HEALTHY LIVING: Clare’s hard cell for the benefits of the right diet

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IT IS all in the diet, according to nutrition expert Clare Shepherd, as The Star reporter Rachael Clegg finds out.

WHEN Clare Shepherd’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer almost eight years ago, Clare knew there was something she could do.

For years, the mother-of-two had dedicated her time to studying nutrition – and while her daughter was in and out of hospital, she decided to put her knowledge into practice.

Clare took a home-made lunch and dinner for her daughter, Sam, every day when she was in the hospital.

Sam, diagnosed eight years ago today, had a bone marrow transplant in March 2005 and then relapsed in September 2005.

Doctors feared the 20-year-old would not survive beyond Christmas 2005.

But she did, and Clare believes it was with the help of good food.

Clare says: “I’d take in meals all the time. Everything she ate was home-made and I’d make her smoothies and bring her lots of fresh fruit – anything that was easily transportable.”

Her daughter died in 2006, initially knocking Clare’s confidence in the benefits of nutrition, but since then she has taken up the cause again, running courses from her home.

And now, the sessions are more popular than ever.

“I’ve put on extra courses this year,” she says. “I think a lot of it’s word of mouth from people who been on previous courses, but it’s good to see.”

It is at Clare’s home in Broomhill, on Tuesday nights, that one of the bi-weekly sessions takes place. The 58-year-old stands at the front of the class with a huge board, quickly sketching diagrams and referring to facts and figures about bad fats, good fats and the state of our cells as a result.

“Our cells need essential fats, but, unfortunately, these days people tend to eat damaged fats,” she says.

“I sometimes see people and think ‘I wonder what their cells are like.”

Our cells need lots of water, healthy fats and vital vitamins to thrive.

“You start to notice the difference just by drinking more water,” Claire says.

“And when you eat more healthier you feel so much more full of energy.”

Such is Clare’s dedication to nutrition that she has devised a ‘life plan’, a comprehensive system for her students to follow that includes recipes, advice and even exercise tips.

There is even a ‘water log’ in the information pack, for participants to record how much water they are drinking.

She said: “Water is so important. The brain is 80 per cent water – if you are feeling sluggish, drink more water.”

The ‘week one’ planner features – among many other things – a large glass of warm lemon water, soaked almonds, sprouted wheat bread veggie cruddites and hummus.

Clare herself takes part in the life plan, alongside her students.

“I’m doing one now and it’s coming towards the end,” she says. “I was excited about this moment as I was wondering what I could treat myself with, I was thinking about a nice piece of red meat, but I’m actually not bothered about that now, there’s nothing I really crave.”

But Clare’s not averse to living life to the full.

“If you live well Monday to Friday then yes, of course you can have fun and socialise at the weekend. I’m not against anybody who wants to have a good time and life’s about having fun, after all.”

Her bubbly demeanour is infectious, even when she is discussing the nitty-gritty of cell membranes and keeping the body flush and clean.

“Imagine the environment your cells live in - environment is everything so you need to keep them as clean as possible.”

Clare admits it seems simple, just drinking more water and eating more oily fish, but modern life seems to make this so difficult.

She says: “I think the postwar generation lost it a bit really. Mothers used to stay at home and look after their children, but now time is so precious people don’t spend as much time or take care over their food. Our generation is about everyone wanting everything.”

And while her class on nutrition is detailed to the extent where Clare even discusses effect of deodorant on the body, she is able to summarise her vast knowledge succinctly.

“If it can’t be killed or picked then it’s not ok,” she says.

“Nature doesn’t provide us with many beige foods.”

And, a true advocate of her beliefs, she brings out a tray or freshly chopped peppers and carrots. Nothing is processed or packaged - and definitely not beige. Nature, according to Clare, has more to offer than we give it credit for.