Dr Michael Mosley thinks that when it comes to eating well, it pays to question what you’re told. The British physician and science journalist is best known for Trust Me I’m A Doctor, a TV series in which he debunks the myths that have guided our eating habits for decades as well as The Fast Diet, the book that showed the world that intermittent fasting could potentially reverse the risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. He’s an advocate for steering clear of foods that have been marketed to boost your health.
“I would never buy a vitamin supplement and if I had a gluten intolerance, I would never buy a gluten-free alternative,” he tells SBS. “Anything labelled a superfood, I would treat with deep suspicion. I’m really about learning to cook again, learning to enjoy foods. Swallowing a capsule is never going to be a substitute for actual eating. Whole food, real food is almost unbeatable.”
“Anything labelled a superfood, I would treat with deep suspicion. I’m really about learning to cook again, learning to enjoy foods. Swallowing a capsule is never going to be a substitute for actual eating.”
This statement might seem oddly contrarian for a diet expert. But in a world ruled by food fads (paleo! keto! alkaline!), Mosley’s aversion to junk science, and his rational, actionable advice and eminently likeable manner are key to his appeal.
For instance, his new book The Fast 800 suggests that readers struggling with health problems associated with pre-diabetes, auto-immune disorders and obesity should consume 800 calories a day, two days a week. Refreshingly, Mosley, who has long used himself to test his own theories, avoids empty slogans and body-shaming clichés in favour of scientific studies into techniques such as Time Restricted Eating — a method that observes a fall in cholesterol levels among people who eat breakfast earlier and dinner later.
The book, which is peppered with recipes for dishes like miso eggplant steak, baked salmon and eggs, and coconut and lentil curry, courtesy of his wife, Dr Clare Bailey, also champions the Mediterranean diet. It’s an accessible approach to eating that’s heavy on oily fish, wholegrains, vegetables and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.
“I wrote the 5:2 diet seven years ago when there were relatively few human studies about intermittent fasting, about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet,” he says, adding that the new volume has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date research in the field. “I’m a big fan of the Mediterranean diet — it’s delicious, it’s vibrant, it includes lots of different vegetables and olive oil. You can have sweet treats, just not every day. It can even be adapted to different cuisines. My wife, who is a doctor, tells her Indian patients that they can still enjoy their dhals and curries, as long as they skip the white rice.”
He says that cooking, freezing and reheating brown rice creates resistant starch – a more nutritious alternative that can promote gut health. The same goes for bread, except it pays to forego white and even brown.