Fresh homemade cottage cheese, sour cream, mascarpone and russian fermented baked milk Ryazhenka Picture: Supplied
Fresh homemade cottage cheese, sour cream, mascarpone and russian fermented baked milk Ryazhenka Picture: Supplied

Instead of reaching for the lockdown snacks, try a nibble of cheese

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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Lockdown has been associated with more eating occasions and a higher intake of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar. 

These foods are known to increase the "feel-good" hormone serotonin, but at the same time, they provide a lot of energy without the necessary nutrients and can lead to unwanted weight gain.

However, maintaining our health and supporting our immune systems has probably never been so important for our families.

South Africa’s Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) provide a country-specific blueprint, and there are specific guidelines we can focus on during this time. The following FBDG are particularly useful at present: "Enjoy a variety of foods"; "Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day" and "Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day".

Dairy is not just a vital source of high-quality protein; it’s also packed with vitamins such as A and B12, as well as calcium, potassium, and zinc. It’s this range of essential micro-nutrients that ensure fantastic nutritional value for money that can help low-income South African households overcome mild forms of malnutrition that make us more vulnerable to diseases.

Rediscover Dairy, the consumer education project of milk SA, say a better option is to boost serotonin levels by including foods with an amino acid called tryptophan in your diet. 

Milk and dairy products are rich sources of tryptophan, which the body uses to produce serotonin. Tryptophan also produces melatonin, another biochemical that helps to promote sleep and relaxation.

A glass of warm milk at night can contribute to your serotonin and melatonin levels and help you to feel less depressed and stressed. You will also sleep more peacefully. Milk is also known to help you keep fuller for longer and can help limit unnecessary eating. 

We have to ensure that our "lockdown nibbling" doesn’t feed obesity, which promotes Covid-19 co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems. Instead of nutrient-poor snacks try delicious frozen yoghurts, dairy and fruit smoothies and whole-grain crackers with cottage cheese.

Fermented dairy products such as maas, yoghurt and many kinds of cheese are rich in probiotics that improve the health of our digestive systems, which play a pivotal role in immune response.

Former 'MasterChef SA' finalist, chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo says, “My childhood memories of amasi are great memories. As a child growing up in the rural villages of Eastern Cape, amasi was the best meal anyone could eat. Luckily my family did not buy amasi because my grandmother had lots of livestock so she would make incredible amasi with our own fresh milk.”

From cheese toasties and bowls of gogo’s amasi to buttermilk rusks, fresh pancakes and heart-warming umphokoqo, dairy really is the ultimate comfort food. Not only nurturing our bodies but invoking treasured childhood memories and giving us that sense, in the moment, that things can turn out alright and our world will be well again. 

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