Domini Kemp: My wicked eating ways

Cancer gave me the kickstart to change my food habits.But it’s okay to fall off the wagon . . . occasionally

Drop Egg Soup and Courgette Bread.Photograph: Alan Betson

Drop Egg Soup and Courgette Bread.Photograph: Alan Betson

 

When you’re younger, food can be a battleground. You worry about the shape it makes you rather than how it makes you feel. I am well past my 40th birthday and when it comes to most of the food I eat, 80 per cent of the time my focus is how it makes me feel physically rather than how it makes me look.

Still, sometimes the occasion deserves full support of your wickedness, which I try to keep limited to 20 per cent of the time. Life is short, after all. Although I want to eat better when at home, if I go out to a gorgeous new restaurant or have friends over for dinner, then I take great pleasure in eating delicious food. That makes me feel incredibly happy, as it’s one of the most pleasurable things you can do (Lock’s Restaurant’s sourdough and cep butter is a case in point).

Naturally, if I have a few glasses of wine I dread the next day a lot more than when I was in my 20s. It seems as though once you get into better habits, your wiley ways actually take that little bit more out of you. It’s almost as though your system goes on strike and wishes that you’d boycott the fun.

Better skin and digestion are one thing. But when you feel different – more energetic, with a clearer head – there’s just no going back to living a full-time debauched lifestyle. This column is my effort to share ways of keeping on track, and if I can tempt even one person to make small changes that over time yield big results, then I have succeeded.

You could say I’ve been converted, I guess. Sure, cancer gave me a firm kick up the behind, causing me to make more changes in six months than I did in the previous six years. But I’ve also made an effort to get my head around the complex but never-less-than-fascinating field of nutrition.

I wanted to see what science had to say about what nutrients and food substances do in the body, for better or worse. More than anything, I want to know why it is that some foods do you so much good,while others (such as sugar) do not.

And here’s the thing: Everything I have read (and I’m still reading) suggests that for long-term health, a low-carb approach – which includes more fat than we are used to – is best for weight management, heart health, gut health and, crucially as we age, brain health. For the old grey matter to keep doing its thing, we need a variety of healthy fats, as well as learning new things and maintaining social connections.

So, with nutrition as with many things, there’s a lot to it. And the proof, as they say, is in the eating. My two recipes this week – a drop egg soup and courgette (and kale) bread – are packed with nutrients.

The bread is a slightly simplified version of the one in Amelia Freer’s new book, Cook Nourish Glow, which I heartily recommend. The other is one of my favourite soups at the moment. Yes, it’s too soon for asparagus, so stick in more sugar snap peas if you like. But this soup is a winner.

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