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In our quest for healthier eating choices, we are

 encouraged to eat

foods with less fat and sodium, more fibre, more

complex carbohydrate

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

the doctor

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.

Moreover, the

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

margarine fats.

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.


Admittedly, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels

sprouts, like

other vegetables will provide vitamin C, minerals,

flavonoids and

other phytochemicals but they are no match for our

local callaloo

(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

provide the

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

shelf, don’t

forget Jamaican local products are the best.

Patricia Thompson M.Sc.

Registered Nutritionist

The Nutrition Centre, Eden Gardens