Why lockdown has ruined me

  • My part in the great toast controversy 
  • The danger of eating too many acrylamides 
  • A useful snack list during lockdown

Oh, how these lockdowns can change a person!

This time last year, I barely used social media.

I’ve always been an email guy, really.

It’s my favourite way to write to friends, colleagues and YOU, of course!

Personal, one to one, and private…

I still think you cannot beat it.

But then came the pandemic lockdowns.

Suddenly I was getting multiple invitations to Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, you name it.

I couldn’t really say “no”, what with not being able to see anyone in person…

So I found myself in a maelstrom of apps… tapping away at my phone all day with my clumsy fat thumbs!

It’s like I’ve been dragged screaming into the 21st Century.

But anyway, here’s what I want to tell you today.

The Great Toast Controversy

Because I’ve been forced onto social media, I now get looped into all kinds of funny group jokes and games.

Last week, on my Whatsapp friends group, someone shared a chart showing fifteen slices of white toast, all in various states of cooking – ranging from almost entirely untoasted, through to brown, through to burnt.

Each one was numbered, and the idea was that you picked the number that matched how you like your toast.

“Uh well thing is,” I wrote with my fat thumbs, “I don’t eat processed bread.”

“Oh dear God Ray,” said one friend, “that’s so typical. Just play along!!!!!!”

“Yawn,” said another friend with one of those yawny emoji things.

Ok, I thought, grumpily. I’ll play along.

So I picked one that was very gently browned.

“U WHAT?” wrote another friend.

“URGH” write another with an angry face emoji.

“That’s not even toast,” wrote another.

Suddenly, they all started to show off about how well-done they liked their toast, like it was somehow a badge of honour to eat the most charred bread possible.

“I like mine burnt to a crisp,” boasted one person. “Not like Ray’s weedy offering.”

Now my manliness was being challenged because of the colour of my toast!

You see?

This is exactly WHY I never bothered going on social media with friends and family.

I was very tempted to explain exactly why burning toast to a crisp is bad for you.

But you know what? I didn’t.

Let them eat burnt toast!

It’s what they deserve!

Instead, I thought I’d explain it to you – my TRUE friends.

The problem with acrylamides

Have you heard of acrylamides?

It sounds like a kind of sea fossil from the Paleozoic era.

But actually they’re compounds formed when you grill, roast, fry or bake foods high in sugar or starch.

Basically, when your toast goes brown, that’s when you’ve got acrylamides forming.

Now, these are toxins. In very large amounts, they can cause nerve damage in humans, including muscle weakness. Some studies have also linked high levels to cancer in animals.

However, you’re not likely to have any problems from the tiny amounts in lightly toasted bread.


The more brown it goes, the more of those acrylamides will be in the food.

And when the toast starts to go black (the way that all my friends seem to like it), that’s when it really escalates.

Then if you eat that level of burnt toast every day…

Well… it’s not very good for you.

This isn’t to alarm you, but merely to say, it’s probably best to tone down the extreme toast grilling!

And it’s not just toast.

It’s any starchy food that you cook at high temperatures until they start to crisp or go brown – meat, potatoes, biscuits, you name it.

It gets worse when there is sugar added before you cook, as this increases the levels of acrylamides.

Which is why, for instance, crisps with sweet chilli flavour tend to be worse for you than plain crisps.

Helpfully, the US Food and Drug administration have analysed a selection of foods and ranked them for their levels of acrylamides.

I thought that since we’re probably all snacking a bit more than usual during this interminable lockdown, I’d give you a snapshot of this list.

It will give you an idea of which snacks deliver less of that acrylamide hit.


  • Malt extract drinks
  • Burnt toast
  • Sweet chilli potato crisps
  • Baked breakfast cereals


  • Hash browns
  • Plain crisps
  • Dry crackers
  • Ginger snap biscuits


  • Pain tortilla chips
  • Butter popcorn
  • Roast nuts
  • Pretzels


  • Untoasted bread
  • Pitta bread
  • Rice


  • Whole fruits
  • Raw vegetables
  • Raw nuts
  • Boiled pasta

Hopefully, this list gives you a helpful guide to the kind of snacks you might choose when comfort eating – that is if you want to keep acrylamide levels on the low side.

Of course, if you cannot resist charring the heck out of your bread, then just do it very occasionally as a treat.

Now, I’m not trying to be a toast party pooper here.

Just passing on the knowledge!

It’s always best to stay informed and know what you’re eating.

Besides, by reducing your toast intake, you will reduce the amount of carb-heavy breadstuffs you eat every morning.

This will help reduce blood sugar spikes and hunger cravings.

Not that I said ANY of this to my friends on Whatsapp.

It’s just between you and me, okay?