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place where temptation abounds, it’s in the gleaming, brightly-lit isles and counters of the local supermarket. Although we may go in with the intention of stocking up on healthy nutritious foods for the family, a lack of shopping savvy could result in a trolley full of empty calories. This article outlines the steps towards avoiding impulse-buying traps, creating a healthy shopping list and ultimately completing a successful shopping mission.



Avoid impulse buying


It’s best to side-step the sweet and chocolate isle, imported cheese counter and bakery sections unless absolutelynecessary. Don’t even look at the rows of intensely coloured0pt; font-family: Arial; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;"> sweeties at the check-out queue- rather grab the latest issue of Longevity magazine and read away. It’s also important to eat a hearty breakfast or lunch before heading out to do the groceries- shopping hungry will only force you deeper into temptation. If you have young kids, it often better not to bring them along for the shop, as they tend to ask for the wrong foods and pull sweets, chips and chocolates into the trolley. Resist the temptation to buy that decadent product in store and you resist it only once, but take it home, and you’ll be forced to resist it for a week!


Shop from a list


Use a healthy shopping list and buy only what you need. A good idea is to bring just enough money along, so that you don’t overspend on the wrong stuff.


Seek out health foods


Most supermarkets have a health food isle, where you can pick up preservative free foods, sugarless treats, natural sweeteners, raw nuts and seeds, soya products and a selection of wholegrains and cereals, which help add variety to a healthy trolley.


Tackle deli dilemmas


Supermarket delis are a great and convenient way to a quick meal, but if you’re not sensible, you could end up with a plastic container full of fat and calories. Always choose fresh deli meats over processed one’s, which are full of sodium and nitrates. Salads are fine, but avoid mayonnaise-drenched coleslaw, potato and pasta salads. Rather pick up a carrot or green salad in a vinaigrette dressing. If you’re unsure, don’t be shy to ask how a specific food was prepared.


Buy fresh


Time your buying according to market schedules. Fresh fruit and veggies are rarely delivered on a Sunday or Monday. For fresh fish, ask your local fishmonger or at the fish counter when deliveries are made and shop on that day or the next. Buying frozen and canned foods is okay for convenience–sake and to use when you don’t have access to fresh food, but are generally lower in nutrients than fresh foods bought on market days.


Read labels


Any health-conscious shopper should learn how to label read. It’s your best defense against buying questionable foods and is especially important when comparing similar products and analysing pre-prepared and convenience foods.


A label will always list ingredients from the most used to the least used. So if sugar, butter or cream features as one of the first three ingredients, that product is better left untouched. Look for products with the least amount of added flavourants,colourants and preservatives. Most products will list kilojoules, fat, carbohydrate, protein, sodium and fiber per 100g of product as well as per portion. Use the “per 100g” calculation to compare similar products. The "per portion" calculation is useful for meal planning and kilojoule and carbohydrate counting.


Familiarise yourself with common labeling terms and their meanings, for example:


  • Fat-free. Such products should contain less than 0.5g fat/100g product. Watch out- fat-free products are usually loaded with sugar so check the label for carbohydrate content
  • Low-fat. Low fat means less than 3g fat/100g product
  • Reduced/less. Such products must contain at least a 25% reduction from the regular version
  • Sugar-free. Sugar-free does not necessarily mean kilojoule-free. Sometimes other caloric sweeteners, like fructose or sugar alcohols may be used. These products also tend to be high in artificial sweeteners.





It’s all very well hitting the stores with a generic grocery list of milk, eggs, cheese and bread, but in a consumer driven competitive society, we now have a variety of choices for each foodstuff. If its optimum nutrition you’re after, you need to ensure that you make better choices. Here’s a look at some basic foodstuffs, and the healthiest selections for each:


Milk and yogurt


The fat in milk is the unhealthy saturated type, so it’s better to opt for skim milk, although children under 8 years of age should drink low fat or full cream. If you’re not mad on the taste of skim, low fat or 2 percent is a suitable compromise. The same goes for yogurt. Plain fat-free or low fat yogurt with added pro-biotic cultures is best. If you must go for fruit or sweetened varieties, read labels for fat, sugar and artificial sweetener content.




Cheese is a good source of protein and adds versatility and flavour to food. But beware- most cheeses are loaded with fat. Cream cheeses, Brie, Camembert, and Cheddars tend to be highest in fat (up to 35g/100g) with Edam, mozzarella, ricotta and feta having a lower fat content (about 24-28g/100g). Fat-free and low fat cottage cheeses are the lowest fat options (0.5-3g/100g).




Free-range, grain fed chickens produce the healthiest eggs. Also, look out for the omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs on the shelves.




About 80% of the fat in chicken is present in and just under the skin, so it’s best to choose skinless pieces- unless you skin the chicken at home. Try skinless breasts and thighs, chicken breast sausages and chicken kebabs. It’s best to pay a little more and choose free range chickens. The health effect of eating hormone-fed chickens is still in question.


Red meat


Grain-fed organic meats are best. Some butchers do stock these and these meats will usually be labeled as such. Game, venison and pork tend to be lower in fat and cholesterol than beef or lamb. Choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat.




Choose fresh fish where possible, although the occasional use of frozen fish is acceptable. White fish is good, but you should also choose some fatty fish each week. Salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are all good sources of these healthy omega-3 fats. For convenience, stock up on some tinned fish, like tuna in brine or spring water.


Fruit and vegetables


The best way to ensure that you are getting the right balance is make sure that you eat a variety of colours each week, so add some orange carrots, red peppers, blue berries, green spinach and red tomatoes to your shopping cart. Choose fresh, organic, non-genetically modified (GM) produce where possible. Woolworth’s fruit and veggies are non-GM.




Many of the cereals we eat are loaded with extra sugar and are generally unsuitable. Choose wholegrain cereals like All Bran flakes, High Fiber Bran, Wheatbix and Pronutro. Try porridges, like oats, oatbran, Tastee Wheat or Maltabella but avoid quick-cook versions of these products. Choose raw oat-based muesli’s with little added sugar.


Grains and pastas


Go for brown over white rice or choose long-grain Basmati. Old Mill Stream has a wonderful range of flavourful brown rice’s. Wholewheat pasta is now also available on the shelves (Fattis and Monis). When going for grains, variety is important, so choose some cous cous, barley, buckwheat, polenta or millet.




Legumes are an excellent addition to any healthy diet. Stock up on some lentils, split peas, chickpeas, baked beans, red kidney beans and the like in dry or tinned form.




Ditch the white breads and white rolls- even brown bread is not such a great compromise. Rye breads and wholegrain breads with lots of visible fibers are good. Add some energy sustaining low glycemic index breads, which include seed breads, sourdough rye, pumpernickel and whole-wheat pita bread. Crackers are

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good alternatives to breads. Try wholegrain crackers like Provita, Ryevita or Fin crisps or add some rice cakes or Cornthins to your trolley.



Oils and spreads


When choosing oils, its best to splurge a little and choose cold-pressed varieties, as these have not been damaged by heat pressing. Extra-virgin olive oil is a must in any household. Seed oils like pumpkin seed oil, sesame oil and peanut oil are great for adding variety and flavour. If you must use margarine, go for a trans fatty acid free variety, like Floro light. Add some other healthy alternative spreads like hummous or olive paste.


Convenience foods


In general, convenience and pre-prepared meals should be kept to a minimum. Woolworth’s and Pick and Pay do stock some lower fat options for dieters which are marketed as such. Otherwise, red labels if you are unsure of the ingredients or nutritional content. Tinned veggies, fruits, legumes and fish are useful to have around when you don’t have access to fresh foods.




Sugar-loaded fizzy drinks, flavoured mineral waters, sweetened fruit juices and sports drinks are not items you want in your trolley. Freshly squeezed fruit juices are great- but if you’re trying to lose weight, the sugar content becomes too high, so dilute with water before drinking. Without a doubt, the healthiest drink you can purchase is water. Go for plain un-carbonated mineral or spring water. When choosing coffee, it’s best choose pure filter coffee rather than granulated varieties, or even better, use fresh coffee beans and grind at home. Tea is a wonderful drink to choose and is full of antioxidants- try black, green, chamomile, peppermint, mixed berry or the true South African favourite-

rooibos. Finish off your beverage shopping with a couple of bottles of good red wine.




Sweets, chocolates, chips, biscuits and pastries should not be a major feature in a healthy trolley but there certainly is some room for them in the context of a healthy diet. Fruit gums, sucking sweets, frozen yogurts, plain milk or dark chocolate, mini chocolates, reduced fat chips, digestive biscuits, and bran or oat muffins are suitable occasional additions.


* this article also appeared in Longevity magazine





Caffeine content of selected beverages

Filter (200ml) – 80-135mg

Instant (200ml) – 65-100mg

Decaffeinated, filter – 3-4mg

Decaffeinated, instant – 2-3mg

Espresso (40-60ml) – 100mg

Tea (200ml) – 40-60mg




There’s an even better reason to delight in tea drinking than just enjoying a warming and comforting treat- the stuff is actually good for you! The health benefits of tea have been known for centuries in the East. The reason behind tea’s health creating effects is the presence of special tea antioxidant nutrients, called flavonoids. A vast body of epidemiological studies has linked increased dietary intake of antioxidant flavonoids from fruits, vegetables wine, chocolate, coffee, tea, and other foods to reduced risks of a range of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Developing a tea drinking habit in addition to getting your minimum of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day can seriously boost your health.


Black and Green Teas

Black and green teas are both produced from the leaves of an evergreen plant, Camellia sinesis. The difference lies in the area in which they are cultivated and the manner in which they are processed. All tealeaves are picked, rolled, dried, and

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heated. With the additional process of allowing the leaves to ferment and oxidize, black tea is produced. A 2007 report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) compared nearly 400 foods for their flavonoids content, and found green tea contained the highest amounts of a special flavonoid called catechin. Catechin is what is responsible for most of teas health effects. Black and green teas contain similar amounts of flavonoids, but green tea has almost 4 times more catechins than black tea, according to the USDA report. The main catechin in green tea is Epigallocatechin Gallate (ECGC), and is the substance that most tea research revolves around.


The health benefits of Black and Green Teas

The benefits of green tea are multiple, with most of the focus being around chronic disease prevention. A review study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry in June 2008, confirms green tea’s health effects on the cardiovascular system. According to the researchers green tea catechins help mop up free radicals that would otherwise damage blood vessels. Catechins also reduce the intestinal absorption of fats from food thus improving lipid profiles. They also prevent vascular inflammation and suppress platelet adhesion, thereby inhibiting thrombogenesis. A study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation looked at the effects of green tea on flow-mediated dilation (or the measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax), and found that green tea increased flow-mediated dilation by 4 percent after 30 minutes of consumption, while patients receiving a placebo showed no effect.

The heart health benefits of tea are not limited to green tea though. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition, April 2008 found that the efficacy of black tea in ameliorating endothelial function is equivalent to that of green tea and that there may be another antioxidant, besides catechin, that is mediating these effects.

Research into tea and cancer has produced mixed results. A large review study on green tea catechins and lung cancer in the

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Are there any downsides?

Black and green teas both contain caffeine (although black tea contains more). Most studies on the effects of excess caffeine suggest that we should keep our daily intake at or below 300mg per day to avoid any ill effects. Depending on how it is harvested and brewed a cup of black tea contains 25-110mg caffeine and green tea 8-16mg. Decaffeinated black and green teas are available but the decaffeination process lowers the antioxidant potential of the tea by 15 and 3 times respectively, according to the USDA report. Black and green teas also contain oxalic acid and should be used with caution in people prone to calcium-oxalate kidney stones. The other element of concern is compounds found in tea called tannins, which decrease our ability to absorb iron from food and may contribute to the development of anemia in susceptible individuals.

Red Tea or Rooibos

Red tea (more affectionately known to South Africans’ as Rooibos tea) originates from the leaves and stems of the indigenous plant Aspalathus linearis, which are then fermented to form rooibos tea. Made from the red bush trees on the slopes of the Cedarburg Mountains and found nowhere else in the world, the medicinal value of our very own rooibos seems to be endless.

Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Rooibos contains one of the highest concentration of tea antioxidants of any tea. Rooibos was first recognised for its ability to ease stomach cramps and is an age-old remedy for infant colic. A review study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (June 2008) is the largest and most up-to-date review of the health benefits of rooibos tea. The main flavonoids in rooibos, dihydrochalcone aspalthin, rutin, hesperidin and orientin, exhibit a comparable effectiveness with ECGC, according to the review. The review points out that rooibos tea has shown promise as an anticancer remedy, with applications in skin, breast, liver, esophageal. Rooibos also exhibits immune modulating effects by stimulating antibody and other immune cell production and by it’s an anti-microbial and anti-viral effect. Rooibos may also help lower blood pressure by inhibiting the constriction of blood vessels.

Are there any downsides?

Rooibos is low in tannins and caffeine free, so it’s safe for anyone- including infants. It’s also free from oxalic acid, so it’s safe for people with kidney stones. There is some concern, according to the review study, that rooibos can interfere with certain medications, especially those utilizing the cytochrome P450 pathways (speak to your doctor if you are on medications to ensure that there is a minimal effect).

Herbal teas

A herbal tea may have either a black, green, or red base with herbal ingredients added to it or it is simply crushed flowers or leaves and is not actually a tea at all. A herbal tea with a tea base will offer antioxidant benefits, while plain herbal teas won’t offer you anything beyond the normal therapeutic and antioxidant potential of that particular herb. That does not mean that herbal teas don’t offer you benefits. For example chamomile tea has been shown to help prevent high blood sugar in diabetes patients, when taken close to a meal (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry September 2008); ginger tea can help improve digestion and quells nausea (Hawaiian Medical Journal, December 2007) and rosehip tea is a good source of vitamin C and may help reduce arthritis pain (Osteoarthritis Cartilage, September 2007).

A version of this article appeared in Business Day Health News

The Health Benefits of Broccoli


The Health Benefits of Broccoli


Broccoli is one of the cruciferous vegetables and is related closely to cabbage and cauliflower. Broccoli is an excellent accompaniment to stir fries and pastas and makes an excellent soup. It is also delicious raw or lightly steamed, or cooked with a cheese sauce. Health benefits of broccoli include cancer prevention, healthy eyesight, strong bones and healthy iron and haemoglobin levels.


Broccoli Nutrition


The health benefits of broccoli can be traced back to its superior nutritional content. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. It is a rich source of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, E and K, as well as vitamins C, folate and B6. It also contains high doses of the minerals iron, calcium potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Broccoli also contains additional antioxidant compounds, known as indoles and sulphoraphane and is a good source of lutein. Green plants also contain chlorophyll, which is similar to


he Link between caffeine and health has both negative and positive aspects. First monopolised in Arabia as a drink for energy and vitality, the richly flavoured brew from the coffee bean soon became a worldwide phenomenon. It’s enjoyed by almost anyone and the coffee bean has even given rise to a huge coffee culture and a multi-billion dollar industry. Its caffeine’s powerful mood-altering properties that make it so popular. What’s more, it’s addictive. The jury is not completely out as to whether or not we should consume caffeine but a moderate intake is set at about 300mg per day, which equates to about one or two cups of coffee.

Because caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, it can lead to behavioral disturbances, like nervousness, anxiety and even paranoia, although the effects are mild.

There are also studies to support that regular caffeine consumption may raise blood cholesterol levels. More recently, it was found that coffee raises homocysteine levels, which further contributes to heart disease.

In women, coffee consumption is linked to decreased bone mineral density, decreased fertility and a worsening of PMS symptoms, particularly painful breasts.

It’s not all bad news though and the coffee bean is not without its merits. You’re probably aware that tea is rich in free radical scavenging antioxidants, but recent studies have also pointed towards coffee as an excellent source of these healthy nutrients. The major coffee antioxidant has been identified as chlorogenic acid (a combination of caffeic acids and quinic acid) and it may be a major contributing source of antioxidants in the diet.

Asthma sufferers may also benefit from moderate consumption, and coffee may be used to lesson the severity of asthma attacks. As another bonus, if taken before exercise, caffeine can help with fat burning and also enhances athletic performance and endurance. It also helps increase mental alertness and may improve memory and concentration.

Regular versus decaf

There is a perception that decaffeinated coffee is better for you. Its true- the caffeine content is lower, but studies have shown that decaffeinated coffee may raise LDL cholesterol (the bad type) to an even greater degree than regular coffee can.

Caffeine and Health: Coffee consumption rules

· If you drink coffee, keep total caffeine intake at no more than 300mg per day

· If pregnant, avoid caffeine or limit to no more than 1 cup per day

· Do not drink excess coffee if you suffer from or are at risk for osteoporosis

· Do not drink excess coffee if you are at risk for heart disease

· Do not drink decaffeinated coffee in excess if you suffer from high cholesterol levels

· Do not drink excess coffee if you suffer from PMS symptoms

· Diabetics should be cautious about their caffeine intake, as the effects on diabetics is not yet fully established

· Avoid drinking coffee after lunch time, so as to avoid insomnia

· Beware of adulterated coffee. Cappuccinos and lattes contain lots of dairy. Watch the amount of sugar or sweetener you use.

· Caffeine is a diuretic, so make sure you drink one glass of water for every cup of coffee consumed

· Avoid substituting coffee drinking for eating food. It creates a false sense of alertness and may mask low blood sugar levels

· Practice some coffee free days from time to time, to make sure that you aren’t becoming addicted




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