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Health & wellbeing

Nowadays we are advised to take vitamin supplements and eat “five a day” to stay healthy. But what was it like when we were growing up?

Maureen Kershaw shares her memories of healthy eating and vitamins.



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February 2021

I still shudder when I remember the words "Eat your tripe Maureen, it'll do you good!" but tripe was a cheap meal back in the 1950s. With vitamins B3 and 12, tripe provided iron and nutrients, sometimes lacking in many people's diets. In the 1950s and 1960s meals were often simple yet wholesome. Breakfast cereals boasted how many vitamins they contained, but did have a higher sugar content. Children though were more interested in the free toy hidden in the packet, encouraging us to buy that brand. Milk (always full cream), eggs, cheese, bread and butter all provided a good source of calcium, with much of the bread's goodness found in the crust.

I would be told to "Eat your crusts, they'll make your hair curly"! Marmite spread on bread was loved or hated back then too, preference being given to Sunny Spread honey, jam or even chocolate spread. A milky bedtime drink, such as Ovaltine was comforting, providing extra vitamins. Do you remember the song "We are the Ovaltineys, little girls and boys"?

Primary Schools handed out a daily spoonful of cod liver oil. I've yet to come across anyone enjoying the experience. If lucky, it could be washed down with Welfare' orange juice. If mixed with malt it became more palatable. I loved my daily dose of Virol - delicious! Scott's Emulsion, Minadex supplement or Haliborange tablets were taken by many children to boost their immunity.

I have to say I can see pretty well in the dark, but thanks to wearing glasses rather than a lifetime's abundance of carrots
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Visits to the local butcher would see the purchase of various red meats or rabbit, providing the base of tasty stews, or we could enjoy chops and liver. Red meat provided us with the B vitamins again but also a small amount of D. I only remember eating poultry at Christmas or on special occasions. Fish, particularly oily varieties, gave us essential nutrients and vitamins A and D, but however tastily served at home, no-one could resist fish and chips eaten out of newspaper. Considered a cheap meal in those days, but how times have changed!

Plainly cooked vegetables accompanied meats or fish but without today's selection. The humble potato was around all year, as were carrots, with the old saying passed down the generations to "Eat your carrots, they'll make you see in the dark"! Onions, swede and turnips would be added to hearty stews or soups, the root vegetables giving hungry bodies warmth and goodness. Cauliflower, cabbage and seasonal garden peas provided extra Vitamin C and iron. Spinach too was apparently encouraged with children being told "It'll make you stronger and run faster". I have to say the nearest I came to spinach was watching Popeye the Sailorman on TV. The “love-it or loathe-it” Brussels Sprout would be seen just a short time before Christmas. Their flavour and texture always benefiting from the crisp Autumnal frost.

Salad, available only in Summer months, was enjoyed as much as availability allowed. How many of us grumble at there being no flavour in salad, as there used to be? We are spoilt for choice with tomatoes, although it's often said that none could beat the flavour of the 'Blackpool' ones! Today's readily available lettuce is the 'Iceberg' and arguably bland, but what happened to the sadly missed crisp 'New York' variety? A salad meal consisting of lettuce, cucumber and tomato alongside a slice of, say, boiled ham, would be accompanied by salad cream but certainly no oil dressing!

Fruits eaten in the 1950s and 60s were seasonal. I recall awaiting the arrival of strawberries each Summer. Who would have thought in years to come that we could eat strawberries all year round? Apples, bilberries and rhubarb would be served as pies or crumbles, but our treat would be tinned Bartlett pears and Plumrose cream. I remember eating fruit yogurt when it launched in the UK in 1965, feeling very healthy reading the list of nutritional content.

I have to say I can see pretty well in the dark, but thanks to wearing glasses rather than a lifetime's abundance of carrots being eaten! My hair remains straight despite eating my crusts and as for tripe.... no thanks!


Vitamin d and you

Every month the Health Improvement Team at Leeds City Council provide some helpful information about how older people can keep well. This month they focus on Vitamin D. Andrew Vaux explains why taking Vitamin D supplements are recommended for older people and what they can do for you.

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
A lack of Vitamin D can lead to a bone deformity illness called Rickets in children, and bone pain and muscle weakness in adults, which may also increase the risk of falls in older people. There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19). But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking Vitamin D to prevent or treat Coronavirus.

During colder months you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough to help the body to make its own Vitamin D.

Since it's difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D during the Autumn and Winter. This year, the advice is more important than ever. Many of us have been indoors more than usual this spring and summer, and some people have been shielding.
The Government is offering free vitamin D supplements to more than 2.5 million vulnerable people across England this winter.

All care homes will automatically receive a provision for their residents, while individuals on the clinically extremely vulnerable list will be invited to opt in for a supply to be delivered to their homes. Deliveries will be free of charge and will provide 4 months’ worth of supplements to assist people through the winter months. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D during Autumn and Winter.

Some people are more at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. They should take extra care with their diet and taking supplements.

Some people are more at risk of not having enough vitamin D even in spring and summer, including those with dark skin (such as people with an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background), those who aren’t outdoors often, those in care homes, and those who cover up most of the skin when outdoors. They are advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement all year round.

Make sure you read and comply with the instructions on the product label.

Each ‘1-A-Day’ vitamin D supplement should contain 10 micrograms (μg) of vitamin D. This is the daily amount recommended for the general population by government for general health and in particular to protect bone and muscle health.


If your GP has recommended that you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow your GP’s advice. Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in any doubt, you should always consult your doctor. Do not exceed the recommended dose (1 supplement per day containing 10 micrograms (μg) equivalent to 400 international units). This is a safe level of intake, designed to meet your nutritional needs. Taking more is not currently recommended.


While some medications may interact with high doses of vitamin D, there are no issues associated with the 10 microgram vitamin D supplement. They are intended to supplement the diet and should not be substituted for a varied diet.

Contact your GP if you think you are entitled to free Vitamin D supplement and you haven’t had a letter.

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