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By Diane Small
Tim Samuels is an award-winning documentary maker, broadcaster – and a sucker for any health fad that comes his way. He’s the entertaining voice of sanity in a new BBC podcast called ‘All Hail Kale!’ that cuts through the hype and hysteria of the three-trillion-dollar wellness industry. Tim investigates which foods, therapies, gurus and lifestyles you should be embracing – and advises on which others are just plain nonsense.
In each episode of his six-part podcast, Tim is joined by different wellness experts, including Gretchen Rubin and Dr Michael Greger as he explores extreme diets, whether you can eat yourself happy, undergoes brain rewiring, alters his gut, faces the truth about scary dairy and uncovers the dream anti-aging routine.
The first episode launched on BBC Sounds on 1 January, and new episodes pop up every Monday.
Here, Tim shares why you needn’t worry to much about diary, why the potato is mighty, which foods he’d recommend in an apocalypse, and more.
Why did you feel it necessary to launch this podcast in the first place?
We get so much advice to eat this or that, follow this fad or the other – but you never know who to trust and what’s actually going to work. Wellness is a free-for-all where anyone can set themselves up as an expert. So I wanted to bring some journalistic rigour to wellness – with proper experts – and really find out what we can all do to make ourselves healthier, happier, and even age better. So at least you know you’re not wasting your money on the next fad that comes along.
What are some of the biggest food myths you’ve debunked over the course of the podcast so far?
Milk is such a hot topic these days – but it seems like as adults we don’t actually have any need to drink it, even for calcium. Hmm, drinking lots of water doesn’t stop you from ageing… And if you had to survive for the longest time off only one food it’d be potatoes – though you’d probably lose your eyesight and get all sorts of illness on a spud-only diet.
Knowing what you know, which global culture would you say does nutrition the best with their typical diet? Worst?
It gets a lot of hype – and the Mediterranean diet still seems to be very strong. But the foods our ancestors once would have eaten as hunter-gatherers would have gone down a storm with the gut: having loads of variety and diversity, still eating foods that have (non-fertilised) soil on them – all of which does wonders for the trillions of bacteria in your gut which are so crucial to our own health. Worst – the modern American hyper-processed diet, where cheese comes out of a can, leafy greens barely get a look in, sugar is in everything, and sodas are the size of a small car. When I’m filming in the US I always put on half a stone – even though I make an effort to at least find a kale leaf.
I love the idea of the Doomsday Diet – the foods you should hoard if there’s an extreme event. What would be in your pantry?
Mountains of dark chocolate. I’ve gone from being a 60% kind of guy to the seriously hard stuff. 85% Green & Blacks is about as low as I go – there’s a 92% Montezuma’s with cacao bits which is outstanding. And then nudging up to a 99% fix. You’d also have to have some apple cider vinegar in there – as it seems to do wonders (maybe even with a mushroom cloud). And to keep the gut chipper as the world ends, some kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut could join me in the bunker.
What’s your guiltiest food pleasure?
Cheesecake. I could happily intravenously take in proper New York cheesecake with that delicious biscuity base. Which perhaps explains that half a stone.
In the Beat Your Brain episode, you aim to transform from an owl to a lark through neurofeedback therapy. Did it work in the long run?
My sleep has definitely improved. I’m not waking up as much during the night now – and I’ve got better concentration during the day. I don’t want to jinx it, but mornings are feeling more tolerable – though I still pray I don’t bump into anyone I know on the Tube.
The beauty industry is full of outrageous claims. What advice do you have that really works for those looking to turn back the clock a bit?
I guess prevention is the best bet – and that really means keeping unprotected sunlight at bay with a serious SPF of 50, even when it’s cloudy outside. And preferably separate to a moisturiser -which probably won’t do much in any case.
What was it like meeting some modern-day ‘gurus’ on your show, like Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins?
I saw Tony Robbins perform in New Jersey at a stadium packed full of incredibly excited Americans – who had a real thing for high-fiving. But by the end, my British cynicism had melted away – and even I left jotting down changes I was going to make in my life. Whilst Tony is high-octane, Deepak has a more serene presence. The stuff he talks about is fascinating and inspiring – especially around how we’re not so beholden to our genes, and what the future of rewiring your brain might have in store for us.
Who would be some ‘dream guests’ you’d like to get on the show next?
I love meeting the scientists who’ve been burrowing away for years on something obscure – then hit on a breakthrough which could change our lives. Like a scientist who was doing poop swaps with mice who might have found a probiotic that can help improve your mood. So more of those obscure scientists please. And it’d be fun to do a meditation and meaning of life session with the Dalai Lama, if he’s at loose end one day.
What future plans do you have for the podcast?
Hopefully to keep going! There are so many different area of physical and mental health to look into. We’re living in a time when the news is so depressing, yet there are some amazing breakthroughs and insights happening that could really affect our lives. And it’d be great to get more involved with the audience – and see what they want me to look into, if anyone has any suggestions…
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