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Me and my health: Paula McIntyre on her lifestyle


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Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Stephen Hamilton

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

The 52-year-old food writer and broadcaster, from Aghadowey, is a Taste Causeway ambassador and has championed the region's food and drink at numerous showcase events.

Q: Do you take regular exercise, and if so, what?

A: In December 2018 I started sea swimming in Portrush. A friend of mine had developed osteoarthritis and read that cold water swimming helped the condition.

Depending on how busy I am, I try to swim at least three times a week - although at the minute that's not an issue. It takes about 90 seconds to adjust to the icy water at this time of year but once you do, it's fantastic. It's so invigorating and really sets you up for the day.

Apart from sea swimming, I try to walk for at least an hour a day, although I find it difficult when it's pouring with rain.

I'm lucky that I live in Portstewart and love a walk on the beach. I find that whatever trouble you think you have has dissipated by the time you've walked to the Bar Mouth at the end of the beach and back.

Q: What's the worst illness you've had?

A: I had asthma when I was a child but outgrew it as I got older. Apart from a couple of flus, I've been lucky so far... but I take nothing for granted.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I used to eat out a lot through work and got to sample a lot of decadent and calorific products so I've always tried to balance that out. I try to eat a balanced diet that's heavy on locally sourced, seasonal vegetables.

I've cut down on my meat consumption recently and try to eat rare breed, ethically sourced meat as much as possible. I eat fresh fish as much as I can and buy sustainable, locally sourced varieties like mackerel, gurnard, and hake when it's in season. I eat a lot of pulses and beans to supplement cutting down on the meat. I do, however, love cheese and bread - they would be my downfall and I find both very hard to resist.

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Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Great taste: Paula McIntyre is launching a mobile food shop

Q: Any bad habits?

A: When I'm travelling around the place I often succumb to a sandwich from a service station. It's more out of necessity than anything and I always feel bad afterwards. I'm very partial to a sausage roll too... and a Tunnock's teacake.

Q: Do you drink and smoke? If so how much?

A: I don't smoke. Last year I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and had to start medication to lower it. I used to love red wine but have had to cut it out because it now gives me palpitations. I've cut down my drinking a lot. That's not to say I don't let my hair down either on occasion.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: I'm a firm believer in getting your essential nutrients from a decent diet rather than from a bottle. I wouldn't waste money on buying them.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I really enjoy travel but the current Covid-19 crisis has put paid to that. I love reading and when I get the time it's lovely to get lost in a book. I find swimming in the sea, and the social activity around it, very relaxing and good fun.

Even though I cook for a living, I do find it relaxing when there's no pressure for results. I love cooking for people and I'm at my happiest at a table, full of good food and wine, surrounded by people I love. I'll never take that for granted again.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I'm normally asleep within 10 seconds of my head hitting the pillow. Usually I'll be wide awake a couple of hours later and find it hard to get back to sleep. I need to be completely exhausted to sleep right through for eight hours. In the summer, with the shorter days, I find a late evening swim knocks me right out.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I worry more about not getting old. I do worry about the logistics of being old and that I probably won't get access to any pension until I'm 70. I'm determined not to be defined by a number and want to carry on being stimulated and interested for as long as possible.

Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Alicia Breslin has a stand in St George's market in Belfast (just inside the door beside the fish counters) at the weekend selling fresh vegetables and healthy ferments. Her Ginger Bug probiotic drink is amazing. I take a shot in the morning and it's really good for settling your gut and giving you a wake-up buzz at the same time. She does a Kick Syrup too that's bright yellow and full of healing turmeric. I also eat a lot of raw beetroot - grated in a salad with ginger, pomegranate molasses and cumin.

Paula is a Taste Causeway ambassador and is about to launch a mobile shop with food from the region along with videos of herself cooking the produce. To find out more, visit tastecauseway.com

Belfast Telegraph