TV doctor Dr Michael Mosley says cutting out one food can slash risk of heart disease and cancer

Dr Michael Mosley
Dr Michael Mosley -Credit:No credit

Dr Michael Mosley has suggested that eliminating one type of food from your diet could significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. On his BBC podcast Just One Thing, the renowned TV doctor explained how this single change could also enhance mental health, help shed a few inches off the waistline, and even save some money.

The focus of Dr Mosley's discussion was on the advantages of home cooking and the elimination of ultra-processed foods from our diets. The NHS website defines processed food as something that 'has been altered in some way during preparation'.

It further explains: "Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food's structure."

On the other hand, Dr Mosley describes cooking from scratch as 'making real food with real ingredients, whether fresh, frozen or dried'. He asserts that home cooking can decrease calorie intake, improve mental health, and benefit your gut microbiome.

When it comes to the consumption of ultra-processed foods, the UK is one of the worst culprits in Europe. Estimates vary, but some suggest that up to two-thirds of the calories consumed by the nation come from ultra-processed foods, reports Wales Online.

"Despite watching more cooking shows than ever, we eat worse than ever," Dr Mosley stated. "Two thirds of our calories from ultra processed food foods typically made in factories with five or more ingredients like sweeteners and emulsifiers that you don't normally use in home cooking."

"They can be a quick and easy option but they are often an unhealthy one. An umbrella review published in the BMJ found a clear link between a diet high in ultra-processed food and 32 harmful health effects, including higher risks of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, poor mental heath and early death."

"But the good news is cooking from scratch more frequently can have a big positive impact particularly on your waistline. A study of more than 11,000 people found that those who ate home-cooked meals more than five times a week were 28 per cent less likely to be overweight than those who cooked from scratch three times a week or less."

"Not only were their meals healthier, but researches say home cooking also improved their eating behaviour. They snacked less, had smaller portions and more shared meal times."

"And getting creative in the kitchen can also boost your mental health. Studies in both healthy volunteers and cancer patients have found learning to cook has a big impact on well-being. This could be because when cooking from scratch, you tend to make healthier food choices. Simply learning a new skill will boost confidence, which elevates self-esteem."

Nutrition scientist, Dr Emily Leeming from King's College London, voiced her concern, stating: "Ultra-processed foods are made and engineered to taste delicious, and we know that the things that make foods taste good are higher sugars and higher fat. Those aren't bad things in themselves, but they do tend to make us go over our energy needs, and that is a problem."

"Sixty per cent of our diets in the UK come from ultra-processed foods, and that displaces foods that our gut bacteria really enjoy. That is foods that are full of fibre that plant roughage in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. That then starves our gut bacteria from being able to do all those beneficial things that we know they do for our bodies."

She mentioned that, generally, when people cook from scratch, intake of fruits and veggies becomes higher - studies also confirm this. According to one US study, individuals on an ultra-processed diet or consuming homecooked, wholesome food over four weeks had different health outcomes.

The group savouring ultra-processed foods consumed roughly 500 calories more daily than the other group. They also experienced an average weight gain of 1kg, while the group dining on wholesome food lost about 1kg.

Foods like these often contain less salt amounting to lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease.

In terms of salt consumption, Dr Leeming specifically stated: "70 per cent of salt people consume is not the stuff that we add to our food from a container, but 'invisible' salt already in the foods that we are cooking with and eating."

Her prime advice was to stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables. She explained that in our modern times, food is frequently frozen soon after harvest, thus preserving a significant amount of its nutrients.