Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star
YOU know sometimes I end up sorry I read articles on health. It’s now come to the stage where I find I’m just questioning everything I come across. It’s nothing new. I can recall years ago people having the discussion on things like eggs, coffee and chocolate for example. For every report or study that was published, the feeling was that if you looked around, there would be another opinion totally contradicting the one you just read.
I was brought up being told that eggs were fantastic. A wonderful source of protein and utterly versatile into the bargain. That was challenged at one stage and suddenly we were being warned to only eat one or two a week. So called experts can have wildly differing attitudes to just about anything we imbibe or ingest.
I was led to believe at one point that my teenage spots were most likely down to eating sausages! Mind you, I was rather partial to chocolate and, living in a sweet shop, I got through more than my fair share of it I can tell you. I then heard it was because of the chocolate I had skin issues. Nobody bothered to suggest it might be oily skin, clogged pores and perhaps dead skin cells or bacteria and maybe, even, just teenage hormonal skin! Imagine the guilt as I tucked in to another Mars Bar or Yorkie? In fairness, we are so susceptible as kids to anything we hear adults say that we’ll happily believe anything.
‘It would probably take a major downturn in my health for me to consider coffee as a source of my woes’
Have you ever been urged to clear the carrots on your plate so you’ll have great eyesight? A total myth. No one is arguing how good they are for you and they’re essential in a decent stew, but the vision thing was made up. The benefits are documented but you’re heading down the wrong burrow if you think they’ll give you amazing eyesight.
Let’s take coffee. My God here’s an absolute minefield of various views. Is it good for us? Does it wake us up and give us energy? Doesn’t it also keep us up at night and acts as a diuretic? How many cups a day is okay? How many is too much and will it cause illness or cancer if I overdo my consumption? Do your research here and I’d be willing to bet you’ll be more confused at the end than you were when you began.
I love four or five cups a day and I have no intention of cutting it out, cutting back or upping the dosage. It would probably take a major downturn in my health for me to consider coffee as a source of my woes.
I don’t diss all the studies and examinations from our esteemed boffins, but it seems clear to me that we are all not the same animal and to just blindly go along with the newest health journal revelations is bordering on dangerous and more than a little stressful potentially. I attended a clinic some years ago and after my blood and urine samples were tested, I was informed that there were certain foods that were possibly detrimental to my health. Not deadly by any means, but what I had was an intolerance to some things that should be monitored. Not allergic mind you, that’s a tad more serious, and thankfully I didn’t suffer from any. The point made was that humans are not all the same and we have different dietary needs. It’s not a one size fits all. The lion, for example, couldn’t survive on a gazelle’s diet and presumably vice versa.
Red wine is something I enjoy occasionally, but in moderation. Another massively important life tip surely. Balance. Here, too, we seem to get conflicting advice as to amounts that we should consume. How many units? What’s suitable for me might be very destructive for you.
I’ve seen reports that clearly warn us that any alcohol is damaging to the system and should therefore be avoided.
On the other hand, I’ve also read for example where drinking smaller quantities of red wine can actually have health benefits for senior citizens. It really is hard to come away with any concrete beliefs that we can hang our hats on.
Fruit is a real beauty to get to grips with. We are told to try and include our five portions a day of fruit and veg in our diets. Confusingly though, the sugar content in fruit should apparently send alarm bells ringing. There I was, in my innocence, thinking all fruit is surely doing me some good but not so it would seem. Overdoing quantity could lead to weight gain, diabetes and even tooth decay! Really? What happened to an apple a day? Is that allowed?
Seriously, you could do your head in over-analysing this. Look to our forefathers. They ate good food, bread and butter, drank in moderation generally. Their diet was less processed than it is today too, with additives and such. However, they got out and walked more, were less stressed and certainly wouldn’t have had as much of a sweet tooth I’d wager. A treat was a treat in my parents’ younger days and they would absolutely not have had the access to the goodies we have around us today in abundance.
Where do we get the answers then? I suspect there’s no simple fix. Moderation has to be king. It’s really a case of getting that balance right. I deny myself nothing, but I’m prone to going overboard from time to time and we all know our weaknesses. For some it’s the glass of wine too many. For others it’s the tempting packet of crisps.
Cutting stuff out is all very well, but that horrible craving is tough to deal with. A little surely is better than nothing? You know yourself better than you think. Listen to your system. As for the information sources, you need to keep an open mind. They can’t all be right after all.
By Timmy Ryan
Broadcaster and Liquorist