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Fiji Time: 10:47 AM on Friday 25 April

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Diwali New Year

Chef Lance Seeto
Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm sure most of our readers have had their fare share of Indian sweets this week after the Diwali celebrations, but it also a timely reminder of the bad things we eat and the good things we should be eating more of.

The high sugar content in mithai has led to many shops in India to substantially reduce the sugar in the traditional milk sweets as more consumers become conscious of avoiding diabetes and overdosing on sugary sweets around the time of Diwali and other festivals.

Indo-Fijian's are also missing many of the essential nutrients needed for strong bones and muscle-building proteins which come from fresh fruits and vegetables and fibrous meats. Healthy food and a well balanced diet are crucial to children's health during their body development and muscle growing stage.

Calcium is primary building component of bones and is very important for proper skeleton growth and development of strong bones.

A good source of calcium is fresh and powdered milk, and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Lots of spinach, leafy green vegetables and beans are also good sources of calcium.

Protein is a muscle building material, as well as a source of energy.

Good sources of proteins are lean meat, eggs, milk, poultry and fish. Fibre helps move food through the digestive system. Fibre may lower bad cholesterol along with preventing diabetes and heart disease, and can be found in fresh produce like raw fruits, raw vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals. Fatty acids are essential to the children's brain development.

Oily fish, seeds, spinach and nuts contain omega-3's which are linked to improvement in children's concentration, sharpening the memory, lowering anxiety and stabilizing mood swings. Vitamin and minerals like A, B12, C, iron, magnesium, and zinc play very important part in the body development and day-to-day performance. Vitamin C is important for the immune system and magnesium is important for healthy nerves and muscles. Vitamins and minerals are found in various fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat and fish.

As long as children eat a variety of healthy food, they probably will receive most of essential vitamins and minerals.

In last week's episode of "Taste of Paradise", I visited the Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple in Nadi to discover the religious significance of Diwali, but what I ended up learning was that the Hindu people know the importance of fresh fruit, especially coconut, in religion but not necessarily in their diet. When my assistant Kunal Prasad and I were offered the blessed fruit to eat from the temple priest, I realised there was no reason why Indo-Fijians are not eating more fruits and vegetables.

If they are good enough for the Gods we worship, surely they are good enough for us to eat as worshippers. Fresh yoghurt is also readily available and made in Fiji from fresh milk.

Yoghurt is not only a great source of calcium for strong bones and teeth, but the live bacteria found in yoghurt is critical to a healthy digestive system and gut flora that helps cleanses and rids the body of dangerous toxins that can build up inside of you.

It is ironic that with all these good foods available in Fiji to aid in body development and good health, they are not eaten everyday by Fijians. It should not take religious festivals to remind us of the importance of a balanced diet and a healthy body.

* Lance Seeto is the host of Fiji TV's "Taste of Paradise" broadcast in Fiji and across the South Pacific region every Thursday 8pm and Saturday 5.30pm on Fiji One. Follow his adventures on Facebook at "Fijian Food Safari" and "Taste Of Paradise".