We talk to one of the world’s leading nutritionists about skin health, top immune boosting foods, and the ongoing organic debate. 

How long have you been in the health industry for?

My interest in nutrition started in the late 70’s when I was studying psychology and got interested in how the brain works, and what goes wrong in mental illness. That got me thinking about the effect of nutrition on brain function. I researched the effects of vitamins and minerals on IQ and helped run the first study in the world showing that high potency multivitamins increase children’s IQ.

Explain what Optimum Nutrition is?

Optimum nutrition defines the optimal intake of nutrients for the best possible health and function. For example, if you take in 2 grams of vitamin C a day it reduces severity and duration of colds, halves diabetes and cancer risk and lowers high blood pressure by 10 points – that’s as much as any drug. Therefore, since 2 grams a day clearly makes you healthier this would by the optimal amount. The old definition of ‘need’, upon which the RDAs are based, is simply the amount that prevents scurvy. That’s really a minimum, not an ideal intake.

Do you always try and eat organic? If so what benefits do you feel organic food gives you?

I do choose organic as much as possible. It’s somewhatless important if you’re eating an orange or a banana because you discard the skin, which is where the pesticide residues remain. However, many people don’t realise that plants, as well as being rich in antioxidants, make potent anti-cancer agents called salvestrols, but only if they are not sprayed with fungicides. These salvestrosl are part of the plant’s immune defence system. So, non-organic food has much less protection against cancer. Also, many existent pesticides and herbicides promote cancer risk.

How important is nutrition for good skin health? What is your top skin food?

It is totally vital. For every 1 point your blood sugar goes up your skin ages by the equivalent of 5 months. The most powerful nutrients for youthful skin are vitamins A and C. It is worth eating lots of orange coloured foods, such as carrots and butternut squash, as well supplementing extra vitamin A, which is rich in fish. I also use a vitamin based skin cream, called Environ, daily.

What food could you not live without?

It’s a close call between oats and fish. Wheat is best to reduce or avoid but oats are really good for you. I often have oatflakes, cold or hot as in porridge, for breakfast. I also eat oat cakes, oat biscuits and sometimes Nairn’s oat bakes.

What do you eat when you are on a plane?

As little as possible. I order a vegetarian Asian meal, which usually means a bean based curry with rice. I’ll travel with a couple of apples and some nuts, such as almonds, and nibble on these and drink lots of water.

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

I definitely eat to live. The sole purpose of my work is to help people be 100% healthy. It takes 3 weeks a change a habit, 6 weeks to make a habit and 36 weeks to hard-wire a habit. After a while you simply like what’s good for you, so I eat what I want, and what I want are foods that make me feel good.

What are the top immune boosting foods?

Anything with vitamin C. Strawberries have more than oranges or kiwi. Zinc, found in seeds, is a big immune booster. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and reduces cold symptoms. Black elderberry, and blue and black berries, are strongly anti-viral.

Do you take supplements?

Yes, I take a strip of supplements in the morning and lunchtime. It’s called the 100% Health Pack. The morning strip has a high strength multivitamin, vitamin C complex, and essential omegas – both 3 and 6. There’s also an antioxidant formula. The lunchtime strip is the same, except, instead of the antioxidant there’s a supplement of phospholipids, which are essential brain food. They cost £1.70 a day, a bit more than half a Starbucks. That gives me everything I need for optimal health.

What do you eat for breakfast?

I have three favourite breakfasts. The first is oats, hot or cold, with oat milk, berries and chia seeds, which are high in omega 3. The second is scrambled eggs, with smoked salmon, on either rye bread or oatcakes. The third is Get Up and Go, a powder you mix up with milk and berries. It’s low GL, packed with nutrients and makes you feel very good. Occasionally I have a kipper, and sometimes I make oat pancakes by grinding oat flakes to make oat flour, with an egg, milk and cinnamon, served with berries and a blob of yoghurt.

What is your top healthy dinner party dish?

I make a mean kedgeree with brown rice, chopped up egg and smoked mackerel with red onions, garlic, cumin, turmeric, hot smoked paprika, black pepper, chopped coriander, peas and broccoli florets, with a blob of tahini added at the end, then served with a tomato salad. It’s very high in antioxidants, natural pain killers, omega 3s and low GL. My new “Ten Secrets” cookbook shows you how to make recipes that include all the benefits of optimum nutrition, available from www.patrickholford.com.

On Patrick’s website you can also fill in a BioAge Check and find out your biological age versus your chronological age. Patrick’s is 43 versus 54. It also helps you find out what you need to do to add years to your life and life to your years. Well worth doing then…