In our quest for eating healthier foods, we are advised to eat low-saturated fat foods, less sodium, more fiber, more complex carbohydrates and lower calories. The foods that are most promoted are usually imported ones to us in the Caribbean, since more is known about them than our local foods. Therefore, we seek out whole grain cereals and breads, fruits such as American apples, plum and grapes, and vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. How do our local foods compare?
Most people know the adage: â€˜An apple a day keeps the doctor away!â€™ This is probably because the American apple has fiber to facilitate gut health and rid the body of waste. But do you know that one guava fruit has four (4) times the amount of fiber, slightly more potassium and 19 times the amount of Vitamin C as an American apple? In comparison to a whole bunch of grapes, 1 guava has 25 times more Vitamin C, four times more fiber and about the same amount of potassium. Likewise it would take 15 American apples to supply the Vitamin C content of just one West Indian Cherry!
Cranberry juice has become very popular because of its benefits to bladder health. But have you considered the benefits of Coconut water which has less than half the calories, and appreciably more potassium than cranberry juice? A glass of cranberry juice will provide about 150-200 calories, while the same glass of coconut water contains only 50 calories while giving 400mg potassium compared to the 60mg from cranberry juice.
For those of you concerned about the sodium content of coconut water, be assured that a single glass will provide only 60mg sodium compared to 700mg in V8 canned vegetable juice. Also, be assured that coconut water has no fat.
The fat of the coconut resides in the jelly and will thus be found in coconut milk, but there is no cholesterol since the coconut is of plant origin and cholesterol is only found in foods of animal origin. This means that butter has cholesterol, but coconut milk, like vegetable margarines, is free of cholesterol. Moreover, the traditional way of cooking with coconut milk for flavor is better than using margarine, which is often substituted in porridge, rice and peas, and soups. A tablespoon of coconut milk has only 38 calories and 4g fat compared to 111 calories and 11.5g of fat in the same amount of margarine.
Also the fat in coconut is healthier for the body than margarine fats. Two other fats that are often mislabeled are the Ackee fruit and the Avocado Pear. Neither has any cholesterol and the fat is monosaturated – the same type of fat that we pay so much for in Olive Oil
Admittedly, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, like other vegetables, will provide Vitamin C, minerals, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals, but they are no match for Callaloo in terms of calcium, iron or Vitamin A (Beta carotene). Callaloo has more than four times the amount of iron, with more than twice the Vitamin A of the American vegetables. Whole grain cereals are indeed a good source of fiber, but calorie for calorie our provisions are equally beneficial.
The Irish Potato, whole wheat bread, and whole corn provide the least fiber per serving. Those of better value are whole brown rice, Green Banana and Sweet Potato, providing 1.5g per serving of about 70 calories. Richer still is whole oats at 1.96g, but topping the list is our local Breadfruit at 2.45g of fiber for a serving of 2 slices.
So next time you reach for foreign produce in the supermarket, remember our local produce is best. For you ex?pat folks, next time you see Caribbean produce, consider trying something different; it is better for you. And thatâ€™s without even considering the amount of toxic sprays, waxes, and unnecessary plastic and polystyrene wrapping that adds to the polluting of our bodies and our precious ecosystem.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Dr. Miranda Fellows, Director of Carib Wellness in Nevis and can be contacted at 869 469 2147 and 869 466 9355.