5 local foods more nutritious than you think

When you consume locally available foods, you encourage farmers, help reduce environmental damage, and do your bit for the economy.

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People in multi-cultural countries manage to stay connected while retaining their unique identities. One common thread that ties them together is food, particularly delicacies made with local produce.

Papua New Guinea may not be famous for its regional cuisines, but the pacific islands have a treasure trove of vegetables and fruits. Trade and travel has increased our awareness of other cultures and their foods. Ironically, this sometimes makes us neglect the wholesome foods we enjoyed as children.

Eating locally grown foods has its advantages. The fruits and vegetables are picked when they are just about ripe. They traverse shorter distances to get to you and cost much less. You enjoy raw food that is fresh and retains both flavour and nutrition. Food contamination and use of preservative is minimised. When you consume locally available foods, you encourage farmers, help reduce environmental damage, and do your bit for the economy.

Here are five popular native foods that are considered nutritional powerhouses across the globe.

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  1. Coconuts

Can you imagine a life without bariva or coconut water? With mono-saturated fats getting the clean chit from scientists, coconut is now the buzzword in western countries. But Pacific Islanders and Asians knew better, and never gave up on this healthy food. Coconut water contains vitamins and proteins, prevents dehydration, and restores vital nutrients in your body. Lauric oil in coconut oil helps improve immunity and reduce belly fat. Coconut meat and milk are more than mere flavour agents. They are good sources of iron and vitamins, and promote healthy heart, hair and skin. Eat coconut flesh raw, add coconut shavings to soups, salads and stews, or make a delicious Talautu with coconut cream.

  1. Pawpaw

This tropical native fruit is all but forgotten in United States where exotic fruits rule. The black spots and blemished look doesn’t help its cause with choosy consumers. Pawpaw has a pulpy texture and tastes a bit like mango and banana combined.  This low calorie fruit is rich in minerals, vitamin C, B-vitamins and folate.  From strengthening your immune system and metabolism to fighting certain types of cancer, pawpaw provides you with numerous health benefits.  As it doesn’t store well, unless refrigerated or frozen, this fruit is best eaten raw. Make ice creams, jams, pudding with pawpaw or use as substitute for banana in baking.

  1. Banana

The humble banana is a versatile fruit. Sportspersons and strength trainers swear by its energy boosting properties. The mineral, potassium is essential for a healthy heart and banana has loads of it. Pectin, the soluble fibre found in banana, aids the digestive process and controls your food cravings. This makes this fruit a healthy snack idea. Being a rich source of vitamin B and C, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants, bananas act as anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing natural foods. Simply peel the skin and eat one for breakfast. Enjoy this fruit in ice creams, pasties or delicious aigir.

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  1. Mango

For a mango lover, this is indeed the king of fruits. The lip-smacking taste aside, this juicy, tropical fruit is abundant in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. The fibre content in mango reduces constipation and soothes sensitive stomachs. With good amounts of vitamin C, and soluble fibre, it can lower cholesterol levels in your body. Vitamin A in mangoes can help improve eye health, while antioxidants protect against certain types of cancer. Contrary to popular opinion, diabetics can consume moderate amounts of this fruit. If you’re looking to improve your libido, add both raw and ripe mangoes to your diet.

  1. Peanuts

Peanuts are technically not nuts, but a type of legume with high levels of protein, healthy fats and fibre. According to this study, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of peanuts help you live longer. You get protection from chronic respiratory diseases, various cancers and heart disease. Just a handful of peanuts provides enough vitamins, phytosterols and minerals to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you healthy. Roast some peanuts, combine with salt and spices, and enjoy a filling afternoon snack. Crush peanuts and add them as garnish to your favourite dishes.

Remember; moderation is the key to better health.

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