Organic Produce, a health investment?

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“Farm to Fork” sounds like one of those well-crafted marketing catch phrases, a buzz word that I have seen and heard quite a bit in the last few years. F2F is basically the concept of understanding where your food comes from and the journey it has taken to reach your table.

Some proponents laud this trend as a sustainable farming practice, others as a support system for small holder farmers while others like myself, are interested in the concept as a means to reduce the amount of harmful substances I ingest in the name of wholesome eating.

There is a lack of foolproof data/research on the effect nitrates and pesticides is having on the African population as it chases the Green Revolution dream. However, one thing is sure, when the amount of rejected export bound fresh produce increases due to high residues or use of banned substances (i.e. pesticides banned in Europe but still sold by multinationals to Africa), then you indeed need to know where your food is coming from. Hence my journey into eating Organic or to be fully truthful trying to ensure I buy organic farm produce.

With the juicing craze, I cringe as I think of all the innocent mortals juicing themselves away with a cocktail of pesticides as they think they pursuing healthy living. Stay woke my brethren, before you juice those shiny vegetables, think twice, better yet, at least buy organic greens for your juicing  or even grow then in your balcony.

Going organic in Kenya has not been a straight forward journey. I remember the days when the only organic source was a farmers market event at Karen. Back then, this meant thinking of the price to get to Karen and also buy the somewhat more expensive produce. Balancing a budget and trying to organic was a fete. But over the years, it is great to see the strides made in getting organic produce to our homes. Our supermarkets now stock organic produce, look out for the organic labeled produce in Carrefour, individual farmers like Sylvia’s Basket, Mlango Farm are great avenues to not only source produce but they also arrange tours/visits of farms where you can see the farming practice live and get your feet/hands dirty. Then we have the online warriors, the aggregators like Greenspoon who can organize a shipment to your home “from farm to phone to fork” the beauty of technology. Last but not least the organics farmers market hosted in various locations. Living in Kenya? You can now easily access Organic produce.

Price is frequently mentioned as an access barrier, but this is slowly becoming an non-issue with cost friendly organic sellers. Overall, it is an investment in your health that will save your costs in the long run. A few tricks for those going organic:

  • Know your dirty foods and focus on buying organic produce for these items. A quick internet search can help you identify dirty foods. In addition, localize your knowledge, know which produce in your country of origin is produced in suspect conditions. For example, have you heard of healthy looking greens “Kale and spinach” grown in sewage?
  • Take advantage of offers and opportunity. I usually buy in bulk and freeze. This ensures I have a steady supply of organics and can get a good price.
  • Visit farmers markets, you are cutting out the middle man, and can get some good bargains.

I guess the next and indded valid question, is how do you know that the produce you buy is truly organic? Post for another day. Until then, invest in your health “try organic”

Can you lose weight on the Daniel Fast?

After a very indulgent October (courtesy of my birthday), I decided to go on a Daniel Fast. The Daniel Fast is said to be a 21 day period where one refrains from any animal, caffeine or processed products whilst also taking the time for spiritual reflection. Is it a diet?

I saw the Daniel Fast as a good introduction into the Plant Based diet philosophy which is championed by the likes of Dr Greger. The Forks not Knives program on Netflix did indeed leave an imprint and I also joined a Facebook group of a similar name. I was intrigued by success stories of individuals reversing diabetes, blood pressure among other ailments.

To ensure compliance, I focused on key food for each meal (repetitive but easier to manage). My breakfast options consisted of (oats, millet/sorghum porridge, sweet potatoes/arrow roots or corn). My lunch/dinner options consisted of (potatoes (irish or sweet baked or mashed), beans and legumes (all kinds under the sun), quinoa, Ugali, vegetables, salads) and lastly my snacks consisted of (fruits and nuts) with water or strong cocoa drink.

I started the journey at around 69 kg, a figure that I was keen to reduce having added some pounds during this covid quarantine lifestyle. The first week was difficult and I had massive cravings which I managed to calm down by eating nuts and biting on fruits and berries. Ironically, it was not meat I missed the most but SUGAR!!

I am a sugar/sweet/chocolate addict and I practically had to hide all my sweet tooth temptations for the 21 days. Frankly, I am not sure how I managed the full 21 days but alas I made it to the end and was so proud of myself.

During this period, I also discovered a local organic food seller “Sylvia’s Basket”, and looked forward to grocery shopping every Tuesday when I received my delivery of fresh vegetables. Watching youtube vegans like Rachel Ama was a treat and an entry to a new culinary world I had all but ignored.

I also used the 3 week period to reconnect with the Word and went through the Bible book of Daniel and part of Mathew. I must say, I did not know how much future/revelation wisdom was within the book of Daniel. Sometimes hard to interpret the underlying meaning but very revealing.

Overall, this was a good experience (one I will repeat again), and here is what I learned/benefited from:

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1. Lower spending: Cutting out all the meat/processed items result in budget savings, I did not document exactly how much I spent, but I definitely shopped less and was very focused when I shopped.

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2. Marginally reduced my diastolic blood pressure: My diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) has been stubbornly edging up. During this period I noted the figure was marginally reduced.

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3. I lost 3kg: Yes I did, I was doubting that I would lose much weight due to insane nut snacking but alas, some weight came off! Might I add, with Zero exercise apart for a rare walk at the local Arboretum Park.

4. I am in control, I can conquer my sugar cravings: Ladies and gents, mind over matter, anything is possible with dedication and effort

Lastly, the 21 day rule: I am not sure why the fast was for 21 days (of course Daniel Fasted for 21 days) but I believe there is some mystical reason as to why 21 days The 21 day rule claims you can change a habit in this period. I am beginning to believe this, whilst 100% about turn may take longer but indeed 21 days of the Daniel Fast has taught me that I can indeed survive without meat and processed junk and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Conclusion: I am now embracing a moderate lifestyle of eating more whole foods with indulgences here and there on specific occasions. Not entirely plant based but a good start.

Who knows, I may soon transition to fully plant based, but hey…. Baby steps.

The challenges in this dairy free lifestyle

At the supermarket till waiting to be served, the lady behind me comments to her friend, “Is everyone in Nairobi now supposedly lactose intolerant?”. Her comments no doubt ignited by the array of nut based milks in my trolley.

For the record, my dairy free lifestyle was not sparked by a lactose intolerance diagnosis. It was a personal choice dictated by the increasing uncertainty surrounding the milk value chain in Kenya. A newspaper article warned that local and international dairy industry stakeholders had raised alarm over the high aflatoxin and antibiotics residues.

After trying various options, Soya, Oat Milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk etc, I have settled on Hazelnut and Almond Milk. Soya initially held a spot in my pantry but there seems to be a back and forth controversy surrounding soy that has left me on the fence.

My top challenges going dairy free are:

Cravings: I must say, adapting to a dairy free lifestyle has been much easier than I imagined. The only true craving that persists and haunts me is “Ice-cream”. I have tried almond milk ice cream and sorbets but it is not the same. I am talking of driving miles just to get a soft serve or gelato cone type of craving. Occasionally the intense craving for rich full bodied creamy Ice cream still gets me, after all, I am only human.

Cost: This factor has hit hard the most. The average price of nut based milk in Nairobi is Kshs 400-500 (USD 4-5) per 500ml tetra pack. Using it for tea, smoothies and cooking translates to a monthly budget of over Kshs 6,000 (USD 60) per person per month. My friend likes to joke that the dairy free craze can only be realistically sustained by single people, as translating this to a household budget is expensively obnoxious. One can actually make their own nut based milks at home, however, am yet to jump on that bandwagon.

Food choices: Going dairy free necessitates conscious food selection. Picking meals at restaurants and reading food labels becomes a task. Explaining your choice to your life circle is another task. The journey is worth it but not without its hassles.

Calcium and other supplements: No specific deficiency elements has crept up on me, however, reading the numerous medical and non medical articles on the dairy free lifestyle can lead one to total confusion. Resolution, have a annual check and test to evaluate any nutrient deficiencies that can be restored with diet changes or supplements. And of course this means more $$$ that is not covered by insurance.

All in all challenges are present but non unbearable, all worth the effort towards a healthy body!!!

Have you gone dairy free? As usual, would love to hear from you ….

What is your choice, Oats or Weetabix?

Am starting 2019 with a bang health wise, from the start of the year hearty breakfasts have been my mission. As we bid January goodbye, it is time to reflect on my breakfast choices. In a busy world, my breakfast mission has been healthy but fast to make. My quick and easy choices have been Weetabix and Oats

A month down the line, I can knowledgeably comment on the two choices, of course this is purely colored by experience and preference.

Weetabix:

  • Quick to make, gets me out of the door much faster
  • Higher fibre content, my bowel movements can attest to this
  • Tastier, a caveat being there is some sugar embedded in the product, which may be an issue for diabetics
  • A higher Glycemic index, which means its raises the sugars (blood sugar for diabetics) and for non diabetics you tend to feel hungry much sooner
  • Not for you if you have gluten problems

Oats:

  • Very filling and this keeps me fueled till around Eleven/Noon (Caveat am a 6 meals a day person, small portions but eat frequently because of hunger pangs)
  • Lower Glycemic index than Weetabix
  • Can be rather bland, but that said, it is versatile and blends with many add on options. I load mine with berries, nuts and honey
  • More time consuming to prepare. There is an option to make overnight oats. I prefer hot oats hence the whole preparation factor in the morning can be Ughhrrr, plus I try to avoid microwave oats

Overall, health wise, my inclination is towards Oats, but life happens and I find myself still picking up some Weetabix. I did try Oatibix, but for sure 100%, that life is not for me……

Conclusion, February will be an Oat filled month , though I do need to add my breakfast protein content. A story for another post.

What is on your healthy breakfast plate? I would love to hear from you…..