New (free) cookbook makes heart health top of mind this Braai Day

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THE countdown to National Braai Day on September 24 has begun, but this year South Africans are encouraged to make it a “healthier” event given the rise in diseases of lifestyle, such as heart disease.

To help braai-lovers in this endeavour, Pharma Dynamics has again teamed up with the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) and well-known food consultant and cookbook author, Heleen Meyer, to compile a healthy braai edition as part of its popular – free – Cooking From The Heart cookbook series. It has received the thumbs up from braai master Jan Braai, and will available this September to coincide with Heart Awareness Month.

The book contains 30 recipes that cater for meat-eaters and vegetarians. The recipes include healthy, homemade marinades and seasonings, snacks, sides and salads, as well as vegetarian dishes and even desserts.

“Because braaiing is a shared social custom that is enjoyed by all South Africans, we felt it important to develop a heart-healthy recipe book specifically for braaiing occasions, while continuing to create awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which claims an alarming 215 lives every day in our country,” says Wilmi Hudsonberg, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics.

For a healthier braai, try these top tips from the Cooking From The Heartbraai edition:

  • Choose proteins wisely by opting for lean meats, such as fish and skinless chicken breast instead of too much red meat. If you do opt for red meat, rather buy loin or tender cuts and remove any visible fat before cooking.
  • Marinate or rub meat with salt-free spices and lemon, which add amazing flavour and will reduce the need for salt, which heightens your risk of hypertension. Use chilli, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, thyme or rosemary for a lip-licking taste.
  • Limit your meat intake (of any type) to 150g.
  • Fill up your plate with grilled vegetables, salads and side dishes. The more colour you add, the better. In SA, we have a great selection of fruit throughout the year so be sure to add these to the braai menu. Meat and veg sosaties (kebabs) are always a hit. Add red, green or yellow peppers, butternut, baby marrows, eggplant, mushrooms and onions to the skewer and brush with healthy oil before grilling.
  • When preparing salads or side dishes, don’t drown them in salty sauces or heavy store-bought dressings. Rather make your own healthier condiments.
  • Opt for wholegrain breads, rolls or wraps, which provide additional fibre, instead of white carbs.
  • Consider healthy toppings over ice cream, such as chocolate bananas or fruit salad. Grilled fruit is also delicious; the natural sugars caramelise in the high heat, which makes it extra sweet and flavourful.

The Cooking From The Heartbraai edition also offers advice on proper braai etiquette, given how many South Africans (often) get it wrong. Based on a recent survey conducted by Pharma Dynamics, here are some of the social no-no’s, that we are guilty of at a classic “bring and braai.”

  • 87% are unsure of exactly what food to bring along. Should it be meat only or meat and drinks or meat and salad? According to Jan Braai, guests need to bring their own meat and drinks, and it’s always good manners to arrive with a light snack, flowers or chocolate to thank the host.
  • 52% believe it’s fine to share the meat among the guests, but everyone should ideally eat their own meat.
  • 45% said waiting 2 to 4 hours for the meal to be served is acceptable, but Jan Braai begs to differ. “The only time it’s acceptable to serve food more than two hours after arrival is if the communal watching of a game of sport of national importance is part of the braai, and that is the cause for the delay in getting meat onto the grid, but the general rule of thumb is between 1 to 2 hours.”
  • 69% felt it customary to light the fire together, which is ideal, provided that guests arrive on time!
  • There is also confusion as to who should braai the meat. Three out of 10 said it should be a team effort, but proper braai etiquette would be for the host to braai the meat and to accept assistance only if offered.
  • Most respondents polled agreed on potato salad, green salad, garlic bread and roosterkoek as must-have sides, but these should ideally be coordinated by the host.
  • 85% said that a separate grid should be provided for vegetarian, Halaal and Kosher guests, which is spot on!
  • 40% didn’t think it was important for the host to let guests know who have all been invited, but Jan Braai’s advice is to do so ahead of time.

All the braai recipes in the book have been approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and are available online here, while printed versions can be obtained from selected GPs, who will be able to advise the public further on a healthy eating plan.

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