BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme chose the market as its base for an episode that looked into the latest research into what, how and when we should be eating, from the power of polyphenols to the mysteries of our gut microbiomes.
Presenter Dan Saladino and guest Professor Tim Spector, winner of this year’s Derek Cooper Lifetime Achievement award, roamed buyers walk at 4am once recent morning, to not only talk about the “nocturnal assault on the senses” and “delicious edible diversity” on offer, but also the “complex chemical compounds” that fresh produce contains and its potential impact on the population’s gut health.
The programme – Nutrition’s Dark Matter: The new science of eating – featured European Speciality Food and spoke to MD Tim Garrett about his lettuce and garlic ranges, surveyed the “rainbow of carrots” available across the Market and also visited P&I Fruits, to talk about the nutritional properties of berries.
“Food is not just about pure energy, calories or boring macronutrients,” said Spector, “it’s about the [natural] chemicals in food that give it the amazing range of colour, flavours, tastes and textures and also have a huge [positive] impact on our bodies.”
He extolled the virtues of a diet that consists of at least 30 different plants a week and recommended vibrant colours and plants with seeds as particularly beneficial. “Mix things up,” he added. “Diversity is the key. Our research has shown that eating 30 different types of fruit, veg, nuts, herbs, seeds or spices a week is ideal – it’s not so difficult if you’re pragmatic about it. It’s vital not to be reductionist, try to find a quick fix, a magic bullet; all the studies show the supplements never work as well as the plants themselves.”
He said that we need science and data to provide the evidence that can change the food system, convince governments to adopt new, ambitious food strategies and encourage people to rethink their relationship with food. “If we all understand a bit more about our food, we will not only be more healthy in ourselves, but also have a much healthier planet to live on,” he said.
The programme is 28 minutes long and this is just a flavour of what it covers – to listen, go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001fvnx