Variety is the Spice of Medicine

Here in Samoa we have an abundance of food, however on closer inspection a lot of what we have available to buy is the same – The fruit and vegetable markets in Apia offer very little choice, (as do the small market stands in the villages) rows upon rows of the same foods, with limited options. 

Diversity in foods not only offer the market seller better money, as they can dictate higher prices, they offer a wider spectrum to the plate. Samoa is a culinary dream for the health conscious epicurean, and I am happy to say that what I like to eat is out there, it’s just not always readily available, and it could be – we have the soil, we have the growers – we just don’t have our marketeers and farmers thinking outside of the box.

As a new writer here for the Samoa Observer, writing about Health and Wellbeing, I’d like to offer up some facts about food, nutrition and how diversity in your growing of foods and selling them will make you healthier and richer.

Humans need a variety of minerals and vitamins to thrive in health, and a majority of these nutrients are found in our roots, fruits, leaves and shoots. Our bodies will keep craving food until we receive these nutrients.  Ever notice how healthy people seem to eat less? it’s because they’re probably in the know of what minerals and vitamins they’re consuming. It’s a duty to yourself and your health to know what you are putting into yours and your loved ones bodies. 

Here in Samoa we also have an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We over use antibiotics and are creating resistances, the typical diet is filled with hormone-fed chicken, processed foods and cooking oils which would not be sold in other parts of the world as consumable in our diets.

One must truly cultivate a passion for knowledge around nutrition these days as what is sold as food, tends to not be – for the most part, I believe - if it’s sold in plastic, it usually holds little to no nutritional benefit.


Let food be thy medicine.

Coconut oil, for cooking and eating – there is a great local brand of edible organic coconut oil available in supermarkets, there are also a lot of people making coconut oil for massage and skin – perfumes are added to this, it becomes inedible – why aren’t more people making the edible stuff?! Coconut oil is the healthiest (and most delicious) oil available. Studies show coconut oil can lower blood pressure which lowers the risk of heart disease – it helps you lose weight, improves brain function, plus it makes everything taste good! - please throw away your cheap cooking oils they are no good for you!

Sasalapa has been in the spotlight lately as scientists research the amazing health benefits of this super fruit. Not only is it delicious and diverse in meals, smoothies, desserts, teas and by itself the purported research suggests its leaves and the fruit are anti cancer because of the wonderfully high antioxidant properties, the leaves can be used to treat head lice too! Eat sasalapa!, Grow sasalapa, Sell sasalapa (there isn’t enough around!)

Leafy Greens. Most of our diets should be leafy greens – not only mineral rich, the fibre from leafy greens work as an intestinal broom keeping everything cleansed and functioning. Here are some ideas for growing, selling and most importantly – eating.

Sweet potato leaf and tuber (yes you should eat the leaves, in salads raw or cooked!) are high in vitamins C, B6, Thiamine, Magnesium, Manganese, Calcium and protein

Drumstick/moringa leaves are a rich source of vitamin A and can be eaten in salads, cooked or dried and powdered for smoothies or super food health bars. Drumstick is being hailed as a new super food and I would love to see this available for purchase in our markets as well as being eaten more by our locals – the health benefits are up there as one of the best for what is readily available on our island paradise.

I love using leafy greens in my smoothies because I can consume more, and remember, the more greens we consume the better – I also like to use laupele and kapisi vai in my smoothies, we’re so lucky to have these in abundance – I find two big handfuls of leafy greens, a couple of those amazing orange bananas (super high in beta carotene, more than carrots!) , the juice of a niu and a mango makes the most delicious smoothie ever... change it up and play around, think of your kitchen as a playground!

Herbs and spices! Coriander, mint, basil, parsley, spring onions, turmeric, ginger, chilli, they all grow here – eat and sell all of these things. Whether cut fresh or in pots, there also aren’t enough of these in the conventional Samoan diet – they all have wonderful medicinal properties and make your meals absolutely delicious - your kitchen is your playground!

I like shallow frying breadfruit wedges in coconut oil and I make a dipping sauce of lime, ginger and chilli to go with my guacamole, a Samoan take on a Mexican favourite – this quick and easy meal is sooo rich in good fats!, eat good fats and you’ll find yourself losing weight and less hungry for naughty foods – Dieticians suggest a couple tablespoons of coconut oil at the start of your day will stop sugar cravings! I’ll be writing about sugar and how nasty it is and will offer sound tips on how you can go sugar-free in an upcoming wellbeing article.

Seed swap and co-op. Look at what your friends and family are growing and grow different things to them. Share your seeds, share meals, share recipes and share the health.We have it all here in Samoa, all it takes for you to be healthy and rich is to think outside of the proverbial fruit box. Use your Internet and research what you are eating. It’s fun.

Stay tuned, we will be announcing seed swaps soon! - start saving your seeds for swap! - Samoa is a gardeners’ paradise. If you’ve anything you would like me to write about in regards to health and wellbeing, please contact me, I’m so happy to be sharing with you.

Rachel Laulu is a Samoan-based yoga teacher who offers private yoga classes to corporate groups, schools, retreats and  individuals. If you have any inquiries, please feel free to contact Rachel on 7279723 or via email at [email protected]

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