Healthy Pantry

Healthy Pantry

How healthy is your pantry?  People often tell me that as soon as they try to buy foods that are healthy they find there is more sugar or salt.  I’ve done up a list of pantry items that are healthy – compare this list to the foods in your pantry.  I’m always happy to read your comments or suggestions so feel free to post them.

Lower sodium (salt) foods are the hardest to find but they do exist.  ‘Low salt’ has less than 120mg of sodium per 100g of food.  Try to get products wit h lowest sodium level, you can always add a little bit of salt later when cooking.

Oils, Vinegars, Condiments
Oils: extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil or rice bran oil or sunflower oil, sesame oil
Vinegars: White, red-wine, balsamic, rice
Dijon mustard
No added salt tomato sauce
Barbeque sauce (look for lower sodium levels)
Reduced salt soy sauce
Reduced salt mayonnaise made with mono or poly oils such as canola or soya bean
No added salt chilli sauce

Canned Goods and Bottled Items
No added salt canned tomatoes
No added salt tomato paste
Canned corn
Canned beetroot
Other canned vegetables (eg canned bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, peas)
Reduced salt chicken broth
Canned beans: no added salt baked beans, kidney beans, chick peas
Canned tuna in springwater
No added salt canned salmon
No added sugar canned fruit: canned apples, canned pears or apricots, canned pineapple
Canned lite coconut milk or canned coconut flavoured low fat evaporated milk
Canned low fat evaporated milk
Canned soup: salt reduced tomato soup, wholegrain vegetable soups

Iodised salt (small container)
Black pepper
Dried herbs and spices: ground cumin, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, rosemary, thyme, oregano or basil, dill, cinnamon, ground ginger, coriander, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg, turmeric, low salt curry powder
Vanilla extract
Grains and Legumes
Assorted wholemeal pasta
Rice: basmati (regular and microwaveable) or doongarra, arborrio, brown rice
Wholewheat cous cous
Rolled oats (traditional)
Breakfast cereals: weet-bix or Vita Brits or untoasted muesli or Just Right
Crackers: vitawheat, ryvita, corn thins
Tortillas or long life wholemeal mountain breads
Dried lentils
Popping corn (not packaged, to be used in air popper)

Baking Products
Plain white flour
Plain wholemeal flour
Baking powder
Plain baking cocoa (unsweetened)
Baking soda
Unprocessed wheat bran
Yeast (optional)
Pure corn flour
Sugars: brown, white (small bag)
Artificial sweetener: Splenda, Equal, Hermesetas (optional)
Honey, pure maple syrup
Jam – no added sugar or home made or jam with at least 50% fruit

Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit
Raw nuts: walnuts, almonds
Dried Fruit: dried apricots, dates, sultanas
No added salt peanut butter

Herbal teas
Teas: black or green
Coffee: instant or beans
Soda water or mineral water (optional)

Does the seed extract from African Mango speed up weight loss?

It’s spring and people start thinking about trying to lose weight.  It’s also human to want to lose weight fast (even though logic tells us that you can only burn 1kg of fat fairly slowly).  I saw a claim about African Mango seed extract in the paper saying that it got results such as 5.5kg weight loss in 30 days.

Does it work?  Short answer to the question is maybe it can help with weight loss.  There have been two small human studies that look promising.  However, the longest study was for 10 weeks (not long) and only 102 people were in the study, long term weight loss results and side effects are unknown. 

Details:  In the ten week study, half the volunteers (51 people) were on the ‘pretend’ (placebo) extract and the other half (51 people) took active dose of the Irvingia gabonensis seed extract (150mg) before both lunch and dinner.  Eighteen people dropped out which could effect the results.  Side effects were reported as headache (5 people), sleep difficulty (6 people), and intestinal flatulence/wind (6 people).  After 10 weeks of the study, there were promising drops in body weight (eg 12.5kgs), body fat, waist measurements and cholesterol.  However, the next type of study needed to back up these preliminary results would need to include a larger number of people (say 1500), the study would need to run for 1 to 2 years to look at long term weight loss results and any potential side effects and the study would need to try to prevent people from dropping out.

Bottom line:  Further studies are needed to get a better idea if this extract can help with weight loss without any serious side effects.  If you see a weight loss product that includes this extract does it have the kind of dosages used in the study (eg 150mg twice a day)?  Can you afford to buy it knowing that it may or may not help with weight loss?  Does the supplement have any other herbs that may interact with other medications or sleep (eg guarana is a herb that contains caffeine)?  Discuss with you Doctor seeing as the long term side effects are unknown.

Brown and White rice and Diabetes Risk

Recent Study looking at Brown or White Rice and Diabetes Risk

I’ve had lots of questions and comments about this one and the study was only published on June 14!

If you already have diabetes, this study does not apply.  If you eat rice and already have diabetes the main things to think about are portion size (think small), low glycaemic index (basmati or doongarra rice) and health benefits (brown rice has more fibre and B vitamins).

This study was looking at people without diabetes and whether their rice eating pattern raised or lowered their risk of getting type 2 diabetes.  (White rice, brown rice and the risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women.  Archives Internal Medicine 2010 June 14 170 (11) 961-969.

The study looked at the long term eating patterns of health professionals in America (39 765 men and 157 463 women).  The key findings were:

– Eating five or more serves of rice per week gives a 17% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes then people that ate less than 1 serve of white rice per month.
– Eating brown rice, two or more times a week, reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 11%.  This was compared to people that ate brown rice less than once a month.

So if you don’t have diabetes and want to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, as you get older, brown rice rather than white rice would be a healthy option.  

Cooking tips – brown rice takes longer to cook so plan ahead and get the rice cooking first before preparing a stir fry.  Brown rice has a nutty texture which takes a while to get used to but very enjoyable.

Lamb Shank and Vegetables

Lamb Shank and Vegetable Recipe

Nice hot filling meal for cold winter weather – enjoy.  Serve with steamed vegetables such as pumpkin, broccoli, beans and peas.
Serves 2

2 lamb shanks
440g can salt reduced tomato soup
440g no added salt canned tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, halved and finely sliced
3 celery sticks, finely sliced
2 tspn dried basil
pepper to taste

In a slow cooker or large casserole dish, place all the ingredients.  If slow cooking, place in cooker and follow instructions.  If baking in the casserole dish, bake in the oven at medium heat for 1 ½ to 2 hours until lamb is tender and ready to fall from the bone. 
Nutrition Analysis: 
Energy 2000kJ, protein 53g, fat 17g, carbohydrate 28g, fibre 9g, sodium 630mg.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup Recipe


Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Spray oil or 2 tspn olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 cm chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 medium onion, diced
500g sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cups of water
¼ tspn ground nutmeg
ground pepper to taste

Spray or coat a saucepan with oil and add chopped onion, garlic and ginger.  Cook until soft.
Add all other ingredients and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer.  Cover with a lid and cook for 20 – 30 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Serve with a swirl of low fat natural yoghurt.
Serves 4.

Nutrition information – per serve – 490kJ, 3g protein, 2g fat, 21g carbohydrate, 4g fibre

Glycaemic Index of Sweet Potato Has Changed

Glycaemic index is a measure to see how slow or quick a food is digested and ends up as blood sugar.  The lower GI foods are used on a day-to-day basis for people with diabetes to help keep blood sugars stable.

Sweet potato when tested in research laboratories overseas came back with low GI (slow release) values.  Research in Australia indicates that the sweet potato available here has GI levels between 61 to 77, which is moderate GI.    To look up the values go to the Australian data base at

The values vary depending on the variety, different skin types and flesh colours.  This is the same with nutrients.  Beta carotene is high in sweet potato with orange coloured flesh and Vitamin C levels are higher in other varieties.