Read an interview with Jamie Oliver on the inspiration behind his new book, Everyday Super Food.
Q: What motivated you to write Everyday Super Food?
A few years ago I realised that I wasn’t as healthy as I’d like to be. Perhaps, subconsciously, the lead up to my 40th birthday is to blame, but I realised I was wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep, which meant I often felt tired and sluggish. Now, I feel great – I’ve been studying for a diploma in nutrition too, so I know a lot more about how the food I eat impacts on my body. The world has never been more unhealthy, and this generation is expected to live shorter lives than their parents – it’s really uncomfortable stuff. I look at my kids, and I look at that statistic, and it really bothers me. So, with this book I’ve done all the hard work for you. I want this book to be a gateway to a more open and understanding relationship with food – a tool to help you get things right, most of the time.
Q: How does the book tackle the difficulty of getting healthy?
Everyday Super Food is a place where every choice is a good choice. It’s a book and TV series about facts – it’s not a type of fad diet, and it’s not full of old wives’ tales either, it’s solid and it’s reliable. I’ve spent time with some of the best nutritionists, scientists, doctors and professors in the world, and travelled to some of the healthiest places on the planet to absorb and relay the most relevant stuff back to you. That’s my job and I’m absolutely proud to do it.
Q: What is Super Food?
‘Superfood’ is a bit of a controversial term because there’s no one food that has everything – there’s no magic bullet. But, it is a term that people use a lot and seem to associate with nutrient-dense food, cooked in a really balanced way – cooked with love and passion, of course! Well, that’s what I see the ultimate superfood as being, which is exactly what I’ve tried to do with this book. With my nutrition team by my side (and they’ve been quite strict with me!) we’ve been able to create a whole array of delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks that tick all the boxes on the nutrition front.
Q: How hard was it sticking to nutritional guidelines?
We started off with quite strict nutritional guidelines – 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for both lunch and dinner, and 100 calories for snacks. It took much more concentration than my usual recipe writing as I had to make sure everything was bang on, and that’s why I photographed all the food in the book myself too. As we were writing and developing the recipes it took much longer that usual, and became a bit of a personal journey, a bit like a diary really. Imagine starting with a carbonara, for example, which is a fantastically wonderful thing, but gets a big red flag on the nutrition front, and creating an expression of it, that’s got those same vibes going on, but fits into the principles of the book. It means you have to be a bit cleverer about it – I had to think, how can I take those dynamics and do something modern, contemporary and beautiful. You’d think it’s about taking things away, but it’s often actually about giving the dish a bit of balance. I’m not saying don’t eat a carbonara, or a biscuit or anything else that you really enjoy, I’m just saying that it’s important to strike a balance – everything in moderation is the key. If you learn the rhythms, principles and techniques in this book, I truly believe it’ll keep you in check and land you in a good place. I’ve lived the book for a year now, and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.
Q: You talk about a balanced plate – what does that mean?
It’s about making sure you’re getting a varied diet and a wide range of nutrients – it’s giving your body every opportunity to suck up all the tiny little things that make your hair beautiful, your eyes shine, your teeth and bones strong, your brain work and so on. It’s basically giving yourself a really good start on the path to good health.
Q: What was the biggest surprise when researching the book?
As part of my research I visited some of the healthiest places in the world and observed communities with the largest amount of people living into their late 90s and even to over 100 years old. What surprised me was that they can still have a conversation, they can still move, they can still cook for themselves, they sleep well, they have a rhythm to life that’s pretty consistent, and they definitely don’t stress! A lot of them have a cheeky little drink every day (just one glass, to chill out with friends – not a full-on session!), but being with friends, being part of a community and having family is consistent in their lives. Having that sense of purpose makes them want to wake up each morning, it makes them want to do something and also it makes them an interesting, integral part of their community which in turn means they look out for one another. It’s probably seeing the importance, the power and the impact that these social things can have that surprised me the most.