Giving you food for thought

Clearing Clutter July 25, 2012

In grade 6, I once had to make a poster with a group of classmates… One of the boys in the group was my biiiigest crush at school. We were using these really cool metallic pastel pens of mine to make the heading when he accidentally broke the one pastel. I of course wasn’t cross at all, no… I kept the broken pastel for years! – jip, very creepy… But seeing the pastel still makes me laugh.


I’ve been keeping a journal for 9 years now and have a shoebox for each year filled with letters, birthday cards, CD’s, photos, invitations and random ornaments (like the pastel) from that year, and I find looking through them so uplifting.


In a previous post, I wrote about the concept “As Within, So Without”. There I explained how your inner turmoils can reflect your outer experience, or how the state of your outer experience can reflect your inner turmoils. I used the state of ones room as an example, explaining how if you struggle to keep your room tidy it is sometimes a reflection of inner stresses, yet when you spring clean your room (clear the clutter), the feeling of turmoil lessens.


This year I am on a spring-cleaning mission. I started to feel like many things in my life simply didn’t serve me the way they used to. Time to elaborate…


Everything is energy. The items we own all carry energy: some hold negative energy, some positive, some just plain stagnant. If we hoard things, we just hold onto energies that clutter our lives. Often we keep things shoved away into a cupboard, thinking that they will come to use later on. We often forget that they even exist; yet we dread opening that cupboard.


Sometimes we deliberately hold onto certain items because we are afraid of letting them go. This is often the case with items that remind us of people we once loved, be it deceased loved ones, ex’s or lost friends. I have found this to be particularly evident when it comes to my iPod: the device is always full, yet many of the songs I skip the moment they come up because I do not want to hear them. Listening to them will awaken certain feelings, or bring back memories that I don’t really want to think about; yet I struggle to delete those songs. It is amazing how when you do, you don’t even miss them, despite them being really good songs. Plus there is room for new ones!


Clutter can take on the form of many things. It can be anything that doesn’t serve you anymore: habits, beliefs, fears, a poor diet, even people. When it comes to things like these, holding onto them creates debris: stale negative energy that keeps you stuck in a rut.


Ok, calling people “clutter” is really harsh. I realized this year that when it comes to people, the solution doesn’t lie in letting them go… You do not have to cuuuut them off 🙂  It lies in letting go of the aspect of the relationship that turned it sour, the “debris”. Often we don’t know what the debris is; just visualise the friendship/relationship without the stale/sour feeling and imagine it manifesting itself, even if it means you have to walk away for a while. If it never manifests itself well, keeping stale relationships is pretty darn pointless.


The universe is one big mirror. What you do is ultimately a reflection of what you want, and what you want is ultimately a reflection of what you do.


A very random example:

Most of us girls have a pair of ‘thin pants’ in our cupboard that we either buy to fit into one day, or haven’t fitted into for years… if you cling to your ‘thin pants’ telling yourself, “They don’t serve me now but one day, I will fit into them,” I guess you could be sending out a message of, “I want to be this thin.” However, in the meantime those pants hang there in the cupboard gathering mothballs and every time you see them, you feel despondent. You can’t wear them, you are not good enough. Still you cling to the idea and desire to be thin again, but knock a little bit of your confidence each time you see them… This also makes you send out a message of, “I am too fat,” which ultimately gets mirrored back to you.


The desire to be thin will never fade unless you want it to. If you let go of that pair of pants, you are not letting go of your desire to be thin; you are letting go of the “debris” that those pants bring to your psyche every time you see them.


This example is literal, but metaphorically it can justify why letting go of anything that bugs you even slightly is not such a bad idea.


Having this mindset also makes you take a step back and view situations from a broader perspective: if you feel “debris”, can you fix the debris? If so, do it. It’d be like patching up an item of clothing in your cupboard that you have not been able to wear because it simply needed to be fixed. Once you fix the item, it is no longer a burden, the patch of debris is gone… If you can’t fix it (eg. it simply doesn’t fit you anymore) let it go.


Clear out all the debris in your life. The first step in doing so is to face it… Open that cupboard that holds all the stuff that you have shoved away and forgotten about (or tried to forget about). Throw it out onto the floor and expose it. The exposure will reveal the feelings that these things create. Then decide whether items should be kept, could be fixed or should be disposed of to rid the discomfort that they create in you. And don’t throw them away… give these things (eg. Your expensive super skinny jeans) to someone who will appreciate them… They don’t hold the same negative connotation in another person’s eyes.


Do this literally to your cupboard and you will feel lighter. Do this figuratively in your heart and you will feel a sense of freedom, open and ready to welcome fresh new things into your life.


“It’s alright, cause there’s beauty in the breakdown.”

– Frou Frou


The “Love Potion” July 18, 2012

My interest in nutrition started when I was a little girl…


Ok, granted that I am notoriously gullible, it fascinated me when my grandmother told me that if I ate my pumpkin, I would grow thick, curly locks; and that bunnies can see in the dark because they ate so many carrots. Or watching how Pop-Eye got so hectic when he ate spinach… My parents always told us that children were not allowed to drink coffee because it would breed fleas in their stomachs? – I was terrified of drinking coffee. But I wanted to know why…


Then we started school, where we learnt to read. The back of Kellogg’s cereal boxes became my new source of information, where I learnt new words like “calcium”, and that it was found in milk and gave us strong bones and teeth.


Then came high school, where we were taught that calcium was deposited into the bones, and without it we developed diseases like osteoporosis. Knowing these things fascinated me! It was this thrill of interest that steered me into the direction of studying it further and seeing for myself whether these foods really did what they are said to do (by the textbooks, that is… Not my grandmother or Walt Disney).


About a year ago, I discovered a magical new ingredient… I have introduced it to quite a number of people since then, but due to some of its benefits it has become more of a joke than anything else. Nonetheless, this stuff is amazing!


Maca powder is a creamy off-white powder that comes from the maca root, which is quite similar to a turnip. The powder smells quite weird and has a distinct, somewhat bitter taste in its dry form, but when it is mixed into sweet liquid concoctions like smoothies or warm beverages, it contributes a malty/nutty flavour similar to horlicks.


The main benefits of this powder are:

1. It gives amazing energy! A different kind of boost to caffeine: one where you feel as if you’ve slept 10 hours. It’s a mental and physical endurance, excellent for long distance running or to feel super focused while you study without feeling jittery. Plus when you want to fall asleep you actually can.

2. It balances all hormonal processes. So yes, it definitely enhances the libido… For this reason it has become one huge joke in our digs when us girls climb into bed with our mugs of maca hot chocolate and watch series together.

3. Apart from the fully functional libido, it regulates things like menstrual cycles, menopause and all the male stuff too.

4. With the hormones in check, maca uplifts your mood and prevents feelings of anxiety and depression. It is actually great stuff for any PMS symptom.


Interestingly, maca works synergistically with cocoa (chocolate), so mixing them together speeds up the processes. You’ll find choccies in the health shops and at markets with added maca powder, but now that it’s winter it’s so nice to add it to your hot chocolate at home:


Basic Maca Hot Chocolate



1 heaped tsp of cocoa powder

1 heaped tsp of maca powder

2 tsp of sugar/sugar substitute

½ mug of warm milk


Combine all the ingredients in a mug and mix well to dissolve the maca. Top up with hot water and enjoy!


– To be really decadent, pour hot milk over real dark chocolate and add your maca to that.

– Maca is lovely to add to any smoothie. Add about 1 heaped tsp for every glass yielded.

– If you’re into playing around in the kitchen, add maca powder to homemade snack bars for an awesome boost of energy.


Where to find this stuff?

Look out for the range called Superfoods in any health shop or Wellness Warehouse. At around R80 for a 200g box it is rather pricy, but consider it a supplement, that should last you a month if you consume it every day.


So here’s a food that really does what it is said to do… Overlooking the libido joke, it just leaves your whole system feeling balanced. Plus you can feel the benefits rather instantly or at the very least, within the first few days of using it.


A happy loving winter everyone!


Unlocking Vulnerability July 11, 2012

Filed under: Deeper Food for Thought — caravheyningen @ 12:48 pm
Tags: , ,

Many weeks have passed since I last wrote. My third year of varsity is basically finished, and now Cara is a full-time workingwoman for the next 5 months! I am busy completing an internship at a big food company, mostly involved in recipe development for convenience food ranges and things. Loving every minute of it!


A final month of hell at varsity was rewarded by two weeks of doing absolutely nothing back at home with my family. My brain was on leave, and invited all inspiration to write away with it. But it is back on call again, awake as ever and driving me crazy.


Many days pass us by as just another. But every now and then we get those days or moments in days that shift us. I wouldn’t say that any new experience or encounter shifts us backwards in terms of growth. Even bad encounters or realizations can shift us forward if we use them in the right way. I think we go backward if we repeat bad patterns or ignore realizations…


Last night I came to a realization that shifted something in me. I was sitting with a group of girls who I can sit with for hours, solving the world’s problems. We were chatting about breaking old patterns.


Through this discussion, the topic of vulnerability came up: the one girl randomly asked us what makes us feel most vulnerable?


The first thought that popped into my head was one of me running completely naked down Long Street during the day… But that’s (probably) never going to happen. Each girl gave her answer, and taking into consideration the different challenges that each of them have faced in their lives, what came up was interesting:


–       When I need to ask someone for help with something

–       When I’m alone at night

–       When I don’t know anyone in a room

–       Around men at a bar

–       When I’m completely myself


I had to think realistically for a moment when it came to my turn. I realized that I feel my most vulnerable when good things happen to me.


This, even to me, was quite a shock because I am generally so optimistic.


I realized as I sat there that I have become so scared of being “brought down” somehow, be it through people or other experiences, if too many good things happen to me. Much so, that I have sabotaged certain areas of my life so that they are always something to bitch about. I realized that having these “unfortunate” situations had become a personal defense mechanism. They reminded me that my life was not all that great, allowing me to enjoy all the many other good things in my life, without feeling vulnerable.


The problem with this tactic is that, well, I didn’t know that it WAS my tactic. It became my life story.


We all have different things that make us feel vulnerable, and different levels of vulnerability. We don’t like feeling vulnerable, so we do things a certain way to prevent situations involving any level of vulnerability: one very basic example would be giving into peer pressure to avoid feeling out of place or rejected.


Another silly example is not being able to fall asleep unless your bedroom door is open/closed. I for one struggle to fall asleep if my door is open. This is where the topic of breaking old patterns comes back in…


These things that we do to avoid feeling vulnerable become patterns. Later we really believe that, for example, if the door is open we will not fall asleep, period. Or, “if I don’t behave in a certain way at parties, I will be a boring presence and might as well not be there.”


We accept that this is just the way it is, “My life story,” and if we take the Law of Attraction into consideration, because we believe it, it always happens. Meantime, it was just a tactic used to prevent feeling vulnerable. No human being can’t not fall asleep at all because of an open door? That is just silly.


Start looking deeper into any bad thing that happens to you over and over again. Sometimes, no matter how much you analyse the situation, you simply can’t figure out where you are at fault, especially when it comes to other people. If this is the case, try asking yourself what  generally makes you feel most vulnerable in your life? Then ask yourself what you do to avoid feeling this way? You should discover your bad patterns, which could reveal where the block lies in the situation.


It might not be easy to change the recurring negative incidences in your life, but start breaking the patterns of them happening by doing the opposite of what you normally would, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.


Say to yourself, “I only close the door because having it open makes me feel out of my comfort zone, not because I really will not fall asleep.” Or in my case: “This is not my life story, it is only a blockage in my life because I am afraid of feeling vulnerable if I were granted yet another good thing. I too deserve to be happy in this area of my life, even if it looks like the only ‘negative’ that I’m dealing with.” Point out the vulnerability, not the recurring result.


Argh I’m being very vague! Hopefully this post speaks to you in some sort of way…


Jump over your own shadow this week and see if any patterns change.



The Happy Hormone May 16, 2012

Filed under: Superfoods & Super Ingredients — caravheyningen @ 6:13 am

With exams just around the corner, winter creeping up on us and everyone getting sick, it’s no surprise that moods may be a little low at the moment.


I’ve come to realize that I tend to feel down around this time of year, and considering the fact that I am actually in a really great space at the moment, I only have the winter blues to blame.


Ever feel down for no reason? Have you been feeling down and demotivated lately?

…Ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder?


SAD is an actual form of depression that affects people (mostly women) around wintertime, as the season changes and the nights get longer. Symptoms of this disorder include depression, low self-esteem, obsessiveness over little things, irritability, shyness and panic attacks. Another symptom is marathon napping, but people often sleep poorly for many of these hours.


Despite exam stresses and the miserable weather, there is another legitimate reason for this feeling: deficiency in the hormone, serotonin.


In basic terms, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates the intensity of signals in the body, particularly related to the mood. Think of it as a volume control, making signals louder or softer: increased levels of serotonin are associated with a happier mood, and low levels are associated with symptoms of depression, and the more or less serotonin present in the body, the greater the intensity of euphoria or depression is experienced.

For example, many anti-depressants target the serotonin system by artificially boosting serotonin levels or sensitivity. Recreational drugs often target serotonin too: LSD & other psychedelics mimic serotonin and activate serotonin receptors in the brain. MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy, releases stored serotonin in the brain’s neurons, causing the euphoric state that people describe.


But lets move away from the topic of drugs and discuss… food! Serotonin, I have come to gather, is the main thing that marries the connection between food and the mind. It is not pure coincidence that we find ourselves rummaging for sweeties when we’re feeling down… To explain this a little better, let me simplify things more: mood-boosting serotonin is produced in the brain by an amino acid called Tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in protein foods, but eating foods with high levels of tryptophan won’t raise its levels in the brain unless they ware eaten with some carbohydrate. This is why we eat more carb-rich junk food when we’re feeling down!

Our bodies want higher levels of serotonin to feel happier, so we eat more carb-rich foods to spike up our blood sugar, releasing insulin, which helps carry Tryptophan to the brain to make serotonin. This also explains why dieters become depressed after about 2 weeks of limited carb intake, and unfortunately the calorie reduction of diets has a greater impact on serotonin and Tryptophan levels in women than in men, explaining why we struggle more with losing weight and are more prone to eating disorders.


Luckily there are many super healthy foods that boost serotonin levels!

Foods high in serotonin itself (no need for it to be formed in the body) include:

–       walnuts

–       chocolate

–       pineapples

–       bananas

–       kiwis

–       plums

–       tomatoes


Foods high in serotonin-forming Tryptophan include:

–       milk

–       yoghurt

–       eggs

–       meat

–       nuts

–       beans

–       fish

–       many cheeses including cheddar


Those are particular foods to keep in mind, but here are some tips to really make sure you up the “volume” of serotonin in your body and banish the blues:


1. Break the “quick fix” habit of eating carbs

Carbohydrates, especially the evil refined ones, give you that instant lift. Yes, they do this because they trigger the release of serotonin, but they don’t support an ongoing production of it, and they spike your blood sugar which leads to a deep energy dip a short while later.


2. Don’t avoid carbs completely

You still want your Tryptophan to be carried to the brain by insulin. Tryptophan works best when complex carbohydrates (brown rice, potatoes, butternut, pasta) and protein are consumed in conjunction. This is what makes nuts and legumes so great!


3. Eat protein

They all contain generous levels of Tryptophan


4. Eat loads of omega-3 fats

All our essential fatty acids are required for hormonal processes, but omega-3 fats help build neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, enabling the brain to receive and co-ordinate serotonin.


5. Exercise

“Mood” hormones, serotonin and dopamine are naturally stimulated through exercise. Exercise to feel good, not to look good. 15 to 20 minutes a day is enough to release these hormones.


6. Avoid stimulants

The horrid cycle of caffeine, sugar and alcohol… They give you a temporary lift but deplete valuable hormones over time. Stick to 1 or 2 cups of caffeine a day, same with alcohol, and avoid sugar completely. Replace coffee with green tea as it is said to raise serotonin levels.


7. Sleep Responsibly

It is tempting to sleep and sleep and sleep when we’re feeling down. But it is more important to sleep well than to sleep a lot. Train yourself to get into a sleep routine so that your body prepares itself to sleep more soundly. The body makes serotonin and then transforms it to melatonin, the sleep hormone, during sleep. You want to reach these stages while you sleep, so get into a sleep routine.


8. Consider taking 5-Htp – the shortcut to serotonin

5-hydroxytryptophan is a type of tryptophan that is a step closer to serotonin. It doesn’t need a whole lot of insulin to carry it to the brain. It’s a natural supplement that you can find in any pharmacy to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and cravings.


9. Boost other hormones

Oxytocin, also called the “cuddle hormone”, is released when we feel love, trust and comfort. It is said to be even more powerful than serotonin! This is why spending time with friends, family or our significant other can be so uplifting.


Have a happy week everyone!


Mothers Day May 13, 2012

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Recipes — caravheyningen @ 12:42 pm
Tags: , ,

I escaped the crazy Cape Town city and came home to my parents in Someset West for the weekend. It is mothers day today, and as it has become expected, I will be baking something.


Traditionally on Mothers day, my father and I take over the kitchen. He cooks the main meal, and I make the dessert. Today daddy is cooking up a coq a vin, and I am going to give my dear friend, Andrea Fourie’s famous malva pudding a try! Apparently it is so yummy, she even posted about it on her blog: allaboutlovingfood.


Here’s the link if you are as curious as I am to test her recipe:



So with this happening in the kitchen, memories of times with my mother have sprung to mind…


As little girls, most of us watched our mothers cook in the kitchen. We learnt the basics of cooking through this observation, and to me, times spent with my mum in the kitchen formed some of my fondest memories at home with my family.


I have always been the baker in the family. I baked my first cake in grade 1. Before this I used to watch my mother bake treats over weekends and long to do the same. The year before I went to school, I remember once asking her if I could bake something. She said NO, as I would just make a huge mess and flop the cake because “baking was a tricky process”. And so I was forced to accept the job of licking out the bowl. One Sunday morning while my parents were at church, I sneakily attempted my first cake. I tried to bake it as quickly as I could so that it was in the oven before they got home to prove to mother that I COULD bake. However, it was a Madeira cake, which required 10ml grated lemon rind. Grating the lemon rind was the most difficult thing in the world to do! I could barely see over the counter, so even holding the grater in place proved to be a challenge. Ironically the cake was delicious, but I didn’t get it into the oven in time because of the stupid lemon rind! But my mum wasn’t cross at all and this was the start to my love affair with our oven and many hours of whisking away in our kitchen.

Baking rusks with mother 🙂

Now days, my mother believes that she jinx’s my cakes, because every time she helps, the cake flops in some or other way. Thought I’d share 2 examples with you:

For my sister’s 13th birthday, my mum and I baked her a cake using a rose-shaped cake mold. We were chatting away so much that we forgot about the cake in the oven (and the timer wasn’t working). My sister was a rather grumpy teen and we didn’t want to ruin her birthday with this horridly burnt cake! So we nervously locked the kitchen door, sliced off all the burnt “petals” of the cake to create a dome-shaped sponge. We then made an icing using whipped cream, icing sugar and vanilla essence to create a special, fluffy outer appearance… but later realized that the cream was off. By this time, the sour flavour had soaked into the sponge. Nevertheless, we scraped off the icing and made a plain butter icing. To mask the sour flavour of the off cream, we first coated the sponge with tangy granadilla pulp? Before topping with the new icing. We gracefully walked out of the kitchen and presented the cake to my sister, with a trail of smoke behind us :).


The best flop was my 18th birthday cake.


Preparing it wasn’t so much as flop as it was a sideshow. I wanted to bake the biggest cake I could using our limited baking resources. I baked a rectangular cake with layers of chocolate and vanilla sponge using oven trays as my molds that I put together to create one huuuge cake. 16 batches of cake batter, to be more specific! Thing is I wanted the layers to be thin so that when the cake was sliced, it revealed many stripes of brown and white cake… I planned on just slicing up the layers using a long, sharp knife, but mother decided that using dental floss would be a better idea…?

It wasn’t.

We wriggled the dental floss horizontally through the cakes, and despite obtaining the thin slices that we had hoped for, the dental floss left behind thin fibres everywhere!! It was already past midnight when this process went down. The light in the kitchen was dim. All our torches were nowhere to be found, so my mother dug around in my little brother’s toy cupboard and found some weird space toy that shone a fluorescent light when a button was pushed.


… We sat in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, with a space toy and a pair of tweezers, removing fibres of dental floss from my birthday cake.


Another sight to behold was how my cake was stored.


It took us two days to complete the cake, so it needed to be covered. My cake was way too big to sit on a plate, or even a tray… no, we used a camping table! My mum covered the cake and table with refuse bags to prevent it from drying out, but that would not stop the ants from getting to it! So she placed the legs of the table on side plates filled with water. She figured that the ants would drown before they could attempt to crawl up the table. It worked 🙂 but yes, that cake was a constant sideshow to behold!

Jip… Behold my 18th birthday cake! Ready for lift-off into outer space.

Taken with my best friends from school. My sister and her friend in the background on the right and the huge cake in the foreground. If only the guests knew what went down the night before 😮

Happy mothers day Miemie: a mother who supports me in everything that I do, in every way that she can, always.

Love you



As Within, So Without May 2, 2012


I am currently vegging in my digs like never before. Actually feeling completely uninspired to write… Quite tempted to exit this page and enter the world within my digsmate’s external hard drive and waste hours of time, buuuut let’s not do that.


This feeling of absolute uselessness got my vapid mind thinking (quite randomly yes) about one of the spiritual laws, “As within, so without”…


There are many super philosophical ways in which this principle is defined and explained, but a few years ago I interpreted it in a way that was of relevance to my little life at the time. So to put it very simply: one’s exterior circumstances are a reflection of one’s internal state.

All things can be viewed from both a literal & a metaphorical perspective and so all material truths have a corresponding psychological and philosophical truth. The workings of nature reflect the workings of the mind, and the mind and body reflect the workings of nature.


This principle, in relation to food & nutrition, defines my passion; and thus to a great extent, the concept of my blog.


We all have to deal with inner “turmoils” on a regular basis, whether it is stress, illness, exhaustion, hurt, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, worry etc.


The most basic example whereby I always see the external reflection of my inner “turmoils” is in the state of my room. Obviously when I’m getting ready with the girls before a night out, all our rooms look like a war zone, but I have found that when my room is a huge mess for days at a time, or if I really struggle to keep it tidy, there is often an inner turmoil that needs confronting. There are also times where my room looks spotless, but when you open my cupboards, there’s a whole different story…  In this case, to get really metaphorical, I have often found there to be suppressed turmoils that I wasn’t aware of.


The cool thing about this is that often by fixing the exterior circumstance, the inner turmoil diminishes (or reveals itself so you can let it go). When I decide to set aside 5 mins of each day to tidy my room, I tend to be less stressed and more productive in my work. When I set aside 30mins, or even an hour, to tidy my cupboard, I firstly dress better! And for some reason always feel lighter and more in control of my life. Its as if I see things in a better perspective, just as I can actually see all the clothing items in my cupboard.


Another example would have to be that of food… And to explain this one, let’s use my mood today as an example:

Firstly, I need to admit that I am rather hungover. It has been a lovely long weekend! But along with partying, comes the intake of lots of wonderful alcohol and fast food at 3 in the morning, followed by a greasy morning brekkie and more convenient junk food to celebrate the glorious state that we find ourselves in the following day. Here you can see that through the “turmoil” of the hangover, we choose “bad” foods, which ultimately create more turmoil in our bodies. The hangover also makes us feel uninspired to do anything productive, which in my current case of entering a very hectic week at varsity, causes stress. These feelings often lead to more negative thoughts and critique (like telling yourself that you are useless or irresponsible), which causes more turmoil.


Most people can also relate to how stress and too little sleep influence our food choices. And also how poor food choices cause stress (and often insomnia). By fixing either one or the other, turmoil is diminished.


I am hugely adamant about eating the right foods to stay grounded. What you put into your body really does reflect either how you do feel, or how you will feel a little while later. Choosing to eat foods that are rich in nutrients (as within), improves your well being, which is reflected in your external reality in so many ways (so without). Stock up on foods that really do your body good, no matter how much of a vegetable you are that day (pun definitely not intended there), and see how much more on top of things you feel in the days to come.


One more element that I must use to explain this principle is love…


Let love within yourself be reflected and expressed around you. You cannot love someone else if you do not to some extent love yourself, but you can also learn to love yourself through loving the people around you. Take that feeling and hold it. Then pour love into everything you do, and that love will reflect itself back to you in so many ways.


A Sweet Potato a Day… April 25, 2012

How often do you come home after a long day and reach for the bread loaf, chuck 2 slices into the toaster while grating up some cheese or grabbing the peanut butter to flavour up this rather boring, empty food item? Or scoff down some rusks dipped in your tea, or eat up last night’s pasta straight from the Tupperware in the fridge? Around lunchtime, we need a substantial boost, and carbs are the best bet to do so. So why not feed your body a carbohydrate that is just as quick to prepare, really tasty, yet serves real benefit to the body…


Arguably one of my favourite staple foods, and one that has become a huge hit in our student digs; thought I’d give a tribute to this beautifully ugly root vegetable.


Firstly I should mention that from a nutritional standpoint, you couldn’t compare a sweet potato with a normal potato. Although they belong to the same botanical family and genus, usually meaning that they would be likely to be similar in nutrient composition, they differ greatly.


In South Africa, we are familiar with two main types of sweet potatoes: the one is orange fleshed with a light beige peel and the other has a light yellow flesh with a deep purple peel. (I prefer the flavour of the purple one).


Among many things, there are basically three main categories that sum up the health benefits of these tubers that I will describe in more detail:


1.Their Antioxidant Nutrients


The antioxidants found in sweet potatoes are linked to the colour pigments that they are made up of. The orange-fleshed sweet potato is a rich source of beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A. Studies have shown that the bioavailability (ability to be absorbed by the small intestine during digestion) of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is the highest after pure carrot juice. In fact, by eating two medium (or one large) sweet potato a day you will have taken in your RDA of vitamin A for the day!

The other colour pigment commonly associated with sweet potato is the deep purple outer skin of yellow sweet potatoes. These pigments are called anthocyanins that are made up of two phytonutrients: cyanidins and pheonidins which are particularly helpful in the digestive tract. They lower risks posed by heavy metal residues such as mercury taken in by the diet, as well as oxygen radicals that damage the intestinal wall and functioning, serving great benefit in the treatment and prevention of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

Sweet potatoes all contain digestive proteins called sporamins, which naturally produce when the sweet potato plant gets subjected to physical damage. Our gastrointestinal tract gets similar healing benefits from these sporamins when we eat them!


2. Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients


These colour-related phytonutrients in sweet potato have an impact on fibirinogen and fibrin, two of the main proteins required for blood clotting. If there is too much of either of them in the blood, it triggers the secretion of molecules that cause inflammation. It can also increase the breakdown of the protective myelin wrapping around the nerve cells, which leads to severe health problems like multiple sclerosis. The colour pigments in sweet potato reduce excess levels of fibrin and fibrinogen, thus reducing general inflammation and risk of further complications in the nervous system.


3. Stabilising Blood Sugar


Apart from being rich in dietary fibre and a low GI food, sweet potato is an amazing blood-sugar-stabilizer because it increases blood levels of adiponectin. Adiopnectin is a protein hormone that is produced by our fat cells and modifies the use of insulin. People with poorly regulated insulin metabolism and insulin sensitivity tend to have low levels of adiponectin, where people with a healthier insulin metabolism have higher levels.

I’ve also personally found that sweet potatoes reduce my sugar cravings in general! And have heard many people saying the same thing. When you’re craving something sweet and trying to avoid sugar, try heating up a sweet potato, maybe mashing it up with some cinnamon a treat. Mmm!


Apart from these benefits, sweet potatoes contain glycosides that have antibacterial and antifungal properties! But to what extent is still unclear… They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, potassium, niacin and vitamin B5.


So consider changing your afternoon samie to a sweet potato to give your body an extra boost of nutrition. We pop ours in the microwave for about 4 minutes (WASH them and poke a few holes though the skin before doing so) then slice up and coat with a teaspoon of butter, salt and pepper. It’s good to add some fat because the fat improves absorption of the fat-soluble beta-carotene into the bloodstream. Stick to boiling, steaming and stir-frying rather than roasting or baking sweet potato if you want to retain the lowest possible GI value.


For a more in-depth explanation of everything, check out this website:



Have a lovely week!