Raw and vegetarian equals lively vitality
MANY people don't mind nibbling at a raw carrot once in a while.
But they will grimace at the thought of eating raw beetroot and would be nauseated to learn that raw spinach and half-boiled ginger and garlic are someone's daily bread.
And in a society of meat eaters, life without those smoky affairs on weekends around braai stands is inconceivable.
Traditional practices such as slaughtering cattle still define the black South African identity - urban or rural.
But Xhosa praise poet Jessica Mbangeni has made a clean break with her famous traditional cuisine of umngqushu (samp and beans) and igusha (boiled lamb). This is not out of disrespect for her proud Xhosa heritage but for health reasons.
She has embraced a vegetarian lifestyle of uncooked food and says she has never been healthier and happier.
Raw foodism, as experts have termed the lifestyle, involves eating raw, unprocessed and organic foods, while raw vegetarianism is about a diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
"I'm not a food activist. I just want people to be aware of the health benefits of this type of vegetarian lifestyle," she says.
"I come from a family that loved potatoes. At six I developed an allergy to potatoes. My three grannies died prematurely of diabetes, heart attacks, depression and strokes because of too much starch in their diet."
After two serious car accidents, her health suffered. But then her homeopathic doctor prescribed herbs and vegetables for her - and there was a significant improvement in her wellbeing.
"My craving for chocolate also stopped. I realised that it was not medicine that cures diseases, but the type of eating lifestyle one chooses. As an artist with a very busy performing schedule, I feel more energetic, healthier and younger and look forward to every new day with a positive attitude," she concludes.
Food scientists say that raw or food cooked at 40 degrees Celsius for a limited period has more nutritional value than cooked meals.
Jessica's favourite dishes
Raw shredded spinach, sliced avocado, onion rings and four slices of peeled pineapple.
"Raw spinach is more nutritious than lettuce. It is particularly rich in iron - which helps to balance female hormones after menstrual cycles," she explains.
"Avocado acts as a skin moisturiser. It contains fatty acids that help to keep the skin soft and moist. Onions have healing and health enhancing properties that prevent chronic diseases and cancers. They also have anti-ageing agents.
"Pineapple cures arthritis and strengthens muscle and bone tissue."
She substitutes seasonal fruit such as pineapple with ginger and garlic (boiled for three minutes and allowed to simmer for five minutes).
Fruit such as strawberries, fresh cherries, red grapes, pears and mango eaten with its skin, supplemented with cashew nuts, almonds or pecan nuts.
"Fruits are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins," she says. "Nuts and almonds are best when eaten raw and unsalted because they have natural salts. They are an essential source of protein.
"Nuts also help reduce cellulite."
Raw diced beetroot (which tastes sweet without any additives) and raw sliced onion dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
"Beetroot facilitates metabolism, is highly nutritious and protects the body against heart diseases and strokes," she claims.
"It also has anti-ageing properties and lowers cholesterol. Olive oil helps to repair worn tissue and nourishes the body, while balsamic vinegar is alkalining."
Jessica's favourite drink is what she calls a "Jewish cocktail" made of warm water with lemon and honey.
"Lemon is alkalining. It detoxes and helps to clean the kidneys, while honey prevents bacterial infections in the throat.