Cherry Healey puts the country's culinary staples to the test, and with the help of the public uncovers the surprising secrets and unexpected powers of food we take for granted.
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'There are some things we British just can't get enough of.'
We eat a staggering 14 million bananas every day.
10,000 packets of crisps every minute.
And 14 tins of beans per second.
'When it comes to supermarket foods, we have our clear favourites.'
All this is the top hundred things we buy and eat as a nation.
'We're used to hearing the bad news about all this stuff.
'What's the good news? I'm Cherry Healey.
'I've got a passion for knowing more about the food we eat.
'I'm keen to see if science can help us fall in love again with our food.
'To do that, I need some help.'
And who better to ask than the great British public?
Across the nation, our teams are raring to go.
These Glasgow Girls help us find out
whether we really can be addicted to chocolate.
Life without chocolate is a life not worth living!
Out on the streets of Manchester,
the WI is on hand to help us tease out the health benefits of tea.
What's better than a good cuppa?
This Cornish rugby team puts its weight behind milk
to find out if the white stuff is the ultimate sports drink.
'And I'm going to go on a very eggy diet
'to see if eating too many eggs really is bad for us.'
I'm not going to have another egg for a really long time.
We're on a mission to find food's secret powers
and prove there are still surprises lurking in our shopping baskets.
It's time to test Britain's favourite supermarket foods.
We're going to look at all the different ways food
can make it to the top of our supermarket shopping lists.
We tracked down things we buy most,
the things we actually eat and drink most.
And not forgetting our favourite snacks.
Some of which, we reckon, we just can't live without.
And for every food we want to test,
we've found the ideal place to do it.
First off - the foodstuff we consume more often that anything else.
It's our absolute favourite.
It couldn't be anything else but tea!
And what better way to discover the full power of tea
than by throwing our very own tea party?
And the best place to have it is here in Manchester -
home to Britain's biggest tea factory.
On hand to help me are some of Manchester's biggest tea lovers' -
The Women's Institute.
Nothing we eat or drink in Britain
comes even close to tea in popularity.
We get through a whopping 165 million cups of tea every day -
double the amount of coffee we drink.
That works out at about 14 billion litres of the stuff every year.
So why do we love our tea so much? Ladies, what do you think?
-It refreshes us.
-It refreshes us.
-Do you think it's healthy?
What's better than a good cuppa?
Cheers to that!
Not only is tea refreshing
but the ladies seem to think it's also healthy.
Are they right?
Dr Tim Bond is a chemist and tea expert.
Just the man I need!
-Would you like a cup of tea?
-I'd love a cup of tea.
-There you are.
-Thank you very much.
-Wonderful. Thank you.
Tim reveals there are many more things
in tea leaves than just the caffeine we all know about.
Over 700 natural chemicals in fact -
including ones like theanine, that helps us relax,
and fluoride, that helps prevent tooth decay.
And that's not all.
The real trick in tea, the magic of tea in some cases,
is tea contains substances which science has shown us
reduce our chances of getting chronic illnesses
such as heart disease, strokes and even cancer.
Wow, that's amazing!
I love that an innocent cup of tea can pack such a powerful punch.
Tim's talking about antioxidants - something we hear a lot about
in foods like fruit and veg.
Surprisingly, there's loads of them in tea.
The trouble is - they're hard to get out.
Those antioxidants are locked up in the leaves and only released
when they're brewed.
But Tim's come armed with the latest research
that could help us get the best out of the tea we love.
Tea is an amazing substance but what science is showing us,
is that to get the most health benefits, how we brew our tea
is actually very important.
And how we brew our tea is something we ALL have an opinion on.
I just swish it about till it looks about right.
I leave it in for 15-20 seconds, just so it gets a nice flavour.
-Five minutes? That's long.
-Why is that?
Because my husband loves strong tea.
-What do you like?
-I like weak tea.
Ah! That's love.
It depends if I am going for the David Dickinson,
or the sort of pale and interesting look.
About 20 seconds probably.
'Ooh, that's a bit weak! But you're not alone.
'As a nation, we're an impatient bunch.
'40 seconds is the average time we leave the bag in for.
'According to the taste experts, that's way too short.
'They say three minutes is about the right time
'to give a decent flavour.'
But what about those things that Tim said
made tea such an amazing drink - those antioxidants.
How does brewing time affect them?
Which of us is getting the best from our cuppa?
To find out, Tim and the WI are going to carry out an experiment.
They've made five different batches of tea -
brewed from 30 seconds, all the way up to seven minutes.
We're going to find out which one
contains the highest level of antioxidants.
Before we test them, can the people of Manchester
tell which cuppa is best for them?
I'd go for the five minutes.
Why do you think that's healthier than the others?
I think you are getting the best out of the bag for that time.
-What about seven minutes?
It's starting to get a bit ropey.
Which do you think is the healthiest cup of tea?
I'd say the three minutes.
-Quite a mixed bunch.
No-one is certain whether a quick dunk
or a leisurely soak produces the healthiest brew.
Time to put our tea samples to the test.
What we are going to do now is add these two special liquids,
which will reveal which is the healthiest brew.
Tim's looking for a special kind of antioxidant known as flavonoids.
Oh! Something's happening!
It is. we are getting the beginning...
of a reaction.
So flavonoids are the antioxidants
found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, red onions, apples and black tea.
Importantly, tea is the number-one source of flavonoid antioxidants
in the British diet.
Scientists believe it's flavonoids, like those found in tea,
that may help cut our chances of having heart attacks, strokes,
or even developing cancer.
They work by finding and neutralising chemicals in the blood
that can damage our body's cells.
So they are really, really important?
Absolutely. it is important, therefore, to get brewing time right.
In our experiment, the stronger the blue colour,
the higher antioxidant levels and, it follows, the healthier the brew.
And the results?
What we're finding here is, as you'll see,
the colour intensifies as we go from thirty seconds to the one minute,
to three minutes, to the five and seven minutes.
When I look at the thirty seconds brewing time,
versus the seven minutes, there's a huge difference.
It's massive and this is showing us how the antioxidants
are being released from the tea and going out into the brew.
In fact, the seven-minute brew has three times the antioxidants
as the thirty-seconds brew time.
Three times the benefit!
But only if we're prepared to leave the bag in for seven minutes.
Who's going to wait that long?!
Especially for a cuppa that tastes stewed?
Surely there's a better way to get a healthy cup of tea
that doesn't smell like old socks.
Tim has some refreshing news.
If we take the brewing time up to three minutes
from the forty-second average consumer brew,
-you're actually doubling your antioxidants.
So seven minutes doesn't have to be a rule.
You get a really healthy cuppa at three minutes.
Absolutely. And at the end of it,
give your bag a little squeeze
to get the last few antioxidants into the cup.
OK, ladies! So, three minutes for brewing time, what do you think?
Three minutes, perhaps a bit longer now.
What about you, ladies?
-Yes. You've changed? Good compromise?
-I think so.
A three-minute cuppa not only tastes good
but does us good. And any longer is even better.
And the best news is
that adding milk and sugar doesn't do anything
to alter the benefits of those clever chemicals called flavonoids.
There's more to the humble cuppa than I realised!
It's amazing to think that such a small change
can make such a significant impact on our health.
So next time we make a cup of tea,
all we need to do is leave that bag in a little bit longer.
And it could reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and strokes.
All in a cup of tea!
From the food we consume most often,
to the store-cupboard staples we all rely on.
Which are the tins most likely to be found in the nation's kitchens?
In the number-two spot is something we reach for
when there's home cooking to be done.
The thing we love to cook most...
is shepherd's pie, followed closely by spaghetti bolognese,
chilli con carne and lasagne. Big enough?
None of which would taste the same without this.
It's the tinned tomato -
the foundation of a good spaghetti bolognese.
We manage to get through more than 400 million tins of them a year.
And tinned tomatoes contain something called lycopene
that could play an important role in reducing the risks of cancer.
All this we get from the tomato.
But it's not our favourite tinned food.
The tin we turn to most often is full of beans.
We eat 451 million tins of Baked Beans a year.
That's the same as 14 tins being opened every second,
which all adds up to a whopping 187,000 tonnes
of those little orange beauties.
I love beans on toast, especially with a little bit of cheese.
It's cheap and it's easy.
But is that really the best we can say for the humble bean?
When you think of baked beans what comes to mind?
Ah, yes, students!
A recent survey found that students in Nottingham
spend more money on beans than anyone else in the UK.
-What do you think when you look at that?
-I just want to eat it.
Perfect hangover food.
I like them on toast with a bit of marmite.
A bean sandwich is quite nice.
Grated cheese on top.
Ooh, a special occasion when there's cheese!
-Are we able to eat these?
-No, hands off! These have work to do.
These are busy beans! I'll see you later.
Let's face it - beans are a bit boring.
They're the food we turn to when we can't be bothered to cook.
But could the nation's favourite tin
be packing more of a punch than we realise?
Dietician Sian Porter is something of a baked-bean boffin.
She's going to put the bean through its paces.
Helping us are chemistry students Tom and Emma.
Instead of wolfing down the beans, we're going to hunt down
the source of their powers.
Are you a fan of beans?
I am a great fan of beans.
Low in fat, high in fibre, packed with protein.
They are totally underestimated.
We're going to strip the baked bean down to its vital components -
poor little thing -
starting with the fibre, contained in its tough little shell.
Looks very weird.
Yes, and it's this outside shell that has insoluble fibre
and that's the fibre which passes through us
and helps keep us regular, keeps our digestive system healthy.
And we have a bean that has been cut in half,
-so we can actually see what is going on inside.
It's here that you get the other kind of fibre, the soluble fibre,
and that's the fibre which helps control your blood sugar levels.
So which part of the bean makes you fart?
Right, well, some of the fibre in the bean
will pass through your body undigested
until it gets to your large bowel, your colon,
and then bacteria digest that part of the fibre
and as a result of that it produces gas.
It's something that we all laugh about.
-It's being a human being.
-Oh, don't start!
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'll stop that now.
The secret to the bean's power has nothing to do with its ability to embarrass us.
To show me this, Emma first has to turn them a lovely shade of blue.
Thank you, Emma. Wow, blue beans. Mmm. Yum(!)
Why have we got blue beans? What's going on?
The area stained really blue, that's the protein in the bean.
You can see it's really packed in there.
Protein's the building blocks of our body.
It's important for growth, development,
maintaining and regulating our bodies.
So it has loads of important functions.
So beans pack a really powerful protein punch?
But just how big a punch?
Can beans give us the protein we need?
To find out, we're going to pit the humble bean...
..against some protein-stacked competition.
A sirloin steak.
Mmm. Thanks very much.
This doesn't really look like a massively fair fight, Sian?
No. I can see where you're coming from.
If you look at the steak on the plate.
That is a lump of protein
and it's like the protein we're made up of, really.
When it comes to protein,
it's not just the amount that counts.
What the body gets from protein is a range of vital amino acids,
something we can't live without.
Can beans supply these?
Let me show you this. Here we've got the eight essential amino acids
-that we need to have in our diet.
-How does that compare to the beans?
Again, along the bottom we've got the eight essential amino acids,
but if you notice here methionine.
It's pretty low in the beans.
The beans are very low in one essential amino acid.
Methionine. So it looks like the steak is a better bet.
So you can't get everything we need from baked beans?
Well, there's a twist.
Tom and Emma, how do you usually have your beans?
I like mine on toast.
On toast usually, but sometimes out of the tin.
Let's not tell his mother.
The interesting thing about that is if you take half a large tin of beans
with two slices of medium-sliced wholemeal toast.
If you combine the two, the great news is
they complement each other so you get the whole range.
Is that just a coincidence that's how most of us eat it?
That is, and as one of our meals a day,
beans on toast is giving you a pretty good package.
And it turns out it's not just students who love their beans on toast.
Scientists from the British Nutrition Association
say this dish is one of the easiest ways to get
the protein we need from a meal.
And for maximum benefit, choose the low salt and low sugar variety.
I've bean eating beans on toast
since I could hold a knife and a fork,
so it's really nice to know that not only is it delicious,
pretty budget-friendly, but that it's also packed full of protein.
So none of us need feel ashamed at cracking open a tin for our supper.
And whilst I really love steak,
I'm going to keep it for special, I think.
Still to come:
I get to watch a bunch of rugby players work out.
All in the name of science...
as we put milk's unexpected powers to the test.
Come on, give it some. One more.
Is there something lurking in chocolate that makes it addictive?
So far as to say I have it every morning for breakfast.
Every single morning?
And is there anything surprising in a bag of crisps?
Find out as we crunch one family's annual crisp consumption.
-That's a lot, isn't it?
There are some foods amongst our supermarket favourites
that have a special place in the British diet.
Chicken is the meat we spend most money on.
And these girls also supply us
with the vital component of the great British breakfast - the egg!
And I'm in the south of England, where they buy more eggs
than anywhere else, to meet some real "egg-sperts".
Some of us really love our eggs,
but the people here are obsessed with them.
They're incredibly passionate.
Meet the poultry showers of Great Britain gathered here
at the Royal County of Berkshire Agriculture Show.
No-one knows their eggs quite like these guys.
You want a nice-shaped egg.
You don't want a little narrow egg.
It's got to be nice and round and a good round top.
It's got to have plenty of flavour,
enough to satisfy you and be useful for everything.
On average we each eat three to four eggs a week.
That stacks up to 11 billion of them a year.
Which sounds colossal!
But even though we clearly love our eggs,
we actually have one of the lowest consumptions in the world.
Why is that? What's holding us back from eating more eggs?
-Do you like eating eggs?
-Not every day, no.
How many eggs do you eat a week?
-I should think I eat about half a dozen.
-Only four or five.
When you get to my age,
you have to think a little bit about your health.
What are you worried about?
Cholesterol levels and all that.
I know there is a cholesterol issue.
Our egg fanciers think we ought to limit the eggs we eat
because of the cholesterol they contain.
Are they right?
We know that eggs contain protein, about 14 percent in total.
They're also packed with vitamins A, D and B12.
But it's true that eggs do have a lot of cholesterol.
Around 50 milligrams in every yolk.
And a high level of cholesterol in our blood is bad news.
It can lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.
I have to say, I'm a bit confused about eggs.
Should we be limiting the amount we eat?
So, to find out I am going to put them to the test.
For the next two weeks, I'm going on a very eggy diet.
I'll be eating our average weekly consumption of eggs every day.
That's four eggs a day for two weeks.
A giant 56 in total.
And we're going to see what effect this has on my cholesterol levels.
Dietician Sian is back to monitor my diet.
If my cholesterol does go up, it can only be down to the eggs.
So, Sian, what are we actually looking to measure?
We know eggs do contain cholesterol
and the reason most people give for not eating too many eggs
is they are worried about cholesterol.
We are going see if the cholesterol in the food you eat
has an effect on the cholesterol in your body.
It's time to get cracking.
# How do you like your eggs in the morning?
# I like mine with a kiss... #
Day one of the egg challenge,
and I'm starting with something quite simple, egg omelette.
Little bit burnt.
Got my eggs, got my coffee, what more does a girl need?
I'm really starting to be quite sick of the eggs now.
Day nine of the egg diet and I woke up this morning
and the first thing I did
was make myself a bacon and asparagus flan-quiche thing.
It's got all of my four eggs in it.
I don't think souffles are supposed to be runny.
-Do you want some?
That is the last day of the egg challenge,
so I'm going to go to bed now
and I am not going to have another egg for a really long time.
Probably going to dream about eggs tonight,
but I've done it.
You say bye-bye.
Today I find out the results of my cholesterol tests.
Dietician Sian will tell me
what effect a diet of four eggs a day
for two weeks has had on my cholesterol levels.
When we looked at your cholesterol what we were particularly looking at
was two different types of cholesterol.
Good cholesterol, that's the stuff
that takes excess cholesterol out of your body.
That's why, like it's name, we say it's the good guy.
Cholesterol is a really important chemical.
Without it our bodies just wouldn't work.
It helps make cells and hormones.
We have good cholesterol called HDL and bad cholesterol called LDL.
The good stuff scavenges around in our blood
removing any build up of bad cholesterol.
Before I began my egg diet, I took a blood test.
My starting level of good cholesterol or HDL
was 1.23 millimoles per litre.
-And that is a healthy normal result.
But it's when our levels of bad cholesterol or LDL go up
that health problems can occur.
My starting level for the bad stuff was 2.5 millimoles per litre.
This is a normal, healthy level.
The big question is did all of those eggs
actually affect my bad cholesterol levels?
You've had a small increase,
but your result is still a normal, healthy result.
Surprisingly, after eating seven times the average daily intake of eggs for two weeks,
my bad LDL cholesterol levels have only risen by eight percent,
well within a normal daily fluctuation.
And my good HDL cholesterol levels,
well, they've stayed exactly the same.
So eating all of those eggs has not had a negative effect on my health.
-On you. No.
What's going on?
It turns out that the level of cholesterol in our blood
is not solely down to the amount of cholesterol in our food.
It's also about fat.
The thing that we should be concerned about
when it comes to cholesterol in diet is saturated fat.
Cholesterol on its own isn't the villain.
The biggest influence on blood cholesterol levels
is the mix of fats in our diet.
The fat we want to avoid is the saturated stuff
we find in fatty meat and full-fat dairy products.
Saturated fats slow down the body's ability to process LDL
leading to a rise in levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
So do eggs have a lot of saturated fat in them?
Eggs don't have a lot of saturated fat in, they have a small amount,
but most of the fat in eggs is unsaturated or good fat.
So is there any limit to the amount of eggs we should eat?
No, we can safely eat and enjoy eggs.
Our results reflect a wider study
carried out by scientists at Surrey University.
Thanks to those findings,
the British Heart Foundation now agrees
there's no need for a limit on the amount of eggs we eat
provided we eat them as part of a balanced diet...
..and cook them in a healthy way that's low in saturated fat.
Next, I'm heading to the southwest to investigate the food
that stands out for the sheer number of times
it appears in our shopping lists.
According to surveys, it's the favourite food we buy most frequently.
It's in two out of three of our shopping baskets.
It's that vital something we always need in the fridge.
We get through five billion litres of the stuff every year.
That's 207 litres per household.
Enough to fill more than seven million milk floats.
The southwest tops the league for milk fans.
They get through more here than anywhere else in the country.
So I've come to Newquay in Cornwall
to find out what's so marvellous about milk.
Can I interest you in a glass of milk?
-Do you like milk?
I used to go and pick up a carton of milk and walk around with it,
but it's all about other drinks now.
I think fruit juice tends to be more popular now.
-Should more people drink milk?
-Yes, they'll be healthier.
Milk is an unsung hero, no-one really talks about it, but it's always there.
It seems our love affair with milk could be on shaky ground.
It feels like we are kind of taking it for granted a little bit.
What I want to know is, are we underestimating milk?
Most of us know milk contains calcium
and that it also has protein.
I'm keen to discover what else is in milk that might surprise us.
How you doing?
I'm very well you? Off we go.
The South West doesn't just use the most milk,
it produces a lot of it too.
The warm wet climate creates the perfect grass
for three quarters of a million cows.
Where better to start my investigation
than right in the middle of them?
# You're going to find me Out in the country. #
Sports Scientist Lewis James is here to reveal what's in
a single glass of the white stuff.
-What's going on here? Are we having a picnic?
-We're not, Cherry.
I want to show you the goodness that's contained in milk.
How many bananas you need to eat to get the same amount of calcium
as contained in a glass of milk?
OK. I think that's quite easy. I'm going to go with two.
-I reckon that's a good guess.
-You're way off!
You actually need 41 bananas to get the same amount of calcium
that was contained in a glass of milk.
-What?! That's insane!
-It's a lot of bananas.
To match all the individual vitamins and minerals in a single glass
we'd need to eat around 89 tomatoes, 2 pineapples and 9 mushrooms.
You can't have one, no, they're not for you.
Milk is just crammed with vitamins A, B and C.
It also contains Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium,
fluoride and, of course, calcium.
Then, there's the protein fat and carbohydrate.
Milk doesn't shout about it but its got an impressive CV.
It is a very efficient drink.
I have a new found respect for milk I think.
But Lewis is only warming up
when it comes to revealing the marvels of milk.
He's going to use a clever experiment
to show how the combination of nutrients in milk
has some unexpected benefits for our bodies.
To do that he needs some muscle.
We're going to see just how effective these benefits can be.
Meet the Newquay Hornets. Rugby players and surfers one and all.
They don't look like milk fans to me.
-Would you ever have a glass of milk?
It doesn't quench my thirst.
There's so much choice out there.
There's fizzy drinks, rehydration drinks.
Milk just sort of gets left on the shelf.
'Poor old milk.
'It gets overlooked in favour of the new sports drinks.
'They're popular with this team who use them
'to rehydrate during and after training.
'But Lewis is going to show why they should switch to milk.'
Keeping a nice straight back, you are going to explode up
and then just cushion your landing back down.
That's one rep.
Step one. We're going to get them completely exhausted.
Our experiment tests whether milk can help
our muscles recover from a serious bout of exercise.
These jumps are intended to put a heavy load on the lad's upper legs.
We're deliberately trying to give them sore muscles.
That won't be sore after another nine times!
Starting to look a bit ropey, lads. Come on. Give it some.
Come in and join on the end if you want!
-I'm probably a lot stronger than you to be fair.
It's going to be embarrassing for you and not me.
And after ten minutes the lads are completely worn out.
I'm not feeling so great either.
That's good work, lads.
It's really, really sore, right at the top of the thighs
and really deep in the muscle.
Good work, boys!
It's at this point that the boys normally reach for a sports drink
to help their bodies recover.
But Lewis has research from Northumbria University
to show that milk might be able to do this faster.
What can science tell us about milk?
From some of the studies that are being done
we're discovering that there are certain nutrients in milk
that might help our muscles recover somewhat better
after exercise than the nutrients that are in a sports drink.
We want to put this evidence to the test.
With their strenuous workout over,
the players in the black T-shirts will drink the milk.
The others will rely on their regular sports drink.
Have you ever considered milk after exercise?
A glass of milk isn't the first thing I'd go for.
It would be a sports drink or water.
The effect of exercise on our muscles carries on
for up to 48 hours.
So for the next two days,
the lads will keep a record of how painful their muscles feel.
And Lewis will use blood tests to measure how fast
their muscles recover.
We are looking at creatine kinase and myoglobin
and under stress, those proteins are leaked out into the blood
and we'd expect the guys that have the lower levels
of those two proteins in their blood
may have recovered better after exercise.
When we exercise strenuously the various proteins
in our muscles breakdown and we need to rebuild them.
But which of the two drinks will do a better job?
Old-fashioned milk or the new-fangled sports drink?
A week later and the Newquay Hornets are back to find out the results.
Whose muscles recovered best? The scores are in.
Can I ask the guys who have paddles numbered one to six
to take a step forwards please.
Ooh, something's going on.
OK, so all of the boys who have stepped forward have black T-shirts on.
What does that signify, Cherry?
-Are they the ones that drank the milk?
-Yes, they are.
The lads who drank milk after the exercise reported, on average,
only half the level of muscle soreness of those who drank
the sports drink for recovery.
And Lewis's blood tests give an accurate picture of how fast
the players' muscles have recovered.
When we looked at the protein markers of muscle damage,
we saw that levels of creatine kinase in the blood
were 50% lower in the milk drinkers which indicates
that the milk drinkers muscles have recovered better.
I hoped milk would do better than a sports drink,
but I didn't know it would do that much better.
Nice one milk! But why has it beaten the sports drink
in terms of recovery?
Most sports drinks don't contain protein and whilst they do contain carbohydrate
which helps some aspects of recovery, without the protein
which is contained in milk,
the repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue can't take place.
That's the secret to milk's success.
The carbohydrate helps reduce the breakdown of muscle tissue
while proteins repair the muscle damage that does takes place.
It's this combination that makes milk such a powerful aid
to recovery after exercise.
Boys, what do you think of that result? Are you surprised that it's done so much better?
I thought it would just be marginal but I am very surprised.
I'd definitely use milk after I have been training now.
So it looks like we've convinced our team.
Better still, you don't just have to play rugby to get the benefit.
Milk can decrease muscle soreness
and improve muscle recovery after any sport or strenuous exercise.
So if I worked a bit harder in the gym than I currently do,
I could actually feel those effects, too?
Potentially, Cherry. Even YOU could feel the effects!
-Are you saying, "Stop being lazy"?
-Maybe work a bit harder in the gym.
OK, I will, yes, boss!
And apparently, the milk we drink doesn't have to be full fat.
Both semi-skimmed and skimmed contain just as much protein
Those results are absolutely fantastic.
I'm a massive milk fan and I love that the thing
I just plonk in my fridge every week has such powerful properties.
So the next time that we play footie with the kids
or we do a workout or we just have a really exhausting day,
milk can really help our bodies recover.
We've looked at what we buy the most, and what we consume the most.
But what about the supermarket foods we really look forward to?
The treats in our lives.
In fact, ten percent of what we spend on food goes on sweets.
That's bonkers! That is seven billion pounds a year.
And most of that money goes on just one type of sugary treat.
It's the favourite food many of us believe we just can't live without.
And it is this, I'm talking about... Chocolate.
We spent around £3.7 billion pounds on chocolate last year.
Scotland and the north east of England are neck and neck
for being top chocolate chompers.
And I'm in Glasgow to see why chocolate seems to have us all in its grip.
It makes me feel amazing, it makes my day.
-It's my little treat, thank you so much.
You couldn't not have it.
-You don't know what flavour it is.
-I don't care.
-I don't tend to eat a lot just when I do I binge.
-You can't stop?
-Cheer you up?
-Always does. Is there something in there?!
A life without chocolate is a life not worth living.
In a recent poll, chocolate rated as one of our top three
modern addictions - along with coffee and Facebook.
But can you really be addicted to chocolate?
We know it contains cocoa, milk, caffeine, sugar and vegetable fat.
Can any of these produce a physical addiction to chocolate
or is there a mystery ingredient?
First, I'm meeting three self confessed chocoholics,
Christie, Lizi and Sarah,
to find out how chocolate affects them.
And what better way to get down to business than
with a great big bowl of the stuff.
How much do you love chocolate? How deep does your love go?
So far as to say I have it every morning for breakfast.
-Every single morning?
-It's a good start to the day.
You can put it in anything. I do it in chilli con carne.
Chocolate and chilli con carne is the best meal you'll ever have.
Christie, what about you? How far does your love for chocolate go?
Yes, it's quite a supporting factor in my life.
On a stressful day, you come home, before you go out,
you have your dose of chocolate to send you on your way again.
-So do you think you are actually addicted to chocolate?
-I'm not ashamed to say it, yeah.
In that exact moment, it's one thing that you can do
to make you feel a bit better.
Do you think there is something in chocolate
that makes it really addictive?
Definitely. There must be something in it.
I am going to go and try and find out and come back
-and tell you what I have found.
I'd be keen to know finally.
The girls and I, and millions like us, are convinced
there's some secret ingredient in chocolate that has us in its power.
So are we right? To answer this, I've come to Oxford.
I want to see what effect chocolate is having on our brains.
Neuroscientist and fellow chocoholic Dr Ciara McCabe is going to help me.
-How are you?
-Nice to meet you!
-I am ready for my chocolate fest.
-That's good, come on in.
-Lets do it.
Ciara will use the latest neuroscience
to test if I really am addicted to chocolate.
I'm going to be put into an FRMI scanner -
a machine that measures changes in my brain.
-Have you had a scan before?
This experiment will detect how my brain reacts to chocolate
in two very different ways.
First, Ciara shows me pictures of chocolate.
And then, this is better still, she feeds me chocolate through a tube.
-OK. Does that feel good?
-Yeah, good, thanks.
Ciara will compare my results with wider studies
that have highlighted parts of the brain associated with addiction.
After half an hour, my scan is complete.
-Feel dizzy or are you OK?
-No, it's good. It's good.
The experiment is really weird as it's such a subtle experiment.
The difference between seeing the chocolate and drinking the chocolate.
I'd be interested to see how that compares to my brain activity,
whether it is the same thing or not.
Ciara is going to analyse the data
and come to Glasgow to unpack the results
for me and my fellow chocoholics Christie, Lizi and Sarah.
A week later and we're all reassembled.
First of all, if you look at this picture...
I DO have a brain! Brilliant!
This is a picture of your brain being activated
when you've had the taste of chocolate in your mouth.
We know that this part of the brain is activated
by very rewarding stimuli such as alcohol and nicotine,
which are addictive.
It seems chocolate does affect the same parts of my brain
as those substances that can cause addiction,
such as alcohol or nicotine.
So, does that mean that I'm addicted to chocolate?
Well, not exactly.
Ciara has a surprise for me. Take a look at scan number two.
This time, you've only just seen pictures of chocolate,
so you haven't actually had anything in your mouth.
-Yet, the same part of the brain's activated.
-If I understand this right,
the fact that my brain lights up
when I'm only thinking about chocolate
means that there isn't an ingredient in chocolate that's making me addicted?
Yes, that's right. Research suggests
that actually, although there are chemicals in chocolate,
these aren't in enough of a quantity
to actually affect your brain or your behaviour.
Scientists know that chocolate contains mild stimulants
such as caffeine and theobromine.
It also contains compounds that could spark the pleasure centres in our brains.
But there aren't enough of these substances to cause chemical addiction.
It turns out chocolate contains lower levels of these substances
than foods like walnuts and cheese.
And few of us would claim to be addicted to them.
Girls, what do you think? Are you surprised?
I am surprised, but I suppose it is interesting to know that it is just in your head.
I thought there had to be something.
Like, my cravings every single day - I have to have a bit.
So, I really thought there must be some sort of addictive substance.
So, why do me and the girls think... Well, we're convinced that we are addicted to chocolate?
I think maybe that could be the power of advertising,
to be quite honest.
You've started to associate pictures and sights,
even smells of chocolate,
with actually experiencing the chocolate itself.
The sensation of eating chocolate feels so good
for a scientific reason.
The cocoa butter and vegetable fats it contains
melt at close to body temperature,
creating that lovely melt-in-the-mouth feeling.
It also contains ingredients
like sugar and fat that make us feel good.
Research suggests that many of us have learned to associate these feelings
with just the thought of chocolate - hence our cravings.
But Ciara is looking at how we can overcome these.
These parts of the brain that are activated by the sight of chocolate
can be dampened down, if you engage another part of your brain -
a part of the brain called the cognitive control network.
This is the thinking part of your brain,
talking to yourself and saying, "What's wrong with a banana?
"I can try. If I'm hungry, I'll eat something else".
So, in a way, it's like reprogramming my brain to transfer
that focus onto something else, like a food that might be healthier.
Absolutely. Just not taking for granted
that just because you feel that you want it, that you have to have it.
Chocolate, it seems, has some powerful properties.
But being chemically addictive is not one of them.
So, it turns out I'm not actually addicted to chocolate,
I just really, really love it
and it is quite nice to know that when I need to,
I CAN overcome that intense craving.
So, the next time we feel compelled to grab a bar of chocolate -
remember, we do have the brain power to say no.
It's just that most of the time, we don't want to.
My final test has brought me all the way to the east of England.
Because when it comes to treats,
chocolate isn't our only craving.
We also have a love affair with salty snacks.
84 per cent of us eat them, according to surveys.
And our number one choice is potato crisps.
They're my favourite snack, I think.
They're so crispy, obviously
and they're tangy and incredibly more-ish.
No wonder we can't get enough of them.
In Britain, we munch over five billion packets of crisps a year.
Between us, we eat around 10,000 bags,
every minute of the day.
And here in Norwich,
they seem to love their crisps even more than most.
The east of England tops the chart
when it comes to their appreciation of their salty snack.
So, it's the ideal place to find out the secrets of the snack
we all love to eat.
-This one's a fuss pot.
-How often do you eat crisps?
-Once a week.
-Yeah, quite often.
-Shouldn't admit to it.
Do you ever feel guilty about eating crisps?
No, should I?
-Do you ever worry about what's in them?
-There's a lot of flavouring, obviously.
-Some of them are really coloured.
Full of fat and calories and you just don't want them.
-But they taste really good.
You give that back! I'm very strong.
Crisps, it seems, are one of those foods we eat loads of,
even though many of us feel we shouldn't.
What I'm interested to find out is,
are there any surprises lurking in a packet of crisps?
Meet the Smiths. Probably Norwich's biggest crisp fans.
Nick is a barber,
Lisa's a nurse
and they have two children - Harry
As a family, they're a pretty fit bunch.
But they can't get enough of those crisps -
over 18 packets a week.
Can I offer you a crisp? I feel like I'm at a drinks party. Crisp? Crisp?
Little crisp? Why do you think they're so delicious?
They melt in your mouth.
I'm plain crisp boy and they just fill a quick gap.
The best bit's when they get stuck in your teeth - save a bit for later.
-That is disgusting.
-That's the best bit.
-I know what you mean.
The Smiths eat healthily enough.
So, does it matter if they munch a lot of crisps?
Dietician Sian is back to help us look at this devotion in detail.
We've crunched the crisp numbers and we're going to show the Smiths
just what they're getting through every year.
And we're talking barrow loads.
Oh, yes, I'm afraid so.
It's eight wheelbarrows in total.
-Please tell me that's it.
-Oh, my goodness!
-So, you're eating 950 bags of crisps per year.
-That's a lot, isn't it?
It's three times the national average, so yes, Chloe, it's a lot.
-How do you guys feel about seeing it all there?
-Is it a lot more than you thought it would be?
A hundred times.
With Sian's help, we've worked out that with all these crisps, the Smith's are eating
an incredible ten litres of oil and half a kilo of salt.
And most of us know that fat and salt
are two things we should be cutting back on.
So, is there anything good to be said for crisps?
Sian is going to help us put them to the test
up against some other popular foods.
Here, we've got a ready meal, some sushi, some soup and some bread.
We want to see how the amount of salt in crisps
measures up to the levels in other foods.
Can the Smiths work out how many packets of crisps they'd have to eat
to get the same amount of salt contained in each food?
So, you think the most salty food here is the ready meal?
Yes. I know there's an awful lot of salt in ready meals.
-And sushi, the least salty?
-Yeah. I don't think there's an awful lot of salt in fish.
More than half of us eat too much salt.
It can cause high blood pressure and heart disease.
And you think the soup is the second highest?
I do, yeah. I know that soup's got quite a bit of salt in it.
The problem is there's still a lot of confusion about how much salt is in our food.
I've never known bread to have much salt.
The family all think the sushi and the bread contain the least salt...
..while the ready meal is the saltiest offender.
But Sian has a surprise for them.
Each of these foods contains exactly the same amount of salt
as five bags of crisps.
-What are you most shocked by?
Because everyone always says sushi is one of the better things to go for.
How come it's got five packets of crisps worth of salt in it?
-The main reason for it is this - soy sauce.
-Soy sauce is really high in salt.
-And the bread -
-are you guys surprised about the bread?
-I'm really surprised at the bread.
Just six slices of bread,
something many of us would eat without a second thought,
contain as much salt as five bags of crisps.
So, although crisps may contain a lot of salt,
they're not the worst offenders in our diets.
The massive 950 packets the Smiths eat a year
is still only equivalent to six per cent
of their recommended daily salt intake.
Perhaps there IS some upside for crisps?
I think, when you eat crisps, they taste salty
and that's because the salt is on the outside of the crisp.
So, you eat it, it hits your taste buds.
You have taste buds for salt.
Whereas, if it's mixed in with food, you're not going to taste it all.
You'll taste some in your mouth,
but the rest will just skip over your taste buds and go into your digestive system.
-So, watch out for the sneaky salt.
-Yeah, for the hidden salt.
So, our favourite salty snack is honest about being, well, salty.
But Sian has one more surprise to reveal about crisps.
She's been rummaging around the family's kitchen
and it turns out that the Smiths aren't all about crisps.
Sian, this is quite a random group of foods.
But they all contain something that has the opposite effect of salt
and that something is potassium.
Potassium helps with fluid balance in our bodies
and it helps keep our blood pressure healthy.
Research suggests that a diet rich in potassium
can have the opposite effect of salt, by helping
to reduce our blood pressure, enhance the health of our arteries
and hearts and improve kidney function.
Bananas and broccoli are a particularly good source.
But there's one other unexpected place where potassium can be found.
I do have to say in defence of crisps
because of the potatoes, they also contain potassium.
Crisps contain a surprising amount of potassium.
Weight for weight, more than double what you'd find in bananas.
In fact, an average packet of crisps contains 10 per cent
of our recommended daily intake of potassium.
With all that fat and salt, crisps will never be good for us.
But perhaps they're not all bad.
So, is there something to be said for the crisp?
They do contain potassium and as long as you're not having too many,
-they can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
-Oh, that must be music to your ears.
Are you still going to be eating the 950 packets of crisps a year?
Or a bit more potassium in your diet?
A bit more potassium in our diet, I think.
So, it's a little bit of positive news for the potato crisp.
It does contain at least one thing that's good for us.
But for me, the shock was the amount of salt in our diet.
That was such an eye-opener.
I had no idea there was quite so much salt hidden in our food.
In a way, crisps are quite an honest snack -
you really know what you're getting.
And as for all those crisps -
it's OK to have the occasional packet, but perhaps not this much.
Don't worry, we didn't leave them behind.
I set out to find the secret powers hidden in our favourite foods.
And with your help, I've discovered that our supermarket staples
can do things for us we'd never imagine!
I love that a plain old glass of milk
can help our tired muscles recover.
And boring old beans on toast
actually rivals a sirloin steak for protein.
It's good to learn that brewing our tea for a little bit longer can really benefit our health.
And I'm particularly surprised to find out
that it's not possible to be chemically addicted to chocolate.
This is the stuff we take for granted.
So, it's great to know that our favourite foods
can still surprise us.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
We're used to hearing the bad news about our food. What's the good news? Cherry Healey puts some favourite supermarket staples to the test and uncovers the surprising secrets and unexpected powers of the food that people take for granted. With the help of members of the public from around the country, plus a team of experts, she investigates how milk can help muscles recover from exercise; what effect the way tea is brewed has on its health benefits; why there is more to baked beans than meets the eye; and whether it's really possible to be addicted to chocolate.