I AM deeply fed up about thelatest medical advice that we should
all be eating seven portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Five
a day has been just about OK, allowing for bad days when it's more
like two, and good days when you graze happily on celery and carrot
batons (not many of those). Five allowsfor two cooked veg, one
fruit, one leafy something, and something bean-like.
With the new advice, however, comes new interpretation. The
Times suggests that there is a hierarchy of vegetables. Kale
comes out near the top, which is unfortunate. I am sure that kale
was one green thing of which the Lord quite rightly repented. Even
steamed endlessly and with added butter, it just isn't very nice.
Beetroot is good for stamina. Cucumber strengthens fingernails. An
onion is good, but it is better raw than cooked. But watch the
mouthwash - we also learnt last week that this can give you
One tomato a day reduces wrinkles, but how do you chomp your way
through 85g of watercress? Baked beans count, but watch the sugar.
And did you know that a swede has as much sugar as a Mars bar? If
that has freaked you, a mere half of a yellow pepper will help with
your stress levels.
The problem I have with all this is to understand what it is all
for. We are all living longer, and there are plenty of
80-pluses who have done fine without the picky food advice that we
are endlessly subjected to. Even if I were to start religiously
eating 14 more portions of veg a week, I would never know whether I
had added an hour, a week, or a month to my life span.
The solemnity with which these pronouncements are given and
received suggests that our medical advisers are coming to see
themselves more as health evangelists than as healers. Salvation is
promised, if, to the last floret of broccoli, we keep the
But diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are the punishment if we
fall short. Confession may ease the soul, but there is no
forgiveness for the body. So, in the end, the illnesses of middle
and old age are simply my own fault. I never ate enough yellow
peppers, and now I must pay the price.
God is more merciful, than this; and I am sorry, Lord, I still
don't like kale.
The Revd Angela Tilby is the Diocesan Canon of Christ
Church, Oxford, and the Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser
for the diocese of Oxford.