July 17, 2003 Patricia Thompson M.Sc. Registered Nutritionist 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? Fruits 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. Vegetables and Provisions 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 1.5 g 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 2.45 for a serving of two (2) slices. So next time you reach for the foreign goods on the shelf, don’t forget our local products are the best.