WEST INDIAN NUTRITION
In our quest for healthier eating choices, we are
encouraged to eat
foods with less fat and sodium, more fibre, more
and lower in calories. The foods that are most.
promoted are usually the
imported ones since more is known about them than
about our local foods.
We may therefore seek out whole grain cereals and
breads, fruits such
as the American apple, plum and grapes and
vegetables such as broccoli
and cauliflower. How do our local foods compare?
Who has not heard the adage, ‘an apple a day keeps
away’? This is probably because the American apple
has fibre 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 fibre, slightly
more potassium and
nineteen (19) times the amount of vitamin C as an
American apple. Likewise, it
would take fifteen (15) American apples to supply
the vitamin C content of
only one (1) West Indian cherry. In comparison to a
whole bunch of grapes, one
(1) guava has twenty five (25) times more vitamin
C, four (4) times more fibre
and about the same potassium.
Cranberry juice has become very popular because of
its benefits to bladder
health. But have you thought that similar benefits
could be had from coconut
water at less than half the calories and with
appreciably more potassium? 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 for cranberry
juice. For those concerned about the sodium content
of coconut water, be
assured that a single glass will provide only 60 mg
sodium compared to the
700 mg in V8 canned vegetable juice. Also, be
assured that the 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 found, only in
foods of animal origin.
This means that butter will have cholesterol but
coconut milk, like
the vegetable margarines is free of cholesterol.
traditional way of cooking with coconut milk for
flavour 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 in the same amount of
margarine and 11.5 g fat. Also,
the fat of coconut is healthier for the body than
Two other sources of fat that are often
mis-labelled are the Jamaican ackee and
the Avocado pear. Neither has any cholesterol and
the fat is
monounsaturated, the same type of fat that we pay
so much for in the olive oil.
VEGETABLES AND PROVISIONS
Admittedly, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels
other vegetables will provide vitamin C, minerals,
other phytochemicals but they are no match for our
(amaranth) in terms of calcium, iron or vitamin A.
Callaloo has more than four
times the calcium, two or more times the iron with
more than twice the
vitamin A as the American vegetables. The whole
grain cereals are indeed a
good source of fibre but calorie for calorie our
provisions are equally beneficial.
The Irish potato, brown rice and whole kernel corn
least fibre per serving. Those of better value are
whole wheat bread,
green banana and sweet potato providing 1.5g per
serving of about 70 calories.
Richer still is rolled oats at 1.96g but, topping
the list, you guessed
it, our local breadfruit at 2.45g for a serving of
two (2) slices.
So next time you reach for the foreign goods on the
forget Jamaican local products are the best.
Patricia Thompson M.Sc.
The Nutrition Centre, Eden Gardens