Byline: Noreen Barr, PA Features
THANKS to the rise of television chefs and celebrity restaurateurs many Britons now rather fancy themselves as sophisticated foodies.
In their kitchens they can rustle up polenta, a la River Cafe, using lashings of butter and Parmesan - and follow that up with Nigella Lawson's mouth-watering chocolate lime cheesecake containing yet more butter and cream cheese.
In restaurants, gourmets fearlessly order raw meats like steak tartare and expect their roasted beef to arrive seared on the outside and barely cooked on the inside. Thoroughly cooked meat, as every Masterchef contestant knows, is charred and ruined.
But those who slavishly follow the advice of leading chefs may be in for a shock - for a distinguished British scientist believes that many of today's most celebrated dishes are bad for our health.
Professor Jane Plant, who devised a revolutionary diet to help beat her own seemingly terminal breast cancer, is often horrified by the advice dished up by television cooks.
She says: ""I sit and watch some of these programmes and think, my goodness, how awful this food is and how unhealthy it is.
"You see somebody making a pudding and they throw in all this cream and eggs and refined white flour and sugar and I just think, 'Why aren't we teaching people to eat healthy food?'"
Plant's objection is not simply that too many recipes are packed with fattening calories. She believes dairy products, which are so often found in these luxurious dishes, contain growth factors and hormones which promote breast and prostate cancer.
These substances, she says, are found naturally in milk - even if it is organic. They are also found in all meat, she argues, unless they are broken down by thorough cooking.
And Plant has yet more bad news for gourmets, for she says that burning meat - or searing it on the outside as chefs would have it - leads to the formation of other damaging chemicals.
She says of the trendy way of serving beef: "The idea of having raw meat that is ready to get up and walk away is very dangerous because you are leaving all the hormones and all the growth factors completely untouched. …