15 Foods You Should NEVER Eat

Original article written for Yahoo

A lot of us tuned in and freaked out, watching Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush on Channel 4. In the spirit of keeping ourselves healthy and informed, here is a quick recap of those foods you definitely should not be eating!

Related reading:  Harvard School of Public Health &  FDA document

Sugary Drinks

Empty calories, no nutritional benefit and too many reasons to list in one place. If you love yourself, your health and the planet, just say no to sugary drinks. To find out more, check out this comprehensive article by Harvard School of Public Health.

Processed Meat

Yes that means bacon, sliced and packaged salamis and hams. They are often ‘smoked’ and treated with toxic chemicals and always contain much more sodium than is healthy to eat. As if that weren’t enough of a reason, processed meat has been most closely linked to developing bowel and other cancers. Step away from the bacon and sausage butty!

Eggs and meat from caged hens   

Aside from how horribly the chickens in caged conditions are treated, their eggs are nutritionally inferior to happy chickens’ eggs. You are also more likely to consume antibiotics and other unnecessary chemicals that outdoor reared, free range chickens aren’t subjected to. 

High sugar breakfast cereal

A bowl of crunchy nut cereal may taste delicious but it truly is akin to eating a bowl of pure sugar. Watch out for fad marketing of ‘healthy’ cereals and avoid processed cereal if at all possible.

Artificial sweeteners

The chemicals used to create that ‘fake’ sugary taste are as harmful as added sugar itself, with recent research pointing to it causing fat storing insulin spikes just like sugar does. Steer clear of low-sugar artificially sweetened foods, especially diet drinks and sugar-free sweets.


Fruit Juices

A small glass of freshly squeezed juice is no bad thing but our modern habit of drinking litres of completely fibre free fruit juice is only making our teeth rot and our waistlines expand. Don’t forget that fructose is still a sugar, and removing the fibre by juicing means you consume a lot more sugar and absorb it a lot quicker. Eat an orange/apple/strawberry instead and really reap the benefits of nature’s rainbow.

 

Cereal bars

The problem with snack and cereal bars is that they are often full of added sugar so be careful, it may be easier and healthier to eat a handful of mixed roasted nuts!

 

Instant Noodles

In case anyone thought eating a dried pot which turns to a ‘meal’ by adding hot water is okay… No. So much salt, so many preservatives, zero nutritional value. Make yourself a fresh stir fry if you’re really craving noodles.


Raw fish that has not been properly prepared. 

We are eating a lot more raw fish than we used to, but it’s best to be careful with raw food. One way to avoid nasty parasites is to ensure the fish is frozen to minus 20 degrees celsius before consuming it raw, which kills any potential parasite. You can find out more in the FDA report.


Prepared food with more than 2 ingredients you can’t identify   

If the packaging contains indecipherable ingredients, you probably don’t want to eat it. The chances are that it isn’t natural nor nutritious nor healthy. If you can’t prepare it from scratch then at least aim to keep it simple.

Low fat food options

Low fat often means added sugar and salts and emulsifiers. Opt instead for healthy fats such as nuts and avocados which are good for your hair, skin and heart health, or stick with naturally prepared dairy products with all the naturally occurring fats and less of the added nasties.

Margarine

What makes margarine so spreadable is an increase in trans fats which have been proved to be harmful to health. Have a little natural, unsalted butter instead or a healthy vegetable oil like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

Shop Bought Salad Dressings

The amount of processed sugars, trans fats and artificial flavours that go into these dressings completely abolishes the nutritional benefits of the salad they’re being poured onto. Say hello to lemon juice, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a healthier option.

Energy Drinks

Taurine, sugars, sweeteners, syrups and more. Another culprit of empty calories and negative nutritional value. Get a good night’s sleep, have a nap, and have some coffee or a banana to pick up your energy levels.

Processed Foods  

Snack crackers, reformed meat slices, cheese made with no cheese; foods that are highly processed are never a good idea. Stick to fresh food as nature intended, prepared simply instead of packs of factory produced grocery items.

Science vs. The Media: Stay Curious, Ask Questions

This article was written for  The Brandy Alexander

This article was written for The Brandy Alexander

Looking at my home town of London, a perfect example of fact vs fiction just came to an end. The UK General Election 2015 highlighted a massive trend in journalism and the media: convincing, biased and persuasive editorship is EVERYWHERE. From unflattering photos featuring candidates eating a bacon butty, to full on headlines urging ‘sane’ people to vote for a specific candidate, it’s no wonder the public felt a little overwhelmed. Heck, even Joey from Made in Essex got involved and Russell Brand became an unexpected political pawn. Through all the noise and confusion, there was an underlying tone of a desire for the straight forward facts, and it is this underlying curiosity that brings us a glimmer of the powerful information revolution on our doorstep.

Growing up in the 90s and early naughties, Google and Facebook were but figments of science fiction fantasy and having a changeable Nokia 3210 cover was the height of technological cool. There were two obviously recognisable types of people: the scientifically inclined and the creatively gifted. The friends who were in all of the school plays, could quote Orwell and always had the trendiest clothes, and the ones who understood how photosynthesis works and could dish out advice on the birds and the bees, having spent hours reading paper text-books and hand drawing diagrams. ‘Twas glorious times.

Nowadays answers are but a few milliseconds away and I’m pretty sure paper cuts are becoming a retro ailment, rapidly replaced by cracked iPhone screen glass splinter injuries. Information gathering happens very quickly and a sideways glance at neighbouring laptops reveals our sources: Facebook, Wikipedia, Buzzfeed, Twitter, the BBC homepage, Daily Mail online, and perhaps a few have Reuters or Al-Jazeera open on their computer too. To think Wikipedia is now a respected source of information with strict editing guidelines is still something a little amusing for me. We basically got failed on the spot if we even mentioned we read anything on Wikipedia to my professors. But the media industry is developing rapidly. Television, social media, cinema, magazines and advertising are vibrant and engaging. From the timing and medium to the tone used, every word is measured, every shade of color carefully selected to have the greatest impact on the right individual who will then go on to purchase, like, talk about and engage with the story, product or idea being brought to them.

I studied sciences, and the beauty of studying for me was the understanding that what you are learning is constantly evolving, that there are always more questions to be answered, and that the best thing you can do is maintain an open mind and evaluate all evidence pragmatically, to come to the best possible conclusion, given the knowledge available at that time. This is very important when it comes to scientific papers, doing research, and even more paramount when it comes to establishing whether certain findings have an impact on everyday life. In pursuit of evaluating evidence objectively, the Cochrane Collaboration is the gold standard in scientific reviews: they conduct systematic reviews of scientific evidence taken only from fairly conducted, high quality studies that have to adhere to strict guidelines. So much care, alas, is not given when evaluating the 12,000 adverts, shocking revelations (!) and claims made per minute on any given website, twitter account or blog post.

Science, pragmatic and patient, speaks a different language to the fickle and superficial world of media. Media in return, however, hasn’t an interest in the slow paced, very specific, applicable information that the science world presents (especially in the often undecipherable scientific jargon that articles are written in). The result is bad. Science doesn’t know how to sell itself, make its rational voice heard. Media will take one sentence in a scientific article and come to wild conclusions on the matter, reaching millions with false promises and how they can purchase the result in ‘just 30 days’. The most extreme example of how bad it can get is in the long term, rippling, and deadly effect that the media hype around one very bad, very made up article has had on vaccination rates. One man, Andrew Wakefield, and one false speculation made in an extremely badly conducted study, has resulted in countless cases of avoidable disease as parents worldwide feared causing autism in their children through a vaccination, which for anyone who has an understanding of the complexity of autism is actually derisable. More than a decade has passed, the article has been retracted and proven absolutely invalid, the man in question has faced legal charges for the gravity of his actions and yet still, the effects of his mistake are felt. On the less deadly side of the spectrum is the general confusion felt by scientists and non-scientists alike on which claims, articles, and ‘advice’ can be trusted. Can I really lose all of my belly fat with one simple trick? Has science really proven that drinking bottled water left in the back of a warm car is akin to drinking poison? Someone pass me my bobble!

Headlines on newspapers and magazines offer up ‘scientific’ evidence for everything from what you should be eating right now to what time in the morning you should be waking up in order to achieve ‘ultimate success’. Websites and blogs give ‘10 easy steps’ to basically anything you can shake a stick at, with particularly rage-inducing articles focusing on generalised, non-specific health advice to ‘help’ people. And let’s not forget the ‘nutrition experts’ who haven’t the slightest hint of training in nutrition but do have amazing marketing and PR teams who know how best to impact the consumer, and sell them the perfect gadgets to achieve it. Healthy living has swept the digital media world with some of the most followed and liked posts, blogs, pages and sites revolving entirely around fitness, diets, and healthy lifestyle tips.

The problem is not in the wonderful ability that the internet and various social media channels have given individuals to record, share and even capitalise on their experiences and ideas. The problem lies in the relationship that the public has with the media they consume, and the blurred lines within which ‘science’ lies. As the majority of scientific journals continue to be expensive and inaccessible, the internet reports blockbuster ‘health’ and ‘science’ news to the masses that could literally be made up by anyone, anywhere at any time, and more often than not, newspapers and TV will follow suit by reporting the ‘hottest trends’. Few report the exciting discoveries on the importance of the human microbiome, but I see a lot of updates on how raspberry stem cells can help your aging skin. If our skin absorbed everything as freely as some beauty companies would have us believe, it would not so much be an incredibly protective barrier. Patients who suffer from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) will tell you that no cream can ‘restore skin proteins’ with the help of age-defying collagen enzymes.

It seems to me that science can learn a few things from media in how to deliver its message to a wider audience, and the media world should look to a scientific method of reporting its news to make sure that the messages being delivered apply to the majority and aren’t a stipulation from a suggestion of a thought. Of course, advertising and marketing are an essential part of our economy and our culture, and never has there been so many different ways of reaching the desired audience. But I think there is a moral and social responsibility to ensure information is rightly labeled, associations and advertising clearly highlighted to ensure that the public and those most vulnerable to the messaging know how to distinguish opinions from facts.

Along with Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma, both of which I highly recommend, the tide seems to be turning in favour of responsible information. Finally, Google is going to optimise its search engines to produce not the most widely cited articles relevant to our questions, but the ones most likely to be true. Big television broadcasters produce data on their viewers and measure advertising success against real data. Online groupsthat focus on scientific discoveries are garnering millions of fans and maybe, just maybe, we will all start asking more questions when big claims are made and give more clout to knowledge gained over longer periods of time, using as much information as possible. After all, it’s best if we all have the power to make the best choices for ourselves and our loved ones when it comes to science and health.

Next time you are reading the latest on the healing powers of the next fad, remember that we are very complex individuals. Maintain an open mind. Stay curious. Ask questions.

How Instagram has influenced the world of beauty

This article was writhed for  Yahoo Style UK

This article was writhed for Yahoo Style UK

Instant Camera + Telegram = Instagram!

Instagram feeds the most receptive of human senses: vision. From beautiful scenery shots by National Geographic to selfies by Kim Kardashian and delicious food by Hemsley & Hemsley, people can’t get enough of the easy-to-use, scroll-through bright and shiny image world.  

When the app launched in 2010, the founders could not possibly have imagined the impact which their work would have on the current media and social landscape. Initially regarded as ‘Twitter for stupid people’, because communication had been further stripped down to just images, Instagram now reports over 150 million monthly active users and was acquired by Facebook for $1billion in 2012. 

Instagram is now considered the single biggest marketing and advertising opportunity for fashion and beauty products, and for good reason too! 

Instagram’s role as a front line voyeurism tool allows us to literally see the world through others’ eyes, however it is chosen to be portrayed.

Filtered Reality

Thanks to the expanding choice of filters and editing tools, users can elect to completely alter the mood and look of their images. 

From melancholic black and white shots to sun-kissed glowing pouts, there is a filter to suit every occasion and every character, allowing users and companies to create a ‘brand’ with the style of photos they upload. 

As men and women all over the world scroll through their feed, beautiful images of perfect skin, peachy pouts and vibrant nail colours attract the eye and the interest of those who can quickly and easily find out where they too can buy their object of desire. 

Interestingly, Instagram now not only serves as a platform for attracting customers, it is inspiration for new products which promise to achieve ‘a flawless Instagram filter complexion’ going even further to prove that the line between filtered and real is ever blurring. 

With a new emphasis on beauty, the products that promise to enhance it and make consumers more ‘gram ready have seen exponential growth. From pastel hair chalks to recreate Chloe Norgaard’s locks to lip glosses promising Kylie Kardashian lips, users can easily find the way to recreate their ideal look. 

Coupled with Pinterest, a whole platform of ‘see-buy’ marketing has laid solid foundations from which to monetise users’ desires to achieve a certain look and lifestyle associated with it, through their favourite accounts. 

#Hashtag

Who doesn’t remember the #NoMakeUpSelfie phenomenon (244,651 posts)? 

And the #IWokeUpLikeThis barricade (1,256,788 posts)?

It’s fair to say the hashtag had a real revival with the advent of Instagram and so much of the focus has been on beauty.

Despite the filter options and editing powers, Instagram has also fed into a newer thirst for genuine content. 

#Beauty has nearly 84,000,000 posts but #NoFilter has over 126,000,000! These numbers are mind-boggling and they highlight the unexpected contradiction that lies at the heart of Instagram - of wanting to portray a genuinely perfect image of daily life, without the need for a filter. 

Whilst some accounts represent a dreamscape of far-away lands and backstage beauty trends that most users will not relate to but like to ‘like’, some other users have turned themselves into true Instagram phenomenons by carefully curating their daily life ‘feed’ on the app. 

Take #TheBlondeSalad, Chiara Ferragni, an Italian girl my age who has turned her online presence and almost 4 million online followers into a veritable multi-million dollar business. She has 11 people working for her and is worth $8M, being listed in last year’s Forbes 30 under 30 list. 

She’s an extremely successful example but there are many others such as @justinliv and @troprouge who have similarly made content curation and selling their Instagram lives into a real business. 

Choice is Key

With so many users, so many hashtags and every single marketing and advertising campaign trying to get a slice of the action, users have a continuous stream of images to choose from. Instagram gives potential clients a real choice of what they want to see in their stream as much as it gives brands the most immediate feedback on their products possible. 

A quick Google of ‘instagram’s best beauty accounts’ will bring up articles from fashion’s most heavyweight glossies listing their choice of ‘insider’ accounts, giving users a pointer on how best to curate their own content.

Unlike Facebook, there are very few adverts forced upon the daily scroll through images (and long may that continue!). Instead, beauty trends and beauty brands are communicating with their audiences through organic reach.

The power that Instagram holds over its audience is that the audience itself chooses its product, not vice-versa. Different people have different ideas of beauty and Instagram offers the most democratic portrayal of beauty out there. Do you aspire to look like Doutzen Kroes in a bikini? Prefer men with tattoos? Opt for cartoon nail art? Choose organic beauty products? No problem - there is a profile that reflects that.

Users can choose to follow, unfollow, like or regram those things they want as part of their own personal style magazine, thus quickly giving brands and products an idea of how much their audience is engaging with what they post, in real time.

Sites like Liketoknow.it have really cashed in on this, allowing users to shop their instagram likes and favourite posts.

And the smartest brands are working with aspirational Instagrammers who embody their ethos, to organically seed their products to their preferred audience. Genius. 

Balancing Act

So there is choice, a great representation of different beauty ideals, minimal ‘forced’ advertising, captivating images, and the possibility of sharing your vision with the world. All wonderful attributes of an app that has, in some ways, reduced us to narcissistic photo takers who are increasingly removed from the present moment as they strive for the perfect ‘shot’.

Tragic individuals have actually lost their lives in trying to take dangerous selfies, and I never fail to collide with at least one person a day who is so lost in their phone screen they literally fail to walk like a proper adult on a pavement. Has Instagram forced us into beauty and perfection obsessed zombies? Will the children of today ever have a shoebox of photographs, as I do, so hideous that I wonder how more people didn’t think I was a teenage boy? 

Generation Y and some of generation X are busy bringing more realistic portrayals of life before filters and editing tools, with #TBT and #FBF throwback images which generation Z unfortunately can only replicate by ‘throwing back’ to last week’s highly edited beach shot. 

This heightened obsession with beauty and an ideal portrayal raises some questions. Does it mean it’s up to parents now more than ever, to educate children on the importance of individualism and authenticity over perfection? 

Did Kim Kardashian really publish a book of selfies called ‘Selfish’ in a non-ironic way? Did a publishing house ACTUALLY pay her money for this book? And did people pay for it with money earned in honest tax-paying jobs? Answers to some of these questions are probably only clear with a lot of hindsight and a long hard look at society’s moral fibre. 

What’s certain is that Instagram celebrates individuality, offers a platform for self-expression and gives everybody the option to like, follow and comment on whatever they please, which has influenced the world of beauty in making it more democratic, more approachable and ultimately, more beautiful.