Many years ago, I hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer in an attempt to get back on track to thinking and eating healthy. I came to find out that I really didn’t like going to the gym and having the trainer yell at me to fix my form and making me do 3 more crunches and 10 more curls. As far as exercise goes, I am a runner, a swimmer, a golfer, yoga dabbler, a want to be surfer and most recently I’ve taken up tennis. Get me outside and active and I’ll sweat and become as active as you want me to, and you can yell at me all you want.
I did however get a lot out of my nutritionist. If there was one thing he told me that I never forgot, it was how to shop for myself at the grocery store. What he said was "Stay in the Market". Almost everything that anyone needs at the grocery store, can be found on the outside aisles, or even better at the Outdoor Market. That is, all the good stuff is found around the perimeter of the store. Your fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and dairy products are found by simply walking around the outside aisles. All the bad stuff, canned stuff, the foods loaded with chemicals and additives are found in the middle of the store within the inner aisles.
I was walking through Reys the other day, when I noticed the same was true here in Panama. Other than a quick stop for garbage bags and cleaning supplies, all the stuff we bought for ourselves was found in the outer circle of the store. Keep this in mind the next time you go grocery shopping. How much are you buying from the aisles with all the chips, canned food and packaged products?
When we moved to Panama, we decided that we were going to try anything new that we saw in a restaurant or at the grocery store, at least once. Our first new food was Otoe. Otoe is a root which falls in the same category as a Yucca, but is cooked like a boiled potatoe. It contains less starch than your average root vegetable and is a great substitute for rice or potatoes. Add a bit of garlic and butter; mash them up after they have been peeled and boiled and you will be surprised at how good this purplish vegetable tastes.
Just a few months ago we picked up a few passion fruits to try in the morning, or as a snack between meals. Passion fruit desserts are delicious, however we thought we would try one in its raw form. A little tart, but oh my, get a ripe passion fruit and you will be buying these yellow delights regularily. Maracuya is the Spanish name and they are always found at Reys. A little nutritonal information about the Maracuya that I am 'passionate' about includes:
· The juice of passion fruit reduces cancer cell growth. Though research is still underway on this issue, the phytochemicals in the fruit juice are considered to inhibit cancer cell growth.
· The phenolic acids and flavonoids present in the fruit are supposed to possess heart-protecting functions.
· The phenolic profile of the fruit is known for its anti-microbial activity.
· Passion fruit is a good source of antioxidants, both water soluble and fat soluble ones.
· The fruit is quite high in carbohydrates and simple sugars, which improves athletic performance.
· It contains plant sterols, which help in lowering the levels of cholesterol.
A few more to add to the list of Central American nutritionally loaded fruits and vegetables (not to mention inexpensive) are: Tamarinds, Pixbae and of course Mangos and Chayote. Chayote recipes are plentyful and this squash-like vegetable is a fabulous source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamin C and K.
One of my other favourites are Tamarinds. They grow in brown coloured pods and can be found hanging off the trees in about 2 months from now. They are loaded with calcium, fiber and vitamin A. They make a great tea, hot or cold. If you are looking for recipes or cooking instructions on any of these exotic fruits and vegetables, please email me. I would be happy to share my recipes with you. I also have a great mango bread recipe that will help you when mango season takes us by storm.
My theme and focus this year has been about change. I am all about trying something new, and stepping slightly out of my comfort zone and routine. The next time you step into Reys, have some fun. Try to limit your shopping to the outside aisles of the store. Other than the soft drinks and pet food which have been misplaced in my mind at the Reys, everything you need can be found quickly and easily by staying in "The Market".
* Whenever you can get organic fruits and vegetables I think it goes without saying, this is the ultimate in healthy eating. There are a few organic market that will be commencing in the next few weeks in the Coronado area. If you need more information please contact me and I can get you in touch with the vendors who will be bringing the products to the Playa Community.
"People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be." ~ Abraham Lincoln