Soaps point the way to inner cleanliness

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIAN soap operas may be bad for the brain but they are much better for the body. A new survey suggests they offer a far healthier dietary image than their British counterparts. Research for BBC Vegetarian Good Food magazine has found that Home and Away and Neighbours are low in alcohol, high in fibre and packed with vitamin C. Coronation Street, by contrast, is a cholesterol-laden killer.

The magazine monitored five soaps for two months this summer and found the British serials featured three times as many fry- ups and fatty foods, seven times as much alcohol, a quarter of the salads and a sixth of the vegetables.

Coronation Street, the most popular, with 15 million viewers, was the 'unhealthiest'. The magazine said Gail's cafe was the chief cause of clogging of the arteries but also criticised the amount of alcohol drunk on the programme - more even than in EastEnders - and Kevin Webster's pie and mash, which further reinforced the Street's 'solidly stodgy, traditional English' dietary image.

EastEnders, the second most popular soap, was a 'litany of unhealthy eating from start to finish', with its cream doughnuts, bacon and eggs and fast-food pizzas. Even a relatively healthy chicken salad was spoilt by 'copious' amounts of wine.

The healthiest soap was Home and Away, bristling with fish, fruit, vegetables, salads, high-fibre cereals, rice and brown bread.

Mary Gwynn, the magazine's editor, said soaps should set a better example to viewers. Despite the Government's nutrition task force to encourage healthy eating, coronary heart disease, linked with a high-fat diet, was still the country's biggest killer. 'With around 18 million people now regularly eating and enjoying meat-free meals and fresh fruit and vegetables, it's a shame that our soaps aren't reflecting this swing towards a healthier diet and lifestyle,' she said.