My food history # 5 – Fighting fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar

Photo 8-1-18, 12 00 08 pm

The diet advised to our family after my father’s heart attack swapped foods, rather than restricted food types. Instead of butter for spreads, we used soft margarine. Instead of beef dripping for cooking, we used safflower or sunflower oil. Instead of full-cream milk and full-fat cheese, we used skim milk and cottage cheese. Instead of beef, lamb and sausages we ate chicken and fish. Grilling of meats replaced deep-frying. There wasn’t much difference in advice given for cereals, fruit and vegetables. The same British diet pattern remained. Cereals for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. Meat or fish and three vegetables for dinner. Fruit for snacks. Occasional celebrations.

Though the same basic-five groups remained (fruit & vegetables, cereals & bread, milk & dairy, meat/fish/eggs, and fats), these groups were now sub-divided into three health categories: foods with a supposed benefit, neutral foods, and foods that had a supposed detrimental effect. For example in the fats group, oils were supposedly beneficial, soft fats neutral and hard fats detrimental. This hierarchical division seemed preferable to me than a good food-bad food dichotomy, which was often a slant in popular diet books.

From 1972 to 1974 I did my pharmacy degree including units in basic biochemistry and physiology. Through the teachings in that science-based course, I became discerning of what I read or heard in the lay press. As it was difficult in those days to access research articles myself, I relied on other professionals interpreting the literature. People had to be respected in a medical or nutrition field before I would take note of what they said. Nevertheless, there were still some dietary messages that I absorbed by osmosis rather than there being actual scientific merit behind what had become a trend at the time.

Nevertheless, I strengthened my resolve to live by a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here are some crucial dietary changes I made in my late teens and young adulthood.

Fruit: If something is healthy, then more must be healthier. This was possibly flawed logic behind my preference for consuming large quantities of fruit and fruit juice that began in my late teens. Juice had been a luxury in my childhood as you needed to squeeze it yourself. It would take a lot of fruit to make one glass. In my teens juice became available in supermarkets more cheaply. There was also a theory at the time that large intakes of Vitamin C could help fight the common cold (1).

Fibre: I switched from white to wholemeal bread, and wholewheat cereals, and began adding bran to my morning cereal, influenced by theories of Dr Denis Burkitt (2).

Sugar: In my early teens I stopped eating confectionery, restricted ice-cream to once a week and seldom ate cakes. In 1975, I eliminated sugar for a whole year, using dried fruit instead in recipes. There was much condemnation of sugar in the lay-press at the time. I also read Sweet and Dangerous by Dr John Yudkin who emphasised sugar as devoid of any nutrient except calories (3).

Supplements: In 1975 I began working in community pharmacies. Some pharmacists I worked for took vitamin and mineral supplements, believing in their benefit. I had not learned at University of any need to supplement at levels sold but as I often felt fatigued and had frequent colds, I too began taking supplements, not because any test showed I was deficient, but rather the marketing hype said they would make me feel better and prevent deficiency diseases in later life. It was fairly random as to the ones I took. (1, 4)

Spreading my wings: In 1975 I married and spent five years travelling before settling in Tasmania. I tried international cuisines and became fond of Italian and Greek foods. Pasta entered my diet and cheese (excluded after my father’s heart attack) came back under the Italian influence. I had my first taste of that other food group – alcohol.

Popular Diets: Restrictive slimming diets came and went. Many people I knew would try slimming diets or meal-replacement plans or calorie-counting. I never did as most diets seemed unbalanced. Also, I wasn’t overweight. Vegetarianism became a lifestyle choice for some friends. I did try vegetarianism twice but soon slipped back to an omnivore pattern. Two other diets became popular. The Pritikin diet restricted fat sugar salt and was low in red meat. The Atkins diet restricted carbohydrates and was high in meat, seemingly the exact opposite. These diets live on today and I will discuss in future posts.

The 1970s had been an era of maturity and great change for me.

It had also been an era of great change for society … and our food environments …

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.
My food history # 1 – My childhood diet – Late 1950s, early 1960s
My food history # 2 – Mid 1960s – First nutrition lessons
My food history # 3 – Late 1960s – Times are a-changing
My food history # 4 – Critical moments – my father
My food history # 5 – Fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar
My food history # 6 – 1980s – Critical moments – a health scare – hypertension
My food history # 7 (part 1) – 1980s – Food Sensitivities – shattered ideals of healthy food
My food history # 7 (part 2) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – proving the culprit foods
My food history # 7 (part 3) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – hypertension & biogenic amines
My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating Pyramid
My food history # 9 – The 1990s Nutrition studies – low GI – lipoproteins
My food history # 10 – 1990s combining ‘friendly’ with ‘healthy’ – a bland yet healthy diet
My food history # 11 – The 2000s – slow ticking time bombs
My food history # 12 – Critical events and life catastrophes

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


References and Notes:

(1) Vitamin C and the common cold. Linus Pauling. San Francisco.W. H Freedman. 1970. Linus Pauling was a two-time Nobel prize winner, the first in chemistry, the second in peace. In his later years he promoted orthomolecular medicine and megavitamin therapy which never gained support in mainstream medicine. Nevertheless pharmacies where I worked supplements and large does of Vitamin C were available .

(2) Don’t forget fibre in your diet: to help avoid many of our commonest diseases. Denis Burkitt. London: Martin Dunitz Ltd. 1979.
Epidemiology of cancer of the colon an rectum. Denis P Burkitt. National Conference on Cancer of the Colon and rectum, San Diego, Calif. Jan 1971.

(3) Sweet And Dangerous. John Yudkin, M.D. Bantam Book. 1973.

(4) Supplements I took then were Vitamin C (to supposedly ward off colds), B Vitamins (for fatigue), Iron (to prevent anaemia), and Calcium (for bone strength). My diet was adequate in all food groups and possibly the only one I may have needed was iron.

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