Gut for the gut

    Spotlight Audio 2/2022
    Colin Beaven vor Großbritannien-Flagge
    © istock, PaulWatts/PBWPIX
    Von Colin Beaven

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    Transcript: Gut for the gutDarmgut

    Eating a healthy dietErnährungdiet is a struggle for many. In Britain Today, Colin Beaven looks at the nation’s complex relationship with food.

    The end of January is a difficult time in Britain. Not just because it’s the deadline for doing our tax returnSteuererklärungtax returns. If we don’t declare our income by 31 January, we risk being to be finedStrafe zahlen müssenfined.

    It’s also the date shown on many of the millions of packets of mince pies sold in British supermarkets over Christmas. We all buy far too many of them, so it’s like an amnesty: we’re given till the end of the first month of the new year before they all go bad.

    Huge numbers are probably eaten in the last week of January, to prevent massive mince pie deaths as midnight strikes on 1 February. Sadly, they’re not like Cinderella’s coachhier: Kutschecoach, which turned into a pumpkinKürbispumpkin – eating more vegetables would help to improve our dietErnährungdiet.

    The date does seem strange. The modern food industry uses clever technology, but can it really create mince pies that are programmed to become poisonous at one and the same moment?

    Perhaps the date is really a gentle reminder that the food industry has plenty more products to sell us. Should we already be thinking about hot cross buns for Easter, or other ultra-processedübermäßig verarbeitetultra-processed food, such as pizzas and burgers? All these things remind me of a German colleague I worked with years ago. Her favourite comment about work done by others was “fast gut”. It’s a brilliant phrase – a backhanded complimentzweideutiges Komplimentbackhanded compliment meaning “not good at all”. It wasn’t just my work she was talking about, by the way. Thanks to her, I can’t help thinking of fast food as “almost food”. In other words, not really food at all. But that’s never stopped me eating mince pies and hot cross buns. They may not be very fast, but they are still ultra-processed. The shops don’t always help us to choose well. Big supermarkets put colourful fruit and vegetables at the entrance, but small ones often make you walk past shelf after shelf of snacks and sugary drinks first, when what you really want is a satsuma or a banana.

    Ultra-processed foods are blamed for many of Britain’s health problems. At the same time, increasing numbers of such products are plant-based, and we’re told that many plant-based products are good for us. For one thing, some of them help to feed the bacteria that keep our gut healthy.

    Gut health is a fairly new topic for me. At first, I thought it was a phrase combining the two languages that German and English drinkers say to each other in beer tents – and that “gut microbiotaDarmfloragut microbiota” was how German vegans wished each other bon appétit.

    There’s a lot of work to be done on food in the UK. We have families who are so poor that they go hungry. Other families don’t make good choices about the food they buy – as healthy food is often expensive. There’s a long way to go before our national diet is even “fast gut”.

    Now that I mention it, “fast gut” might also be one of those illnesses caused by a poor diet.

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