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Weekly column by the Ministry of Health Give pride of place to our ‘Gro Manze’ |20 November 2021

• One quarter of ‘Our Healthy Plate’ for starches                                    

Last week we asked you to pay special attention to the most important part of your plate.
We asked you to choose our vibrant local vegetables and fruits to compose HALF of your plate.
And we also urged you to have at least FIVE portions of vegetables and fruits every day, spread out between Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks.
Today we move to the second part of ‘My Healthy Plate’, the first quarter that is made up of the carbohydrates which provide you with the energy you need for all your daily activities.                                        

It goes without saying that if you're not using more energy through physical activity, you need to be mindful of your portion sizes of carbohydrates.
But assuming that you've heeded our other message to “sit less and move more” you'll also need to pay great attention to what types of carbohydrates and starches you eat.
Unfortunately, too often some food items that are getting into our shopping basket are damaging our health because they contain too much sugar and not enough of the important nutrients our body needs.
We're talking here of cream biscuits, cakes, confectionary, soft drinks and other similar items.

Choose our local tubers and starches

Although wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice are better options than their refined counterparts – white bread, white pasta and white rice – best still are our wonderful tubers and local starches.

This includes cassava, yam, taro, sweet potato, breadfruit and plantain, all of which are available throughout the year.
We have a great name for these, ‘Gro Manze’ (‘Big Food’ literally), but we often forget how truly ‘big’ they are for our health. Aside from complex carbohydrates, they are rich in many other nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium and also contain dietary fibre.

Indeed if we go back to how our parents and ancestors ate – during the time when there was not much chronic disease – we will find that they mostly ate rice on Sundays, as a little treat, with some meat.


The importance of fibre

One of the greatest benefits of tubers is their high fibre content, while boiled plantains or green bananas are known for being a good source of resistant starch which is beneficial for our gut.

With current prices of food commodities in general being high, we need to prioritise what foods we buy. With careful planning in terms of our budget and portion size, a weekly batch of tubers, plantains and breadfruit can go a long way, AND improve our health.
And of course let's not forget about the many wondrous and satisfying ways we can cook them – boiled, mashed, grilled, roasted, or added to stews and curries. Your imagination is the limit!

Our king of starches                                          

Breadfruit is our starch from heaven and has a myriad of health benefits. Aside from being rich in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre, it is an excellent source of potassium. It is also rich in antioxidants which helps protect our body cells from harmful chemicals that we ingest.

Since breadfruit is seasonal you can consider freezing it (preferably after par-boiling).
Some countries like Sri Lanka and some islands in the Caribbean as well as Hawaii in the United States dehydrate them or make flour from them, for use throughout the year.
As more and more of our population start to live in apartments, there may be less opportunities to grill a breadfruit. But oven roasting is a close second best, and will take about 75 minutes at 185ᵒc for an average size one (just make sure you make a few scores in the skin all around otherwise it will blow up in your oven!!).
Once you've mastered this week's tips and made the decision to slowly replace refined carbohydrates like white rice with our wonderful ‘Gro Manze’, you'll be more than ready for our final part of the plate next week – your quarter of protein.


By: GP in collaboration with Nutrition unit, Health Care Agency

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