Friday, December 15, 2006

Our Daily Servings

I would never be able to convince the fanatics that this blog is not about trashing a country or a people, just my observations on both the good and the bad I have encountered, so far, in Buenos Aires.

While I do occasionally mention things happening in other cities, no comparisons are intended and least of all any intention to show Argentines up as inadequate.

My feeling is that if one isn't interested in knowing what is going on in other parts of the World, one leads a cloistered life with a narrow mind; and if one cannot put one's defensive reflexes aside, one would never improve oneself and thereby one's society.

Sorry, I have gone off on a tangent here because all I would like to say today is how wonderfully positive that some governments and agencies have woken up to take a serious look at how our modern lifestyle is changing our health.

More "low-fat" and "low-sugar" alternatives are available to our generation but why do we suffer more lifestyle related health problems than our ancestors?

The Buenos Aires based Centro de Estudio sobre Nutricón Infantil (Cesni) reported earlier this year that their specialists had studied children aged 1-4 across social demographics. They lament that Argentine children within this age group, regardless of wealth, consume only 5% of their daily calorie intake in the form of vegetables and fruits of which 70% from potatoes and almost no fruits.

More alarmingly is the fact that of their entire calorie intake which surpasses what is necessary on a daily basis, 30% comes from junk food. Real food powers our body and mind like real fuel for engines. By feeding the body junk food, we are following a simple formula of garbage in, garbage out.

However, Argentina is not alone in fighting this problem; Kathryn, a naturopath and the brilliant blogger behind Lime & Lycopene, is confronting very similar issues in Sydney. She is blogging a mixed bag of encouraging breakthroughs and a set of not completely satisfactory statistics across the State of New South Wales (Sydney is the largest city within that State).

Their State's health department carried out a comprehensive study in which the researchers reported that among children aged 2 -15, 68% eat adequate quantities of fruit and only 20% eat adequate quantities of vegetables. Adequate, in this case, means meeting the Australian dietary guidelines which recommend consuming up to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day, depending on age.

The statistics, in broad brush, shows that Australians prefer their fruits over their vegetables and in general are consuming some of the total 7 recommended servings rather than none but there is still a lot of room for improvement. The government has been pushing a very public "Go 2 & 5" campaign which goes as far as providing tips on how to split the servings throughout the day.

In the resulting report, the Chief Health Officer of NSW wrote: "Good health enhances the quality of human life and benefits the community. The opportunity to participate in and contribute to society is maximised in a healthy population."

Changing habits is hard for everyone but if we could approach change with a positive attitude, we are already on the road to success. I, for one, am extremely grateful that such information are highlighted in the media and blogsphere so as to remind us that we cannot afford to take our health for granted.

"Naughty, nutritious, healthy and delicious". Healthy eating doesn't have to mean chewing on rabbit food or milanesa de soja (milanesa made with a soy patty instead of meat).

I've just come across a really tempting risotto of celeriac, thyme and walnut here. It is more a guideline than a recipe; the ingredients are a clove of garlic, two lengths of spring onion (scallion), a celeriac bulb cut into small cubes, chopped thyme, almost one full cup of shelled walnuts, one heaped cup of risotto rice, and some vegetable stock.

To finish, drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle some grated pecorino and a bit more thyme. If you prefer, you can melt some grated pecorino into a crispy wafer as a garnish and to add some crunch.

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