Sunday 22 January 2017

How to get through the winter cold season: 'If it ran, swam, grew or flew, eat it...'

Medicinal chef Dale Pinnock gives our reporter some dietary tips to get through winter cold season in good health

Victoria Lambert

Published 29/11/2016 | 02:30

A healthy diet can boost your imune system
A healthy diet can boost your imune system
Chef Dale Pinnock urges people to 'eat for life'.
Noodles and tofu
Speedy beef stir fry from Dale Pinnock's The Medicinal Chef

This has been the year of The Donald, of hygge and of post-truth - but surely it has also been the year of the avocado. Can there be anyone who hasn't eaten a surfeit of this ultimate health food, based on the belief that they can help you drop a stone, reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, or just get beautiful, glossy skin and hair?

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Not Dale Pinnock. "Ugh, avocados - they taste like old socks. I do eat them - but with garlic, lime juice and chilli. There's not much chance of me overdosing on them."

His attitude might surprise some. Pinnock, 39, is best known as the Medicinal Chef, television star and the author of several cookbooks on healthy eating. Sipping black tea as we meet today, he also has the kind of glow seen on the new wave of eating and wellness gurus who Instagram their Matcha tea and wax lyrical about chia seeds.

"I agree with a lot of what is said about clean eating," he says, "but there is nonsense spouted, too. And there are people portrayed as figureheads whose only accolade is that they look great in yoga pants and drink green stuff."

Chef Dale Pinnock urges people to 'eat for life'.
Chef Dale Pinnock urges people to 'eat for life'.

He adds: "[They] have a responsibility to sometimes millions of followers. What they say will affect other people's health. So if you have that influence, you need to get credibility, too."

Actually, he means get educated. To which end, Pinnock has just set up the Sano School of Culinary Medicine, offering a challenging online nutritional course that'll set you back nearly €1,000, but that leads to an accredited Diploma in Culinary Medicine.

The course is open to all, but aimed at those who would like science-based nutritional advice - perhaps to support their careers, and current students include biochemists, chefs, GPs and nurses.

"With so many food bloggers and chefs getting into nutrition," he explains, "I felt there was a need for education derived from an evidence base. The diploma caters for people who don't want to be practitioners or spend three years at university. But it is rigorous."

Speedy beef stir fry from Dale Pinnock's The Medicinal Chef
Speedy beef stir fry from Dale Pinnock's The Medicinal Chef

The course covers anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and the role of nutrition within that framework. A second component involves how to apply the theory to menu development and recipe creation. Meanwhile, a specific course for doctors is under design.

Pinnock himself has extensive formal education in nutrition - two degrees (from the Universities of Kingston and Westminster), and a postgrad from the University of Surrey in nutritional medicine. He has been passionate on the subject since his teenage years, when he struggled with acne. He began to read about nutrition, soon deciding to make it his career.

Pinnock believes that what we eat can have a transformative effect on our health, and that the current crises in obesity and spiralling levels of Type 2 diabetes point to the urgent need for better awareness of nutrition. "On the course, we teach how normal body processes change as you get into a disease state, and look at how nutrition influences this.

"There is a lot which is in our control. On a population level, we just must change behaviour a little for the better." So what should we be eating to feel better and to ward off illness?

His approach to diet is refreshingly foolproof: "If it ran, swam, grew or flew, eat it. Leave everything else behind."

Another tip: "When you go to the supermarket, shop around the edges, where you find the fruit and veg, the meat and fish… and the red wine. We can all live without the middle aisles."

What do he and his partner Tanya Murkett, also 39 and an accountant, eat every day? "Oily fish, eggs and greens - something like cavolo nero or purple-sprouting broccoli, but it must be well-flavoured. A curry or a stir-fry."

What about carbs? "There are benefits to a low-carb diet but not a no-carb diet. You've got to educate people to the types of carbs that are good, such as root veg or fibre-dense grains such as pearl barley and quinoa. Basically, it's about ditching the white stuff."

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However, no food is banned. "You don't want to take the joy out of life. You know, at Christmas I get the Quality Street out, too."

If you're keen to ward off colds and bugs this winter, shiitake mushrooms are, surprisingly, an excellent immune booster, says Pinnock. "They contain polysaccharides - sugars that have interesting effects upon the immune system. These interact with the lymphatic tissue in the gut, causing an immune cascade that increases production of certain white blood cells."

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