Patricia Thompson M.Sc. Registered Nutritionist Nutrition and Diet Services March 19, 2004 Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of local foods and traditional cuisine can provide the basis of a healthy diet. The rise in chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer accompanied changes in eating habits and lifestyles, many of which are based on foreign influences. While we do need some imported food products, we should not neglect our highly nutritious local ones, some of which are reviewed here. Continue reading
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? Continue reading
ACHIEVING NUTRITION WELLNESS Patricia Thompson M.Sc. Registered Nutritionist Nutrition and Diet ServicesHaving made this commitment to a healthy lifestyle, it is wise that you should think of diet and exercise. I agree that most of the advice given is good but it is prone to misinterpretation. Nutritionists generally speak of a balanced diet which relies on selecting a variety of foods from the Caribbean six food groups; Staples, Legumes, Food from Animals, Fruits, Vegetables, Fats and Oils. Specific foods are recommended or eliminated if there is a concern for particular nutrients or specific disorders. Within this context I will address your two main concerns and deal with the others at a later date. Ground provisions vs. Cereals Provisions have traditionally played a central role in the diet of Caribbean people and the population appeared to be healthier when our intake of these foods was higher. Food availability studies show that in the 1940s, we ate four times more provisions than cereals whereas in the 1990s, there was a substantial drop off in the use of provisions while cereal intake increased by 30%, as did the incidence of chronic diseases. In the USA, provisions are included among the vegetables so that their recommendation to increase intake of fruits and vegetables to 7-9 portions daily, would include increased use of provisions. In the Caribbean, ground provisions and cereals such as bread and rice belong to the same food group called Staples. For this reason, these foods are all interchangeable for each other in the normal diet. Cereals however, must be processed for sale and this robs the more highly processed forms like white rice and bread of their dietary fibre, a substance which helps rid the body of waste and potentially toxic substances. Whole grain cereals like whole wheat bread and bran products are less processed and so are preferred to the white or processed products. Provisions are eaten in the natural state so their dietary fibre remains intact as well as providing other nutrients and medicinal substances that may be lost if they were processed. There are other advantages to choosing provisions over cereals such as, the type of dietary fibre not only helps cleanse the bowels but helps keep blood cholesterol and glucose at normal levels. The high water content makes them more filling than cereal grains so you are likely to eat less yam and sweet potato than rice or bread and this could be significant if you are trying to lose weight. Local recommendations recognize the shift in consumption from provisions to cereals and stress that the total intake of Staple Foods should be split about 50-50 between the cereals and provisions. Shakes Shakes are usually designed as meal replacements and are convenient when persons are too busy or do not feel to eat solid food. They can be taken as an aid to a weight loss plan, if the shake supplies about 200 - 300 calories and replaces a meal of say 600 or more calories. The calorie deficit will facilitate weight loss. The specific nutritional qualities vary according to the brand and this is selected based on personal preference. You could prepare your own home-made shake but depending on the ingredients, the nutritional mix would differ from a commercial shake and the calories may be higher unless your ingredients had no fat. Shakes are adjuncts to meals and do not obviate the need for nutritional balance. Advice on healthy eating is best tailored to individual needs and preferences and you can consult a registered nutrition professional for this.