Chewin’ the fat
New Year’s resolution - eat healthier!
Many, I’m sure, have already made and broken their New Year’s resolution but if this year yours is to eat healthier and you’re looking for something different, interesting and truly healing for the damage you’ve done to your poor carcass over the festive period, look no further than native plants.
There’s a common theory that is promoted in many alternative medicine books on nutrition that ‘we should eat foods native to our own area’. This theory suggests that not only are these foods better suited to the metabolism of the residents of the area but also is less prone to pests and bugs that may be present. If you are Australian, however, there is even more reason to be consuming native Australian food products over the imported varieties.
The best-kept secret about native, Australian bush foods is their nutritional value. For most people, the first things that come to mind are witchetty grubs or green ants and while these do form a valuable part of traditional Australian bush food, it is the native fruits and vegetables that are exceptionally nutritious. In fact, native Australian flora is beginning to emerge on the international market as the latest and greatest super foods and supplements.
One perfect example of just how powerful some of these foods are can be seen with gubinge, or terminalia ferdinandianna. This native Australian bush fruit is commonly found in Northern Australia, where the local communities harvest it. It is small, yellow-green, about two centimetres long and one centimetre in diameter. While most people are consuming citrus fruits, guava or papaya for their Vitamin C content, gubinge, in laboratory testing, was shown to have measurements of Vitamin C up to 5230 mg per 100g. Guava by comparison has only 183mg per 100g. This is about the same amount of Vitamin C as found in a human body that is fully saturated with Vitamin C.
A therapeutic dose of Vitamin C, often recommended for signs of cold and flu or other infection, is normally 2000mg. To obtain this from diet alone would require eating up to two kilograms of broccoli, or, one half of a gubinge.
The health benefits don’t end with fruit though. It is possible to generate a native Australian food pyramid that provides excellent, nutritious alternatives for all introduced foods.
Potatoes are a staple in the diet of many western countries; this highly starchy vegetable is one of the leading contributors to our obesity woes. Taro, the native Australian equivalent, makes an ideal substitute for potatoes with far more protein than its starchy counterpart. As an added benefit, taro contains almost three times as much calcium as one cup of whole fat milk, making it ideal for anyone concerned about musculoskeletal health.
All in all we have a plethora of ingredients native to this good land which could potentially fast track your New Year’s resolution of a healthier diet. In the case of these native alternatives you can feel good about eating them too as they require a fraction of the water needed by introduced species and need very little attention generally if you choose to grow your own. As always, there are some great books available online and in bookstores on the subject but also we are available to field any questions you may have on Twitter.
Jock Zonfrillo is the Head Chef of Magill Estate