We need to raise our per day fruit and veg intake

| April 24, 2014
Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Health news. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were doing well getting in your fruit and vegetable five-a-day but I’ve got some bad news for you: the latest thinking is that we all need to be eating a seven-a-day diet.

What’s more that thinking comes with the conclusion that those eating a seven a day diet are more likely to live longer and if anything the ideal is to have a ten-a-day diet.

It might well be a logical conclusion to just take up vegetarianism and be done with it, however meat isn’t the enemy in this particular scenario. What needs to be borne in mind is that whether you’re on a five-a-day, seven-a-day or ten-a-day diet that diet should consist of more vegetables than fruit as the body converts unused fruit sugar into fat in the same way that it converts unused processed sugar into fat.

Whenever stories about dietary issues come to the surface I like to look at them from a diversity perspective; in this case asking the question what’s the pattern of fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the African diaspora?

The answer to this question isn’t straight forward for a number of reasons: there are a limited number of research studies, the issue of household income creates a varied picture in the UK, Caribbean and America as does the range of what products are available in these regions. Where there is research data it appears that we are not consuming as much fruit and vegetables as many other communities.

Photo courtesy www.natural-homeremedies.com

Photo courtesy www.natural-homeremedies.com

Roberta Cook of the University of California states: The changing ethnic makeup of the U.S. population is definitely favorable to fresh produce consumption, since Hispanic and Asian Americans consume fruits and vegetables at higher rates than African Americans and whites.

In 2009, white/other households on average consumed $439 of fresh produce per year compared with $695 for Asian Americans, $496 for Hispanic Americans and $287 for African Americans.

In the Caribbean a survey carried out by Marquitta Webb and Cherelle Lewis on school children in Trinidad and Tobago came to the following conclusion, Students are consuming fewer amounts of fruits and vegetables than what is expected, which places them at greater risk of developing chronic noncommunicable diseases in the future.

My own conclusion when taking a look at fruit and vegetable consumption of the African diaspora is that you not only have to recognise that they’ll be different consumption attitudes to other cultures but that they’ll be different products available for consumption depending on where in the diaspora you currently live.

In terms of recommended approaches to getting your seven-a-day some of the ideas that I’ve picked up are: think about how you can make use of flavouring ingredients like onions, replacing potatoes with other vegetables, adding extras to salads, eating frozen fruit and vegetables, eating a range of colours and eating raw fruit. Here are my five recommended videos that will hopefully get you thinking about the different ways you can get your seven-a-day or even bump things up to a ten-a-day diet.

Jamaican Oven-Baked Pork Chops.

One of the great ways of getting some vegetables into your diet is by creating a marinade; which to me is not only a great Caribbean cookery tradition but a great way of getting deep flavour into a piece of meat or fish. Though it might not be obvious vegetables like onions, tomatoes or spring onions make up your seven a day, as well as being great marinade ingredients.

There isn’t a great deal to this particular recipe as essentially what you need to know is set out in the title. This dish requires you to create your marinate well before the actual cooking process so you’ll have to give yourself time to do this, as stated in the video you can marinate some hours before cooking but it is much better to do so the night before.

In terms of presentation, this video comes from the ‘Cook Like a Jamaican’ stable so while it has a nice at home feel it is well presented and well edited. Lastly the ingredients are very straight forward and can easily be found in your local shops.

 

Chocho Gratin.

Chocho is a vegetable that can be used as an alternative to potato, is a good source of vitamin C and amino acids and actually taste like potato. Amino acids by the way help the body build and repair cells as well as provides nourishment for the brain.

As for the video, in terms of production values some of the camera shots don’t help the visual presentation and the sounds of crickets in the background eventually becomes distracting. The sound also isn’t helped with the volume levels of the music bed as it competes with the presenter’s voice and the crickets in the background. If you can see beyond these distractions there’s enough in the visuals and the presenter’s explanation for anyone with basic cookery skills to work out what’s happening.

 

Finally there’s nothing in the list of ingredients that should give you any sourcing problems, apart from the Chocho itself. It may be necessary to ask questions of a specialist supplier if you’ve never bought Chocho before.

 

Caribbean Breadfruit Salad.

Essentially the point of including a salad section is to get you to think about how you can take a simple dish like salad and use it as a way of eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables in one hit. In many ways you can more or less take care of your seven-a-day by eating complex salads three or four times a week; in this particular recipe there are 6 different vegetables.

Yet again my Caribbean cookery section features a video from Chris at caribbeanpot.com; but you can always rely on him to offer dishes that fit with a healthy eating regime and what’s more he has such a fabulous amount of knowledge of Caribbean cookery and ingredients.

The other good thing about the Caribbeanpot videos is that I don’t have to say too much about them regarding presentation and production values, we know what we are going to get… a well put together product. In terms of ingredients there’s nothing here apart from the breadfruit that you couldn’t find in any high street store. You’ll probably need to rely on a shop that specialises in Caribbean food to find breadfruit and if you’ve never bought one find a store run by someone who’s friendly and knowledgeable.

 

FROZEN MIXED FRUIT SMOOTHIE RECIPE WITH THE NUTRIBULLET

This video is bending the Caribbean cookery definition but none-the-less it fits right in with the approach of achieving your seven-a-day in one hit. In many ways you don’t have to go down the frozen fruit route but it certainly saves on the preparation and to some extent the wastage; however you should always choose a producer who has a principled approach.

In terms of production values the camera work is a little jerky but the sound is as clear as a bell and the instructions are easy to follow. I also like the fact that there’s food and nutrition knowledge offered, which means that I’m willing to look beyond the filming process.

I have to say I’ve never shopped for frozen fruit but I’ll assume that it is easy enough to come across these products in most supermarkets. What may be more difficult might be sourcing purely fruit grown in the Caribbean so you might have to settle for a product that is a mix of Caribbean and European fruits.

While we are considering frozen fruit I should also say that there are many researchers who believe that frozen vegetables are now of such a good standard that we can rely on them to make up our seven-a-day. My only note of caution is that any food that you make from scratch is going to be better than anything that comes ready prepared, at the very least you’ll have a better idea of what’s in it.

 

Vegetable Rundown with Tropical Sun

It is unusual for me to start a comment on production values by issuing a warning but in this case it is absolutely necessary as there is a strange reverberating sound at the beginning of this video. Lucky the odd sound doesn’t prevent us hearing what the presenters have to say.

One of the reasons why I’ve included this video is that it has the most complex range of vegetables and cooking process of all the videos featured; however I think that it is good for avowed meat eaters to recognise that you can take a while in the kitchen and produce something worthwhile and vegetarian. The range of ingredients in this video may be a challenge if you are not in the know but there’s excellent information on each vegetable used.

Sourcing  some of the vegetables in this recipe may be a challenge as you’ll not find everything that you need in the major supermarkets so again you’ll need to visit a specialist supplier. I’m obviously setting this recipe up as a challenge but that’s the best way to develop your skills.

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