“Eating More Than Words”

“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet is a famous quote attributed to Sir Winston Churchill who died in 1965 aged 91 at his home. Although this is a plea for verbal caution, for patients and carers who want the most nutritious diet to help them feel better it is about as much use as the mixed metaphor ‘don’t eat with your mouth full.’

However, those who have been dismissive of Nutritional Science, once the Cinderella of scientific studies, are now literally ‘having to eat their words’.  There is increasing and compelling evidence of how nutrition can benefit people.

Research has gone into such detail that it has demonstrated how carrots and tomatoes provide more nutrients the longer they are cooked; while onions, leeks and garlic need to be chopped at least ten minutes prior to cooking in order to stimulate their active ingredients. Use them in cooking before 10 minutes after they are chopped and they give their characteristic taste and smell but not their active ingredients.

Spices and herbs have also been shown to provide health benefits; for example turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, research has now shown that turmeric is better absorbed and its’ effects in the body are multiplied, when it is eaten together with pepper and fat as in a curry.

The Nutrition Now’ campaign of The Royal College of Nursing acknowledges the importance of good Nutritional Care with the principle that food and drink are as important as drugs in patient care. When researchers have asked patients and carers what else they want besides expert medical treatment the answer is clear: they want information and advice on how to help themselves; just having things done to them is not enough. It rings true; we all want to be empowered to do something for ourselves. This really underlines why nutrition is so important.

Finding a recipe for someone’s condition that they will also enjoy can provide great pleasure, nutritional benefit and be the simple expression of love by the carer.

(a version of this article first appeared in the Hospice Information Bulletin)