A kota crammed to the brim with polony, cheese, slap chips, Russian sausage and a fried egg. Or a bag of squishy, subtly sweet magwinya with atchaar. The sensations of comfort and pleasure that many a South African knows and loves. And while these culinary gifts from the gods are perfect as occasional treats, they are highly processed food items that have, unfortunately, become a major part of the staple diet of many South Africans.

In the 1826 publication Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously wrote, "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es" - tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are. The notion that you are what you eat has traditionally not been taken seriously on this continent for several socio-economic reasons, which has led to a myriad of health problems. But more recently the serious impact of the food you ingest when looking at the sustainability of a healthy lifestyle has become a hot topic of conversation.

But how does one maintain a healthy eating plan? Before embarking on a trolley run up and down the health food section of Woolies and racking up those Vitality points for 15% off a flight to Durban, take time to investigate what your body can withstand. This will go a long way to not only saving you money but helping you maintain the healthy lifestyle you have chosen. Here are some options to consider to make the best choices:

Have a blood test

Your blood cells contain a significant amount of information that is more usually used to optimise athletic potential. However, because these tests also examine your levels of folic acid, vitamin B12, glucose, creatine kinase, magnesium, vitamin D, ferritin, total cholesterol, calcium hemoglobin and triglycerides, among others, they are now being used for dietary purposes. Results from blood tests direct you as to which nutrients and supplements you need to include in your diet, as well as those to avoid. This allows you to create an eating plan suited to your blood type for optimal health.

According to a French physician from the 19th century, you are. And guess what? Many holistic health approaches using science and technology of today rather agree with the wise old man.

Cultivate a holistic outlook

Homeopaths say that to understand what will maintain your health in the long run, you must consider several factors. Homeopaths delve into the patient's emotional, physical and psychological well-being and feel that the body is “an energetic self-regulating being” that can correct the imbalances within itself with homeopathic guidance and therapy. Homeopathy seeks to identify core patterns in the symptoms of a patient. These are then matched with a symptom pattern of a specific remedy, which will communicate with the body to help it recalibrate and thus get rid of the symptoms. This is coupled with the emotional therapy that comes with every homeopathic consultation, as well as an eating plan to ensure a sustainable approach to maintaining one’s health holistically.

The end of the Epi-Pen

Whether it’s a case of the genetically modified food we are exposed to making us sick, or our immune systems being weakened, studies are yet to tell. But the reality is food allergies are on the rise and they are making it difficult for people to stick to an eating plan without adverse reactions. Allergy testing that identifies the immunoglobulin E antibodies that trigger allergic reactions can help you select foods that work with your body and reduce adverse reactions. With milk, gluten and egg-checking allergy kits from Quickcheck Rapid Diagnostic tests now available in South Africa without prescription, when you embark on an eating plan you can make sure your body is not only getting what you need but what it can process. 

Understanding your body’s holistic needs is a solid foundation to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and aiming for longevity. Diets, cleanses and detoxes do not form part of this narrative because a sustainable healthy eating lifestyle is a long-term commitment, not a quick fix. So while it’s tempting to stuff whatever we can grab on the go into our mouths, if the saying “we are what we eat” is true, it’s time to make sure we are more green veggies and lean proteins than deep-fried chicken! For the sake of our future.