What is a balanced diet? In a climate of controversial views and misinformation, Kate Neil, a leading nutritionist, believes many people have no idea what a balanced diet consists of.

For thousands of years, the wise have known about the benefits of eating natural, unprocessed foods. Their wisdom is now being understood by those scientists and nutritionists looking for new answers to deal with modern health problems.

Kate Neil has a background in nursing and midwifery and a special interest in childcare and women's health.

She has established the Centre For Nutrition Education in Bracknell, Berks which provides quality training leading to a BSc Hons in Nutritional Therapy.

Kate believes the crisis of our age is a food crisis. Since the industrial revolution, new technologies have dramatically changed our way of living.

It is becoming evident our new way of life is associated with the diseases of excess as well as deficiencies. Because the food chain is now so distorted, we all need to understand the basics of nutrition and how it affects our health.

The modern diet is very different to that of Paleolithic times. Grains, for example, have only been part of the human diet for the past 10,000 years and for the ten million years prior to that, grains were not consumed by humans at all.

They thrived on lean wild meats, fish, vegetables and fruits, providing good levels of the nutrients needed for an active lifestyle.

Modern man is eating less of the foods to which he is genetically adapted and has become more sedentary. As a plausible consequence, degenerative disease and mental illness are occurring in younger people.

Meanwhile, science moves on to modify our gene pool in the hope of quelling the tide of ill health.

"The tendency to displace quality lean protein with concentrated sugary foods, refined breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and chips is not serving us well," says Kate.

Particularly in the past few decades, grains have been promoted as cheap, easy-to-burn fuel, whereas red meat has had a bad press because people have become concerned about intensive farming and added chemicals.

Yet protein foods are essential building blocks for growth and development and provide the amino acids and minerals required for brain chemicals, digestion and liver detoxification.

Red meat is also an excellent source of iron vital for brain development and immunity.

Excessively refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide plenty of calories, are often high in saturated fat and encourage obesity, cravings and bowel flora imbalance.

Kate is in favour of returning to more traditional eating and cooking habits.

Organically produced meat is now readily available for individuals wanting to avoid modern chemicals.

Kate says: "The exciting part is that many food components have been shown to impact our body systems in a major way, helping to promote health and prevent disease. The power of prevention cannot be overstated."

Kate Neil is a speaker at the conference Children's Mental Health: Feeding The Next Generation, held in London on October 9. For details, ring 0870 1613505 or visit www.pavpub.com
Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina@thehealthbank.co.uk