By Paula Wilson
Top tips on how to conveniently make your food and drink more nutritious
You are probably aware that the foods you buy from your local supermarket – even the fresh ones – are likely to be laden with hidden toxins, preservatives or hormones. This is because they are produced en masse, packaged, preserved and then transported long distances, compromising their nutritional value as well as your health. Despite knowing this, you may find that changing your diet to include fresh, organic produce remains challenging, especially from a convenience point of view.
To help you make the switch, without incurring added stress, here are eight tips on how to eat and drink better, as sourced from five South African organic and fresh produce enthusiasts.
Know your farmer: The mindless trip to the supermarket doesn’t necessarily inspire, nor does it leave you with a sense of knowing where anything in your trolley actually originated. To ensure you’re tucking into hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and herbicide-free foods, visit your local farmers market instead, suggests Sheryl Ozinsky from the Oranjezicht City Farm. There you’ll be able to buy fresh produce – including eggs, bread, cheese, veggies or fruits – directly from the producers, while soaking up the community atmosphere.
Sprout! If you’re a city-slicker and don’t have a lush garden in which to grow your own, try sprouting. A great way to add a nutritious, “organic” twist to your meals, sprouts can easily be cultivated in your kitchen, suggests Daniel Jardim, founder of Seasonal Cookery, whose sprout, flower and mange tout salad is a firm favourite on his menu. Some of the more common sprouts are mung bean, alfalfa, lentil and chickpea. Organic seeds can be bought from most health shops or online at www.sproutingseeds.co.za.
Eat seasonally: Different foods are in season at different times. So if you’re eating asparagus in winter, it’s likely to have been imported. “By buying directly from a farmer or a local farmers market, you’ll have access only to what is growing at the time, it will be fresh and local and you’ll benefit from knowing that you are helping to support small local farmers,” says Ozinsky.
Cheers to living lightly: Choosing fresh, organic produce rather than heavily preserved store-bought goods doesn’t only apply to food. It also includes wine and other alcoholic beverages. “For a wine to be organic, it needs to be produced in a particular way,” says Samuel Viljoen Winemaker of Earthbound, South Africa’s only organic and Fairtrade certified wine. “This includes ensuring the grapes are planted with enough space so that, when it rains, they can dry easily without rotting. Owls are used as alternative pest controls and sulphur is kept to a minimum.” Unlike organic foods which most retailers don’t stock, organic wine like Earthbound is much easier to find on-shelf thanks to an increase in demand from wine drinkers who’ve tried, tasted and loved it and made the switch.
Besides wine, spirits like gin, vodka and brandy can also be produced organically. At Jorgensen’s handcrafted spirits and liqueur distillery for instance, its products are also made in a sustainable manner. “Our potstill vodka is made the way it used to be before the process was industrialised in the 1900s, while we use unwaxed citrus in our limoncello,” explains Roger Jorgensen. You can conveniently order them online at www.jd7.co.za and they will be delivered to your door.
Hold the salt (and sugar, corn syrup, GM and preservative): Among the many benefits of eating fresh produce is its lack of additives. “Anything in a packet or bottle that has been pre-made is likely to have added salt, sugar or other hidden ingredients in it,” says Jorgensen. “Where possible choose foods and drinks that have been produced organically, without the interference of added anything.” If there’s not a farmers market nearby, make use of online shops like www.thinkorganic.co.za in Cape Town, www.organicemporium.co.za in Jozi or www.organics.co.za in Durban instead. Each week they deliver boxes or bags of seasonal veggies and fruits directly to your home or office door.
Grow your own: You don’t need a large property to start producing your own fresh veg, you just need a little place in the sun – in your kitchen, a small balcony or even your bathroom window! Take growing rocket for instance. “A pack of the delicious and versatile green stuff can set you back R20 in a retailer, yet, if you grow them from seed, you’ll produce months of rocket for the same price!” says Shannon Smuts from Pure Good Food, a Cape Town-based one-stop health shop. To get started, she suggests you choose the veggies you eat often – carrots, tomatoes, spinach – and grow those first.
Choose cows (and pigs, chickens and ducks…) that don’t do drugs: Commercially farmed meat is loaded with hormones and antibiotics, which are passed onto consumers through the animal’s fat and tissue. So if the only additive you’d like on your steak is sea salt, source your organic meat directly from the farmer, from markets or organic retailers. Eighteen ’94 CureSmiths makes a great charcuterie and can be bought from Beulah Farm Deli in Yzerfontein or The Flying Pig in Darling, while Angus McIntosh aka Farmer Angus’ beef and eggs are available from Spier wine estate or from participating retailers around Cape Town.
Make a date: It’s International Organic Day on 22nd September, the perfect time to kick-start your body’s spring clean. But start slowly, as you can easily feel overwhelmed by changing too many things too quickly and may easily fall back into old habits. Instead, source organic varieties of the foods you consume regularly, for instance eggs, milk, peanut butter and wine. This way, once you’re comfortable with one small step, you’ll feel confident to introduce more.
By actively sourcing fresh or organic foods and drinks directly from the producer, buying online or from select retailers, you’ll not only enjoy the abundance of health benefits that this lifestyle affords, you’ll also protect our ecosystems by limiting toxic run-off into our water table, enhance the welfare of animals that otherwise may live a life in bleak conditions, as well as support local farmers, thereby encouraging job creation. “Eating fresh or organic produce offers myriad health and environmental benefits. Spring time is a great time to start, and we encourage South Africans to consider switching from pre-packaged to as-nature-intended foods and drinks where possible and convenient,” concludes Ozinsky.