Ultra-processed food unwrapped with Henry Dimbleby

Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon, food campaigner and writer, joins the podcast this week to talk about the dangers of a diet high in ultra-processed foods – that is, foods with a long list of ingredients such as preservatives and emulsifiers not typically found in home cooking.

While convenient, ultra-processed foods such as breakfast cereals and mass-produced breads do not fill us up, encourage us to eat more and contribute to weight gain, Henry says.

‘Food is by far the biggest thing making us sick,’ he says.

In this episode, Henry talks to Dr Louise about breaking the ultra-processed food cycle, ignoring calories and eating more food cooked from scratch. They also discuss his new book Ravenous, which looks at how to eat in a way that is better for you and the planet.

Henry’s three tips: 

  1. Exercise has huge benefits for your health, so find an enjoyable form. Don’t think about it as being for weight loss, but for other health benefits.
  2. Cook from scratch as much as you can and include lots of fibrous green veg and pulses in your dishes.
  3. Try and reduce ultra-processed, plastic-wrapped food packed with mystery ingredients in your diet. Getting rid of breakfast cereals is a good place to start.

Find out more about Henry’s work here and follow him on Twitter @HenryDimbleby


Dr Louise Newson: [00:00:09] Hello, I’m Dr Louise Newson and welcome to my podcast. I’m a GP and menopause specialist and I run the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m also the founder of the Menopause Charity and the menopause support app called balance. On the podcast, I will be joined each week by an exciting guest to help provide evidence-based information and advice about both the perimenopause and the menopause. So today in the studio, I’ve got someone who I’ve been stalking from afar for many years, but he won’t realise, like quite a few people, I managed to hoik on to the studio to talk with me. So Henry Dimbleby is someone who has, I think, transformed the way a lot of people think about food, especially food that we get on the go. I first was aware of him when I went to a Leon restaurant many, many years ago in Camden, and I just thought, wow, I don’t feel hungry half an hour later. Whereas I’ve always tried to be eating healthily. But when you’re on the go, it’s can be quite difficult. And I just didn’t think about food for the rest of the day. And I thought, This is weird. I’ve had some sort of superfood green salad from a very quick restaurant and it’s done the job. And so then I found out more and more and more, been a bit obsessed with what he’s done, not just with Leon, but with just general about food. And then his new book’s recently come out and I was reading about it in the paper. I said to my husband, I need to get hold of him because I just want to talk to him more about food. And here he is, so very excited. Henry, thanks so much for joining me today. [00:01:49]

Henry Dimbleby: [00:01:50] Thank you for asking me. It’s great to be here.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:01:52] So if I wasn’t doing menopause, which takes up 110% of my life, I would be doing something with nutrition. As a doctor with a pathology degree I had no training about the menopause, you’ll be unsurprised to hear. But I also had very little training about nutrition. I knew about the food groups, but that was all really. And it’s only what I’ve taught myself. Actually. I had pancreatitis a few years ago and was really ill, and I really adjusted my food to try and optimise my future health. And I get migraines. So it’s a double whammy. If I eat ultra processed foods, I know it will trigger a migraine so I don’t eat them and I feel a lot healthier. But most people don’t have migraines or health issues that they’re aware of, so they can eat what they like and it’s so easy to eat badly, but it’s also really easy to think that you’re eating well, but you’re not. Would you agree with that?

Henry Dimbleby: [00:02:45] Yes. And actually, the reason that the book came off the back of some work I did for government, which was a national food strategy, so they had in place plans to try and turn our farming system into a more environmentally friendly farming system. But they hadn’t looked at the overall food system. How we can create a food system that is good for our health and good for the planet and feeds us enough. And the reason for writing the book is that almost everything people generally believe about the food they should eat, how it makes them healthy, how it makes them sick is wrong. And you have to change the way people, to change the system you have to change the way people understand systems. And basically the kind of predominant belief is that we are sick as a result of our health because we have low willpower and we’re not educated and we don’t exercise enough. And if we fix those things, we’ll get healthier. And this is a huge problem. By 2035, the NHS is projected to spend more on treating type 2 diabetes alone than it does on all cancers today. So if we don’t resolve this, the NHS sucks in all the money from the rest of the government, we get less productive people being sick. Andy Haldane, who used to be the chief economist at the Bank of England, thinks the reason the economy is not going to pick up is because we’re all sick. Food is by far the biggest thing that is making us sick. So we have to solve this problem. And the problem is not willpower and it’s not education. It’s that the foods that we eat, as you said, mostly ultra processed, 57% of the food we eat is ultra processed food. And that food is of a nature that makes it irresistible to our ancient evolved appetites. It is generally very calorie dense, it is soft, it is low in fibre to your point, fibrous food fills you up, low in fibre doesn’t fill you up. And so food companies hatch into our appetite and we find this food irresistible. We eat more. If you eat more, you can take more calories more quickly. It’s very calorie dense and it doesn’t fill you up. And so they are marketing and selling more of this to us. We’re eating more, they’re spending more money marketing it, and we’re eating more and we’re getting sick and we’re stuck in this kind of, we call it the junk food cycle, in this reinforcing feedback loop with a race to the bottom. Unless we break that, we are in real trouble as an economy and as a society.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:05:24] But it seems to be getting worse rather than better. Just before we go on, can you just explain to those people that don’t know what ultra processed food means?

Henry Dimbleby: [00:05:31] Well, so ultra processed food, it’s a definition that was invented by a Brazilian doctor called Carlos Monteiro. And he noticed that in Brazil, the people who were getting sick were not necessarily people who are buying things like oil and sugar, because people who are buying oil and sugar tended to actually cook from scratch. And they were using them to put a little bit in the rice. And so he noticed actually, they were eating ultra processed food. He defined ultra processed foods, it’s quite a long definition, but basically it’s foods that have a very large number of ingredients and particularly things that you don’t necessarily recognise on the label. And those ingredients are generally there to give it shelf life, to make it softer, to make it more palatable. If it’s in plastic and you don’t recognise ingredients that are processed and we don’t quite know why it’s so bad for us. We don’t know the full story yet. But there’s a physicist called Kevin Hall who’s done the most detailed experiments on this, and he got people and he got them to stay in a facility wearing baggy clothes and for four weeks they ate ultra processed food, and for four weeks they ate fresh food. And it was balanced for everything else, it was balanced macronutrients and so forth. And they said they liked both diets as much as each other. So they rated both diets similarly on taste. When they ate the ultra processed food, they ate on average about 500 more calories a day than they did on the on processed food. And they put on about a kilo. And he thinks, having looked at the difference between the foods, he thinks the difference and he’s testing this again, the difference was largely what I mentioned for calorie dense, low in water, soft, hyper palatable, which is he defined a particular ratio of sugar to carbs, to fat that doesn’t appear in processed foods. So they’ve really hacked into a very specific flavour profile that we find moreish and low in soluble fibre. It is possible, very possible, I think, that there will be other reasons. I think we’re just beginning to understand, for example, how some of these things play with our hunger hormones, there might be interactions with our microbiome, etc. etc. but at the moment it’s hard to legislate on ultra processed food because the definition is quite complicated. But as a rule of thumb, for anyone listening to this, if it’s in plastic and it’s got lots of ingredients on the back, you know, try and restrict it in your diet, try and have, you know, less than 20% if possible, none at all. In particular, things like breakfast cereals, modern bread, that very soft, modern breads, you know, biscuits, cakes, obviously. But try and cut that out of the diet. And you will inevitably put more vegetables, more food cooked from scratch, your diet and you will feel more energetic and it’ll be better for you.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:08:26] Yeah. And it’s so important, isn’t it? Because it’s not all what we look like. It’s how we feel as well, and having the energy to do what we want to do. And people always just think food is fuel that will give us more energy. But actually it doesn’t. And our pancreas is, you know, produces our insulin. And if we give ourselves the wrong type of food, you get these peaks of insulin coming out of our pancreas and that sort of big peaks and troughs that can happen, especially when you eat ultra processed food, can really take a toll on your pancreas. So that’s another reason why people can increase risk of type two diabetes. And then we know people who are more overweight or obese have an increased risk of type two diabetes as well. The metabolic changes that occur, throw the menopause into that, which is a cardio metabolic problem, it’s a real double whammy. And we know that obesity increases in the menopause when women don’t take HRT and type two diabetes do as well, which can actually improve with having hormones back. So there’s a multitude of things that are happening. And I look back to the seventies when we had street parties, obviously in 1977, and there everyone was lean. It was just easy. I used to, you know, go shopping with my mum. The supermarket was just two aisles, was very small and we just went to the butchers and the greengrocer. It’s impossible to find fruit now. It’s impossible, isn’t it, if you’re in a city or a town to find…just sometimes I just want a banana. And it’s really difficult other than having to go to a supermarket. And I worry sometimes about some of the supermarket fruit. It’s just harder. It’s so much easier on the go to just grab something. And a lot of my patients think they’re eating healthily. When I break down what they’re eating, but it’s all food that’s heated up in the microwave or it’s a ready made sauce that they’re stirring into their pasta. So they’re really trying. But the food companies are not helping, are they?

Henry Dimbleby: [00:10:16] No. And I mean, the analogy I use is we live currently in a swamp, in a food swamp. It is very hard if you are healthy in the environment in which we currently live, particularly if you’ve got a family genes where you have a propensity to put on weight, you are doing incredibly well. It is very difficult. You are living in an environment that is designed to make you eat more. And there is this the junk food cycle, as I said, which is where the food companies are stuck in it as well, funnily enough, because their commercial incentives to sell more and more of that stuff to us, we eat more. If I’m a CEO of a food company and I stop, I’ll be fired because, you know, that is a huge part of my portfolio and that’s where the growth is. Two things need to happen, I think. The first is governments need to work out how to clear that swamp, how to make the environment better. But until that happens, we need to teach people swamp craft. We need to say, How do I. How do you live in this world? I think there are some rules of thumb that are quite useful. The first is on exercise. Exercise is fantastic for you in all sorts of ways. It probably if you could prescribe, you’ll know this, if you could prescribe anything, the first few things you prescribe would be exercise and good food. Before any drugs, they’d be the most powerful drivers of health. Exercise is lousy for various reasons that we can go into if you want, for making you lose weight. So a lot of people exercise to make you lose weight, but don’t lose weight and give up exercise. But exercise, it’ll make you, as you say, if you want to look better, exercise at the same weight will make you look better, it will reform your mental health, it reduces your chance of diabetes, etc., etc., etc.. And as you as you said, there are actually, you know, in America, there are an increasing number of people who are skinny fat so who are at risk of diabetes but don’t realise it because they’re skinny and actually that’s more dangerous because you don’t spot it. So first is, exercise is fantastic. Don’t expect it to make you lose weight. The second is eat unprocessed foods like more fruit and veg. Think about your appetite. Think about the foods that fill you up, not about calories. So, you know, work out what are the things that, you know, if they’re around some people bread is their call, they you know, they find that soft bread irresistible. Get it out of the house. The stuff that really you binge on. Get that out of the house, eat lots of fresh veg, cook from scratch where you can reduce your ultra processed food. You will find that even if you don’t lose weight, I guarantee if you do those two things and you get a check up, you know, you get your bloods done, etc. and you do that for six months, you will be vastly healthier. So, you know, I think removing the focus on weight as the absolute goal and focusing on exercise and healthy diet and also for your own mental health, because if you’re overweight, the chances are like me, I had a morbidly obese grandfather. I’ve got genes that most of us tend to sit at a specific weight. And then if you are in a difficult environment, that weight will go up. So don’t beat yourself up about that. Just try to eat healthier, exercise more and you’ll be happier. Anyway, you might find, like the people in Kevin Hall’s experiments that you actually lose weight. Once you take those ultra processed foods out of your diet, you probably will. But don’t focus on that. Focus on how you feel, on exercise and on the kinds of foods you eat.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:13:42] It’s so important and it is hard. And so many of my patients, and especially when I was a GP as well, you know, they just said they haven’t got time, they haven’t got time to cook. And the children always want snacks. So they’re always they’re the ones that buy all the food. And they said it’s really hard because they want crisps, they want chocolate, they want sweets. And I always find it quite difficult when people say they haven’t got time because I think you can make time. I’ve got a big chest freezer at home and I’m fortunate because it’s in the garage. Some people don’t have garages, but a lot of people have fridges with a small bit of freezer and I just batch bake so I won’t make one lot of tomato sauce for pasta with loads of vegetables mushed in so my children don’t know what they’re eating. I’ll make a whole lot, so it will last me three months at a time or I’ll make a massive bolognaise or whatever. And I’m always adding in things like lentils that my children would never eat if they’re on the side. But it also makes it cheaper because if you do half meat and lentils, then it’s a lot cheaper and it’s really healthy and there’s lots of fibre and it will fill them up and, I learnt quite early actually my older children are 20 and 18, but my 18 year old’s mood is determined by what she eats. And I remember going out when she was only about two and so she was at a difficult age anyway and we thought we were eating well. We go to like a National Trust property or go for a walk somewhere and you’d get a sandwich box for the children, which was always full of ultra processed white bread, usually with probably ultra processed cheese and a packet of crisps. And her mood was just awful, her behaviour was terrible. And I, I just kept saying, What are we doing wrong? What’s going on? Is it because we’re in a new environment? And then I just realised that she was just being fed rubbish and she was probably getting these sugar spikes and that was, you know, determinate of her mood. And I do think a lot about children and how hard it is for them. They’re more sedate, they’re playing more games, they’re on technology, they’re not getting the same exercise often at school. My youngest daughter’s 12. She’s just started a senior school and her mood was really dipping. And I went through everything and what are you eating for school. And she’s said actually the meals are horrid. And I sort of went through the menu with her and I, so now I make her a packed lunch. So it’s quite early that we’re recording this. I’ve got off even earlier so I could make her some, some pasta. It’s not difficult to make something, but you’ve just got to have it in your brain and be organised and grate some vegetables in and stir in some cheese. And I know it’ll fill her up but you’ve got to be organised and you’ve got to be taught, I think, how to cook as well, haven’t you, Henry? It doesn’t just come naturally if you’re not in a household where you’ve watched your mother cook, your grandmother cook or a relative cook, then it’s really hard, isn’t that? I think.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:16:21] Yes. So children are difficult. I’ve got, my children now, 14 is the eldest and the youngest is 11, and they have been through all sorts of stages of of eating. They’ve been, one’s been vegetarian and one’s kind of only eaten meat and fruit and, you know, restrictive eating, all sorts, all sorts. And I’ve founded and run a charity called Chefs in Schools. And we go to schools and help children in schools cook better food. And what you realise with children is you have to find ways of making them eat food as well as making them good food. And I think if you are living in poverty, it is tricky. So for the food strategy, we spent a lot of time in food banks, a lot of time in less affluent communities and you’ve got all sorts of other problems. You can’t afford to try things on your children. If they don’t eat them, you know, then you can’t afford something else. So people tend to go for, you know, the chips and the things that they know that children will eat. You often might not have a fridge, freezer, etc., etc. Difficult. But if you’re not in that position or even if you are, you know, and you could take some of these kind of tips, first of all, I would say whatever you do, don’t make it a battleground. So don’t make the dinner table a battleground. There is when we looked at the data for the National Food Strategy, except when they come to teens and eating disorders, anorexia, etc., become a problem, there’s not a single example of a child who has starved because they refused themselves food. So that thing of, you know, just wanting to feed up the child, put the food there, If they don’t eat that, they don’t eat it, you know, make sure but but put it there and don’t fight. The other thing is to just think about how it feels to them when they were younger. We always used to put the veg on the table first when they were hungry, even little bits of apple, carrot, celery sticks, cucumber, so that when they’re most hungry, they are picking on those and they get that down. And if you put the bread down first, you know, if you give any child chips, they’re going to eat them first. So you do that. And then as you said, you kind of you sneak in veg in different ways. And particularly if you do those black lentils that look almost like mince, you can put those in a salad, you can put those in bolognaise. The single best thing you can do for the environment is actually eat a bit less meat because it takes up so much land. So that’s a fantastic thing to do. And then also when they’re young kind of branding things and we used to do stupid things like, you know, I made them porridge in the morning, they wouldn’t eat anyone else’s porridge, they’d eat my porridge because we branded it as Daddy’s Delicious Porridge, DDP. And I would put a bit of cinnamon and I just do it a certain way and you kind of create a thing, you know, you’re fighting against Coco Pops, you’re fighting against brands all the time. When they eat broccoli, they don’t like eating broccoli. So we imagined when they were really young that they were little trees and there were things in them, There’s a dog in this one, are you going to eat the dog, you know, So you’re playing with them. And then the final thing I’d say is you’re not a restaurant, so don’t give choice. Like, what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner. Because if you get yourself in that position where you’re cooking three different dinners, you’re going to drive yourself mad and you’ll be a bad parent because you’re so angry with your children.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:19:36] Well, it’s really hard. It is difficult. I don’t eat meat, so I’m constantly eating different things. But we’ll do a combination. So it’s easy. But my children don’t have a choice. But I think there’s a lot of ways of hiding. And you’re right. I mean, on a Thursday night, my children have what’s called Jackie pasta sauce, because Jackie is someone who picks the children up from school on a Thursday, she always had for the last 20 years. And I just said, alright, this is a pasta sauce I make, but it’s a tomato based sauce. But it has any vegetables that I got lying around shoved in. and then they’re all liquidised up. So it’s just a smooth red sauce, but it’s also got parmesan and basil in it and that makes it quite sweet. And you know, Jackie’s never cooked the sauce in her life, but it’s always called Jackie pasta sauce. And so many of my children’s friends, say can we have Jackie pasta sauce. And then after they’ve eaten it, I say, you know, you’ve just had celery, you’ve had pepper, you’ve had spinach, peas. They’re like, oh, no, I can’t believe I’ve eaten all this. But I think children want to eat healthily, but they just don’t know. And the other thing that concerns me is that lots of these foods are highly addictive. They do light up the dopamine centres in our brain, the reward centres. And the whole thing about you said earlier, a calorie is not a calorie. I went to a meeting many years ago actually with the Department of Health about food and they were trying to say how low fat spreads, low fat foods were good because the incidence of heart disease had reduced since Flora and some of the low fat foods had been introduced. Well, that’s rubbish in my mind. But they were also saying a calorie is just a calorie. And I said, Well, how can it be? I see children walking to school with a packet of crisps. How can the same calorific value, a packet of crisps be compared with some almonds for example, or a big bar of chocolate be compared with some vegetables with the same calorific value? It absolutely doesn’t make sense because it’s what these foods do in our bodies. And you’ll say, right, we don’t understand the ultra processing of foods in the same way we don’t understand why zero sugar, Coca-Cola or whatever it’s called is actually worse than the real deal, because it’s the chemicals in our body. Our bodies are not designed to have unnatural chemicals in their bodies, are they? We’re quite basic human beings. So all these foods have been designed so they taste better, they last longer, but actually our body just doesn’t know what to do with them.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:21:58] Yeah. So a calorie is not a calorie. If there’s a health claim on a packet of something, you probably want to avoid it because it is almost certainly an ultra processed food. I had a massive fight last week with Nestlé because they released a Kit Kat, for goodness sake, cereal with the claim. I mean, you couldn’t make it up. You couldn’t make it up. There are already 28 different kinds of Kit Kat you can buy in this country, different flavours and sizes. And they launched a cereal and they launched under the claim that it was tasty and nutritious. And it was nutritious because it had a bunch of vitamin supplementation in it. But a calorie is not a calorie, basically. It’s not a calorie for two reasons. First of all, it’s not a calorie for the things that it does to your appetite. And that Kit Kat cereal, you will eat incredibly fast. You’ll eat much more than the 30 grams suggested serving, and you will be hungry an hour later. And actually, if there’s one thing I would suggest to anyone, if you possibly can just get cereals out of your house, it’s a terrible way to start the day. And the second thing is the nutrition. The levels of nutrition in almonds, as you say, versus crisps are wildly different. So, you know, again, it is tough, but if you can possibly avoid the stuff in packets, that is the simplest rule of thumb, I would say, to improve your child’s diet. And, funnily enough, the breakfast cereals is really tricky. We just don’t have them in our house. No. Whenever our children go to someone else’s house, they descend upon the breakfast cereals. You know, these stuff are absolutely delicious, highly marketed. The brands are great. But because in our household we’ve set that norm, It’s not a fight every morning. You know, that’s the thing. It’s like to hold your nerve because the fight goes away, you know, and you have to. It’s slightly more complicated to cook breakfast. So they have porridge, they have yoghurt. I quite often make them eggs, so it’s harder. I get up quite early to do it. That is tricky, but I think makes a huge difference.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:24:03] But it’s worth it. I mean, eggs are great. I actually make my daughter pancakes, but I use just eggs, flour and milk. So it’s very basic recipe. But I make enough for three days. The third day it looks a bit ropey as I’m whisking it through, but it’s fine. She still eats it. So actually, that doesn’t take much time.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:24:20] Yeah, I do that. I whizz in chia seeds and flax seeds. So they’ve got a bit of seed in there as well.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:24:26] Well, I do I put in chia seeds and also I use a mixture of flour. So it’s not just white flour.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:24:31] Yeah, exactly.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:24:32] And I’ve done gradually actually, but the first time I did it, I used spelt flour, but the first time I did it she went, oh, this is disgusting. So what I’ve done is same as converting them to wholemeal pasta, you just do it gradually. So then they don’t really realise. Because I think my daughters, all of them actually, especailly when they were younger. Their taste buds are very, very strong compared to mine. They would taste a tiny bit of garlic or a tiny bit of pepper. And so I think what we taste is different to what they taste. But then I wonder what some of these very addictive foods must just taste absolutely wonderful to them. So what I mean, it’s all very well, isn’t it? That’s like the consumers improving. But how can we do it from a bigger level, Henry, because this is not going away. You know, my husband’s a surgeon and he operates on morbidly obese people who he keeps saying, if you lose weight, you’ll have less complications. Your surgery will be easier, your recovery will be easier, your wound healing will be better. But they come back six months later, heavier rather than lighter. And they keep saying, I try, I try. But as you say, it’s so easy. Do you think the government or do you think higher bodies, organisations are going to change or do you think we’re just going to just be worse and worse if we repeated this podcast in ten, 20 years time?

Henry Dimbleby: [00:25:44] So I think there are two ways we could go. A junk food cycle, as I described it, is an interaction between the food environment and our appetite, and the way we should go is to try and change that food environment. And there are lots of things government could do, and I recommended a bunch of them in the National Food Strategy, they are in the appendix of Ravenous. So Ravenous is meant to be a populist, kind of entertaining book, explains how the food system works by putting in the appendix the recommendations, and you can restrict advertising, you could put in reformulation taxes, etc., etc., etc. There are big levers the government can pull to try and improve our food culture and try to improve the food served to us. But politicians are very scared of this wrongly actually. When we did focus groups, people are fed up with it and they want the government to act. And you can also, instead of hacking the system, you could hack the appetite. And these new drugs semaglutides, currently which is the first goes under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, but there will be be loads, there’ll be lots of different ones. There are lots being developed which make your appetite work differently, is another way you can do it. And they’re very effective and people feel less hungry and they lose weight and they inject themselves once a week. And my concern is that we will end up drugging our way out of this, we will drug a third of the population. And for me, that’s a problem for two reasons. First of all, if you are, have a BMI of over 35, which is severely obese, and you’ve struggled all your life with your weight and you’ve been sick, then these drugs, you should go and talk to your doctor about these drugs because they’re very effective and they might change your life. But if we drug a third of the population, there is a huge chance, as we’ve seen, it’s almost inevitable, as we’ve seen with the COVID vaccine, that at the fringes there will be edge effects or there will be side effects that we don’t know about now, which might put people off taking them who really need them. They’ll become, oh my God. You know, at the moment there’s talk in Hollywood. A lot of people in Hollywood are taking them. And there’s talk in Hollywood about Wegovy face, which is the fact that it makes your face older. And now they’re getting plastic surgery. So you get these scares. And that would be bad for the people who who should take them. But more importantly than that, the hormone that this kind of mimics GLP-1 is one of our hunger hormones. It’s one that fills up when we eat food and our food hits our lower intestine and our hormones evolve by natural selection mutation. They do all sorts of different things. It’s not like you designed a car, and that’s one hormone that does this, and one of them does that. Every hormone you have does, has all sorts of different functions. And I think it is almost inevitable also that we store up, we create unknown problems down the line by trying to solve this one thing, we actually end up creating an even bigger problem that we have to solve down the line. So, you know, government intervention or drugs, drugs may be useful, but we need to get government to act.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:28:44] Totally. And you know, the more I do in medicine, the more I realise how important prevention is rather than cure. Don’t wait for the disease to happen. Let’s just try and prevent. And as you say, a lot can be prevented with good exercise, with good quality food, nutrition and all of these will improve our mental as well as our physical health.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:29:03] Absolutely. Absolutely.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:29:06] So there’s a lot we need to do. And I really hope that going forward, people like you, you know, with big voices can really make a difference. And we can all work together to improve the health of as many people as possible because this is a global, not just a UK problem. So I’m very grateful for your time today. Henry And before we leave, I always ask my guests for three take home tips, and I’m really keen to ask you three things that the listeners can do if they’re listening to this and think, oh yes, I’m going to bin my cereal, I’m going to think differently. What are three realistic things that they could do that would make a difference to them in their families?

Henry Dimbleby: [00:29:44] So the first thing I would say is make exercise pleasurable. Don’t think about it as being about weight. It’s not about weight. It’s about feeling healthy, being healthy. So find enjoyable ways to exercise. But don’t weigh yourself every morning because exercise isn’t going to help with that. It’s going to help you in a million other ways. The second thing I would say is as much as you can eat cooking from scratch with lots of fibrous green vegetables and if you can get really, there are now kind of if you can afford them, they’re much cheaper than meat, but they’re more expensive than other pulses, get those nice Spanish style beans in a jar. There’s an English brand called Bold Beans, which are fantastic. They are so much more delicious than normal chickpeas and butter beans, and they’ll force the meat out of your diet and you will feel healthier and save money. And then the third thing I would say is the stuff that’s wrapped in plastic, the ultra processed food. Cut it down, try and get under 20% of what you eat from that stuff. And if you can just start by getting rid of breakfast cereal, breakfast cereal is the devil’s work.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:30:52] Very good. Yes. Don’t want any devil’s work in my house. Thanks very much. I’m really grateful for your time. It’s been really enlightening. And keep up the good work because what you’re doing is being noticed and it’s phenomenal. And I think the more we talk, the more we think about it. Hopefully little things will change, which can then lead to bigger things happening. So thanks again for your time today, Henry.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:31:14] I’d say the other thing is buy Ravenous and give it to your friends to help them change the food system.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:31:19] Indeed. Ravenous. In case you didn’t realise is the name of Henry’s new book. Thanks very much.

Henry Dimbleby: [00:31:24] Thank you.

Dr Louise Newson: [00:31:28] For more information about the perimenopause and menopause, please visit my website www.balance-menopause.com. Or you can download the free balance app, which is available to download from the App Store or from Google Play.


Ultra-processed food unwrapped with Henry Dimbleby

Looking for Menopause Doctor? You’re in the right place!

  1. We’ve moved to a bigger home at balance for Dr Louise Newson to host all her content.

You can browse all our evidence-based and unbiased information in the Menopause Library.