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Do We Need A Sugar Tax?

The UK is considering implementing a Sugar & Salt Tax as part of the fight against obesity

As part of the news report I heard a reporter say that in the UKthe population consumes approx 50% of it’s diet from processed food, compared to somewhere like Italy where they eat approx 14% processed food.

Then they’re talking about having fruit and veg prescribed by doctors.

And while I’m not totally against these measures, it raises other questions.

The big question is how have we gotten here in the first place?

Processed food, in itself, is never going to be healthy. I’ve given out the same dietary advice for years, and have no reason to change my advice. It is essentially:

Eat foods of a single ingredient.

An apple has 1 ingredient, Apple. Chicken has one ingredient, Chicken

Brussel Sprouts have one ingredient, Sadness Yes, you can combine food into a tasty dish, but ideally it’s one you have cooked yourself. You have selected your single ingredient foods and you have “processed” them yourself, i.e. chopped and cooked, and you have control of what you put into your body.

Prepackaged foods or fast foods are outside of your control. Salt, sugar, colouring, preservatives etc are all added to make the food look better, taste better and last longer in storage. The concept of longer lasting, tastier, better looking food is great in theory. When the flavour is down to flavour enhancers (salt & sugar are examples) and the colour of the food is down to dyes, it can make real food seem less appetising.

And then there’s the effect these additives have on the body. Sugar, while itself not particularly harmful if taken in moderation, is in everything! Outside of a moderate dose it can become an issue for the body. Salt, again, is an essential source of electrolytes. I myself will have salt cravings from time to time, especially in the heat and humidity because I generally don’t add salt to food and do sweat a lot in training. But too much salt could be an issue, and if you’re not adding your own salt, if you’re getting your salt pre-packaged into your food, how much are you taking?

Once the body becomes acclimated to these strong flavours, these foods that are removed from their original form in both appearance and taste, is it any wonder people become “disgusted” by the appearance of real food? Is it any wonder that people who’ve become acclimated to powerful flavours start finding the taste of an apple to be bland.

Now, my question really comes from wondering why the UK (and I can’t see Ireland being too much different) having such a huge percentage of the diet coming from processed food when other European countries have far lower percentages. This suggests culture is the real problem.

A culture that either doesn’t know how to cook or is unwilling to cook is destimned to rely on prepackaged, processed food.

We are only 2 generations into heavily processed food. My Grandparents didn’t have access to them, they had to cook. It was my parents that saw the introduction of frozen food,ready made meals and the microwave oven. Again, the freezer and the microwave oven are marvels of modern technology and are not the problem themselves.

The problem is like in many elements of the modern world, is knowledge loss. Skill loss. And the false economy of “convenience”

Why is this a false economy?

I’ve been accused of living life according the “Vimes theory of economics” The Terry Pratchett character Sam Vimes of the City Watch makes a speech in one of the books (Guards, Guards I think..) that his boots cost $10. A rich person's boots may cost $100, but they’ll last for years, whereas the $10 boots will need to be replaced over and over again. By the time the $100 boots need replacing, Vimes will have spent many times that amount of money buying $10 boots. The rich are so rich because they can afford to spend less.

Now, I’m heavily paraphrasing here. But the boots I wear to walk the Mourne Mountains do cost around £100, and I have had them for over ten years and are still good to go! How does this relate to salt, sugar and the obesity crisis?

The people who make a bigger investment in themselves, they spend time exercising, they spend time prepping food and cooking. They spend time shopping for single ingredients. This investment is the equivalent of the $100 boots. The processed food is the $10 boots.

I know I may be preaching to the choir here, if you’re reading this, you are likely the kind of person who will buy single ingredients and will combine them into nutritious, tasty meals that are actually cheaper on average than processed foods. Why is it cheaper “on average” and not justy cheaper? Because like the more expensive boots, the outgoing expense at the start is higher. But if you buy in bulk, the cost the following week is much less. And over time your larders become stocked with stuff you can simply reach into and grab. What about the skill of cooking?

Use the very device you’re using to read this blog post and look up recipes. There are hundreds of thousands of websites, from BBC Good Food to Jamie Oliver to specialist sites covering Veganism or Keto recipes. There is no excuse.

It is a culture change that is needed, not necessarily a tax You can help shift the culture if you talk about your kitchen creations. Don’t just take photos of the food you get out in a restaurant, take photos of the food you cook, as you cook it. Creating good food is simple, and can be quite easy. Ask our Seb


Dave Hedges

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