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Diet of vegetables,salad and only a little meat is best for health 

Researchers have found the eating habits of Victorian peasants are healthy and worth emulating - especially the emphasis on eating locally sourced vegetables, fish and salads.


Healthy eaters are often willing to spend a fortune on expensive ingredients and trendy superfoods in their pursuit of a nutritious diet.

But it seems they may have all been wasting their money, as researchers have found the eating habits of Victorian peasants were perhaps the best.

Simple wholesome foods such as fresh locally grown vegetables, potatoes, fish and a little meat is the best recipe for staying healthy, a study has concluded.

Researchers compared the eating habits of people living across mid-19th century Britain by region and socio-economic class.

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The British diet of yesteryear was nutritionally akin to the Mediterranean diet of today, study leader Dr Peter Greaves said

The eating habits of Victorian peasants were perhaps healthier than we have realised 

They found that those living in more rural, isolated, regions in England, some areas of Scotland and the west of Ireland had the healthiest diets.

These places also had the lowest death rates from tuberculosis, a disease typically associated with poor nutrition.

Records showed that although many people in these regions had been infected, most did not die from TB in contrast to richer people living in the cities.

The simple diet was most comparable to today’s Mediterranean diet, the research said.

Numerous studies have shown the Mediterranean diet may reduce our risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol, linked to heart disease.

An unhealthy diet can lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol linked to heart disease (file photo)

Researchers at the University of Leicester said peasants would often get paid with cheap food –such as potatoes, vegetables, whole grains and milk – rather than money. By contrast, the wealthier classes were able to be more selective over what they ate, generally leading to poorer nutrition. 

Limiting people’s choice to these basic foodstuffs meant they unwittingly ate a nutritious diet, researchers said. In turn, this meant they were more able to fend off diseases, such as TB.

According to Cottage Cookery, a cookbook written by Esther Copley in 1849, recipes that would be included in a rural peasant’s diet included potato pie, stirabout [an Irish porridge] and stewed ox-cheek.

Dr Peter Greaves, who led the study which was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: ‘If you take the diets in Britain in that era, they would nutritionally be akin to the Mediterranean diet today.

‘The rural diet was often better for the poor in more isolated areas because of payment in kind. Unfortunately, these societies were disappearing under the pressure of urbanisation, commercial farming and migration.

‘If you walk into a supermarket you will still find cheap vegetables so people could still eat like this. I think the problem today is that people have too much choice.’

Gruelling labour... and no running water

Many patients with potentially deadly inherited heart conditions are diagnosed only after a cardiac arrest, research shows.

One in five of those with a condition finds out after the death of a family member, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said.

The charity estimates about 620,000 Britons have a faulty gene, putting them at a particularly high risk of heart disease or dying suddenly at a young age.

Each child of someone with an inherited heart condition has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the same faulty gene – but the majority remain undiagnosed.

Many patients with potentially deadly inherited heart conditions are diagnosed only after a cardiac arrest, research shows 

It is also estimated that at least 12 under-35s die from an undiagnosed heart condition every week in the UK. The BHF is urging people to speak to relatives about any early sudden deaths or premature heart disease that might have been caused by an inherited heart condition. Anyone with a family history of unexplained deaths should contact their GP.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, of the BHF, said: ‘It is extremely important that family members are offered genetic testing when there’s a history of sudden death or premature heart disease in a family.

'All too often, people aren’t familiar with their family history, or they aren’t aware that a sudden death might be linked to an underlying heart condition.’

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