Home-grown health

Vuk'uzenzele - - Health - Al­li­son Cooper

Af­ter many years of suf­fer­ing from leaky gut syn­drome and nu­mer­ous food al­ler­gies, Tshukudu took a closer look at her An­glo-Euro cen­tric diet.

“I re­alised that, like me, most of my clients were mid­dle-class black South Africans and the first gen­er­a­tion with life­style dis­eases. As we moved fur­ther away from our her­itage and ac­cul­tur­ated to the west­ern and city life­style, in­clud­ing what we cooked and ate, we gained weight.”

She said many of her clients were be­ing di­ag­nosed with life­style dis­eases such as di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and ab­dom­i­nal fat (mkhaba).

“And then it hit me. If we are what we eat. If we ig­nore our fa­mil­ial taste pres­ence, then we be­come some­one else,” she said.

Tshukudu learnt that African food is healthy and de­li­cious and that the an­swers that we have been look­ing for to solve our health prob­lems are right un­der our noses. “We have been eat­ing for­aged, or­ganic, an­cient, gluten-free, ve­gan, low GI, low GL, slow-cooked, sea­sonal, sus­tain­able, grass­fed, hor­mone-free for gen­er­a­tions,” she said.

Whilst study­ing func­tional medicines, she was in­spired to write the book, Eat Ting, which iden­ti­fies the root cause of dis­eases and uses spe­cific nutri­tional com­pounds to treat or man­age ill­ness. “The foods mostly spo­ken about were Amer­i­can, Chi­nese and Euro­pean. I wanted to im­ple­ment the strate­gies when treat­ing my pa­tients and de­cided to re­search healthy, nu­tri­tious foods from South­ern Africa. I learnt a lot from older pa­tients and fam­i­lies about tra­di­tional and indige­nous foods and food sys­tems and re­alised that African foods are healthy, low-GI, or­ganic, free-range and gluten free and can be used to man­age and main­tain a healthy life­style,” she said.

Go­ing back to your roots to eat healthily has var­i­ous ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing that food is eas­ily avail­able and cost ef­fec­tive. “Food grows eas­ily in ru­ral ar­eas be­cause it is indige­nous and is there­fore used to the cli­mate and soil com­po­si­tion,” said Tshukudu.

“The food that is around you is healthy and some­times su­pe­rior in taste and nu­tri­tion, com­pared to store-bought prod­ucts that may be stripped of fi­bre, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als and filled with su­gar, salt and un­healthy fats.”

REG­IS­TERED DI­ETI­CIAN Mpho Tshukudu be­lieves that peo­ple’s weight is­sues will re­solve them­selves when they trust the wis­dom of the an­ces­tors, pre­pare their food slowly and eat it with peo­ple they love.

Take con­trol of your diet

Tshukudu ex­plains that the rea­sons South Africans are be­com­ing over­weight and there is an in­crease in life­style dis­eases is be­cause more peo­ple opt to eat take­aways and store­bought food. They ex­er­cise less and are not in­volved with food pro­duc­tion and thus lose touch with the ef­fort taken to pre­pare a meal. “We as­so­ciate foods from ru­ral ar­eas with poverty. But, be­cause the ‘new’ foods are not our pre­ferred taste and they lack nu­tri­tion, we tend to overeat in an ef­fort to feel full,” she said.

To take con­trol of your diet and get back to nu­tri­ent-dense foods, Tshukudu has these tips for South Africans:

Take con­trol of what you eat

Ap­pre­ci­ate lo­cal foods Teach chil­dren about their food her­itage and cus­toms as­so­ci­ated with the food

Start a small gar­den to grow your own food. “Home-grown food is fresher than store-bought items; home gar­den­ing uses less chem­i­cals, such as pes­ti­cides; and gar­den­ing is ther­a­peu­tic, a form of ex­er­cise that can help fam­ily mem­bers bond and en­cour­ages chil­dren to learn about where food comes from,” she said.

Lunch­box ideas

When adding items to your lunch­box, Tshukudu sug­gested that veg­eta­bles, es­pe­cially tra­di­tional leaves (mo­rogo), are more nu­tri­tious than spinach and they grow eas­ily in ru­ral ar­eas. You can also add a fruit, es­pe­cially indige­nous and tra­di­tional ones such as mul­berry and figs; and raw nuts, such as ground­nuts, marula or cashews. You can also cook with nuts. For ex­am­ple, sorghum por­ridge; mo­rogo cooked with nuts or peanut but­ter; and samp, beans and ground nuts with cab­bage.

What’s for din­ner?

Tshukudu urges you to con­sider legumes (beans and lentils) be­cause they make great stews in win­ter and can be added to salad or mixed with whole sorghum or corn (dik­gobe). They can also be used to make burger pat­ties and are a good source of plant pro­tein, fi­bre and min­er­als.

She also rec­om­mends of­fal (in­testines, hearts, giz­zards, tripe and trot­ters), which is a nu­tri­tious pro­tein source and is in­ex­pen­sive; and the in­clu­sion of po­ta­toes, sweet po­ta­toes, amad­umbe, tra­di­tional squash and pump­kins to your diet.

“Do not add su­gar to the sweet potato and squash and eat the skin when pos­si­ble,” she said.

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