Pumpkins and Pesto

The Green Storm Organic Christmas Market
The Green Storm Organic Christmas Market

Shanghai has many health related food markets and events; they are a great way to promote good health, meet like-minded people, and discover great foods.  Look out for them if you are on a mission to improve your health or to locate healthy and safe food suppliers.  These markets are often free or inexpensive.

I recently spoke at the Green Storm Organic Christmas Market in Xintiandi, organized by the good people at O³.  It was a really great event with loads of good nutrition information as well as some knowledgeable and enthusiastic organic food suppliers.

I purchased some lovingly prepared products including a jar of fermented mixed vegetables, kale pesto and non-dairy pumpkin soup.  The mixed veg and kale pesto are homemade products unavailable in stores.  These foods are so beneficial to your health as well as being delicious!

Fermented mixed vegetables are a non-dairy probiotic.  Probiotics are live “good” bacteria such as those naturally found in your gut.  These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. According to Kristi King of the United States Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they can boost immunity and overall health, especially gastrointestinal health.  Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance and more.  However, effects can vary from person to person.

Kale Pesto, lovingly prepared with Italian flair
Kale Pesto, lovingly prepared with Italian flair

The vegan Kale Pesto is a great source of vitamins A, K, and C.  It is loaded with garlic which is considered a prebiotic.  It also contains olive oil with monounsaturated fat and cashews which are high in copper, magnesium, iron, and B-6.  Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food components that are linked to promoting the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut.  Prebiotics may improve gastrointestinal health as well as enhancing calcium absorption.

The pumpkins in the Pumpkin Soup are full of vitamin A, fiber and a healthy dose of vitamin C. Pumpkin also contains the important antioxidant beta-carotene, linked to vitamin A production in the body.

Events like the Organic Christmas Market, and other events held throughout the year, are a great place to meet fun and enthusiastic foodies.  The market brought together a diverse range of locals and expats in a lively atmosphere for a common purpose; eating well in Shanghai!  I look forward to attending other events and perhaps you do too!

In the meantime, Eat Well Shanghai – Jessica W.

Eat Well for Winter

I associate holidays and other times of the year with delicious in-season produce that I am excited to see on my plate.  In the US, I look forward to the spring asparagus, summer cherries, and autumn squash varieties.  Eating seasonal produce provides us with the freshest and healthiest foods to protect our bodies during the cold and flu season.  Eating seasonal vegetables and fruits is also environmentally friendly as it reduces the miles from farm to table.  Lastly, it helps to support local providers like Rosa Grange Farm in my previous blog post.

Colorful fruits and vegetables
Colorful fruits and vegetables

Eating local produce will ensure that a variety of nutrient-dense, colorful foods ends up on our meal plate. The yellow, orange, red, white and deep green colors of fall and winter can provide the nutrition needed to avoid racking up the sick days.  We all know  people who swear by tonics or supplements that act as a cure-all remedy.  A magic potion would be amazing, but society has yet to invent one (if you find it, please let me know!).  While there are many factors at work and many approaches to get through flu season unscathed, eating well and sleeping well, together with exercise and stress reduction will always help.

While we may be familiar with what’s seasonal at home, what about seasonal produce here in Shanghai?  Look for these foods at the market or in your online store to help keep your defenses up against cold or flu during the coming months.  Add a variety, to ensure you are getting the required vitamins A, C & E, folate (folic acid) and antioxidants.

Fall

Fall Fruits: Grapes, Apples, Pomegranates, Dates, Pears, Guava.

Fall Vegetables: Potato, Okra, Taro, Chinese yam, Winter Melon, Indian bean, Snap Peas.

Fall Nuts / Spices: Chestnuts, Almonds, Ginger.

Winter

Winter Fruits: Grapefruit, Pumpkins, Passion fruit, Tangerines.

Winter Vegetables: Bok Choy, Yams, Cabbage, Carrots, Mushrooms, Leeks, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Turnips, Radish, Soybean, Chinese Pumpkin, Butternut Squash.

Winter Nuts/Spices: garlic, chestnuts.

All Seasons

All Varieties: Avocados, Lemons, Oranges, Cabbage, Lettuce (all leafy greens), Bananas, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Papayas, Parsnips, Rutabaga, Dragon Fruit, Bitter Melon, Daikon.

Be adventurous, expand your boundaries in the fruit and veg store……and Eat Well Shanghai! 😉

Jessica W.

Down On The Farm

Goats enjoying themselves down on the farm.
Goats enjoying themselves down on the farm.

Food safety and the authenticity of food products are an ongoing concern in China.  Therefore, it is important to be a knowledgeable and empowered consumer. This applies to people across the globe but is particularly relevant to China.  Avoiding fresh produce or eating only at McDonald’s is not the answer.  Buying imported food items is an option but can be expensive and environmentally unfriendly.  One way of checking the quality of the food here is to go to the source!  I had the opportunity to visit a farm on the outskirts of Shanghai to see local food producers in action.

Rosa Grange Farm is a small farm on Chongming Island that abides by organic farming practices in cooperation with other farmers on the island.  Rosa grows a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and rice.  She has up to 1000 ducks, 500 chickens, 30 geese and a few goats and pigs too!  Rosa began her farming business six years ago after leaving her job as an IT college professor.  Rosa explained, “I wanted my son and others to eat good safe food.  I was unsure where to get it so I decided to grow my own.”  Her birds happily run or swim freely around the farm eating the bugs off the crops.  I noticed a plethora of all kinds of insects and birds.  Rosa showed me the damage some of the bugs had done to her rice.  It was nearly harvest time and the rice was too dense for the ducks to run through and eat the bugs.  Rosa stated, “I don’t stop the insects.  I believe they belong here and must be here.  There will still be enough crops to harvest.”  The variety of weeds growing on the farm is another indication of the pesticide-free farming that Rosa practices.  She tames the weeds simply by cutting them down.  The pigs on the farm are fed scraps of produce such as gourds and melons.  Rosa grows several varieties of whole grain rice.  I highly recommend this article on the health benefits of brown rice over white.

Rosa from Rosa Grange Farm
Rosa from Rosa Grange Farm

Not all farms on Chongming Island use organic methods.  Persistent organic pollutants and cross contamination are a concern here and indeed worldwide.  However, enterprises  like Rosa Grange Farm provide environmentally friendly and safe local produce that I would happily eat every day in Shanghai.  At the end of my tour, Rosa prepared a beautiful meal using her own produce that included a variety of vegetables, rice, and whole blended melon fruit; a healthy and simple homemade meal that could never be purchased on Sherpa!

Ducks taking a swim.
Ducks taking a swim.

Rosa sells her produce online (in Chinese language only) and also through some companies that cater to the expat community.  For example, I bumped into Christina from Goma Greens shortly after my farm visit.  They provide boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to consumers in Shanghai.  They source local produce that either is organically grown or meets EU pesticide safety levels.  They are committed to paying farmers a fair price and donate 10% of their earnings towards community projects that inspire organic farming.  Goma Greens will source some of their produce from Rosa Grange Farm.

Until the next time… – Eat Well Shanghai! –

Jessica W.

Farmer Jessica ready for a hard day's work.
Farmer Jessica ready for a hard day’s work.

Rules of the Road for Eating Well in Shanghai


3-IMG_1482As mentioned by Margaret in her previous post, I am new to Shanghai. My perspective is just that, someone new to an area trying to understand the lay of the land and how to function in a new environment. This includes how to eat healthily. Unfortunately, there is more to healthy eating than just consuming fruits and vegetables. If only it were that easy. There are a few simple rules I live by.

  1. Make healthy eating a priority.
    • Make a plan for eating well for the week. Schedule time for shopping and preparing meals at home.
  2. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  3. Minimize processed foods (pre-made, pre-packaged etc.).
  4. Make your own meals and limit use of take-out.

They seem simple enough, but sometimes the execution is far more difficult than the plan. There are additional challenges to healthy and safe eating when living in Shanghai.  I have been asked by many people who are new to the city, “How do I avoid all the sugar and oil?” People often say it is difficult to get back on track with the healthy eating habits they had in their home country. I certainly feel their pain. Perhaps something can be learned from my trial and error as a newbie.  In my time here, I have created a few extra rules for eating well in Shanghai.

  1. Don’t go Sherpa crazy.
    • A busy expat lifestyle combined with lack of local knowledge makes a nightly call to Sherpa a very attractive option. When you allow others to prepare your food, you lose control of quality of ingredients, portion sizes, oil quantities etc.
  2. Map out where and when to get groceries.
    • It’s likely that, unlike at home, you will not meet all your grocery needs in 1 shop. Do your research, identify the best places for your healthy and safe food requirements and make time to go shopping.  There are also some great online resources for food shopping in Shanghai.  Do what is right for you, what is right for your schedule.
  3. Use local fruits and vegetables.
    • Make use of the wide array of produce including lotus roots, bitter melons, and oyster mushrooms etc. that are freely available in your local store.

The number one reason I am given for not eating healthily is a lack of time. But who has tons of time? So much time they cannot fathom what to do?  No one in Shanghai yet! However, healthy eating should be a priority because it is so important. Achieving and doing everything else in life is that much easier when you feel energized and healthy. Understandably, starting a new routine can be extremely difficult. I had an entire lunch of Pocky Sticks one day (OK, maybe two days!).  I had no routine at the time. I have since made it my mission to make simple, inexpensive and quick meals that include local vegetables and fruits. In my future posts I will share my cooking and Shanghai food related adventures.

In the meantime – Eat Well Shanghai! –

Jessica W.