In a new one-off documentary for Channel 4, Jimmy Doherty travels the globe to find The World’s Best Diet (Monday, June 30).
Here, the Food Unwrapped host reveals what we Brits can learn from the eating habits of those around the world…
Tell us about your new show World’s Best Diet?
“Basically, myself and Kate Quilton travel to lots of different countries such as Mexico, Iceland, Ethiopia and Australia and rank their diets in terms of the very worst and very best. But, more than that, the show allows us to examine how food cultures have changed over the years and why certain things are good for you. Making the programme has been truly fascinating.”
We’re in the grip of a global obesity crisis with Britain thought to be the fattest nation in Europe. What do you think the main problem is with modern diets?
“The fact we’re all now relying on the same brands for our dietary needs means our food culture globally is diminishing. All our weekly shopping and what we put on our dinner tables is beginning to look the same in each country, which is a worry.”
Tell us about some of the countries you visited?
“When people think of Ethiopia, they think of starving children and Live Aid, but it’s actually a really lush country, with a rich food culture and heritage and the people there have a really healthy diet, based on lots of whole grains, lots of fibre and meat is seen as a luxury.”
Can us Brits learn anything from that kind of diet?
“It’s a really good diet and, as a result, Ethiopia has really low rates of colon cancer, so maybe here in the UK we need to start eating the whole grains that we used to eat in abundance, but no longer do.”
Mexico now has higher rates of adult obesity than America – what did you learn about the eating habits there?
“I visited a dental research clinic there and met a four-year-old girl who had no teeth – just a metal plate for a smile – as a result of consuming too many sugary foods and drinks. Mexico offered a snapshot of what could happen in the UK if we carry on down that same route, but I do think we’ve got the ability to eat better.”
What changes do we need to make?
“Well, I think we need to prioritise our spending for one thing. These days, people seem to spend more money on iPhones and suchlike rather than on their weekly shop. Food is so important – it dictates your welfare, your happiness and your health. It shouldn’t just be seen as fuel or something to get out of the way.”
Are you always open to trying new foods? And what’s the strangest thing you ate on your travels?
“Oh yes, I’m always up for trying new foods. I think that wherever you go in the world there’s always a connection when it comes to food, however unusual. I ate pickled, rotting shark in Iceland – but I can’t see myself rushing home for that every night!”