local craft beers and ales flooding the market and fast taking over from wine as the complement of choice to all our excellent food.

If, like many people, you're struggling this year with a never-ending cold, new research is suggesting that garlic may be the answer. Eat it as often as you can. In one trial volunteers who took a garlic supplement had fewer colds, less sick days and their colds tended to last a shorter period than those who took a placebo.

The nice people at Quest have developed a supplement using Kyolic Garlic which, using a pioneering aging process, eliminates the unpleasant smell which puts many off taking garlic. It retails at £24.49 for a month's supply.

There are hundreds of complementary therapist working throughout Ireland and we all spend a fortune keeping up our skills. As this often entails a trip to Britain to attend a course, I'm happy to let reflexologists know about a course in Belfast on March 5 and 6 in The Marie Curie Centre, Kensington Road.

It's on Advanced Reflexology Techniques (ART) and is an evolvement of the traditional approach of finger and thumb walking, which forms the foundation of all good reflexology practitioner training courses.

ART is the continuing education for the qualified Reflexologist and teaches effective clinical reflexology. For course details see

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