EAT WELL – Rainbow nation, rainbow plate

We all know that we should have a plateful of different colours; each colour contains assorted nutrients and this variety of food is good for our health. However, with our frenzied lifestyles, we easily fall into the same routine and our meal repertoire stays the same. But inspiration is here, Berna Harmse shares exciting recipes packed with antioxidants and a proudly South African spin.

Antioxidants are mostly found in plant-based foods and comprise a diverse group of components, of which the plant-based ones are categorised under phytochemicals (plant chemicals).

To know what antioxidants are all about, you need to know about free radicals. Free radicals are all around us, a natural product of our living. However, some factors, such as smoking, drinking, high-fat diets, too much sun, too much exercise, and too many pollutants in the air that we breathe, cause our bodies to produce more radicals than are needed. And when produced in excess, these free radicals can start to damage our cells and tissues. In fact, free radicals have been implicated as the cause of many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and age-related disorders.

The good news is that antioxidants offer some means of protection for our bodies. Antioxidants can ‘mop up’ the aggressive molecules (free radicals) before they cause the damage. Ideally, we should have enough antioxidants to deal with the free radical damage, but in cases when the body is ‘overwhelmed’ – like in times of stress – we require extra antioxidants. Commonly known antioxidants are vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium.

Beta-carotene (carotenoid): carrot, pumpkin, red pepper, apricots and spinach.  Other sources: broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C: green, yellow and red peppers, chillies, guavas, oranges, grapefruit, lemons and tomatoes.

Vitamin E: avocado, wheat germ, whole-wheat products and eggs.

Lycopene (carotenoid): tomatoes, tomato sauce/paste, sun-dried tomato, watermelon and ruby grapefruit.

Selenium: Brazil nuts, eggs, organ meats, tuna, shellfish and Brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin A: Cod liver oil, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified skim milk, orange       and yellow vegetables and fruits.

Antioxidants and cancer:

Many cancer-inducing substances need to be oxidised (combine chemically with oxygen to form a new compound) before they can damage the cells of the body, yielding free radicals.

Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium and lycopene can therefore be beneficial in preventing the oxidation of dangerous substances that induce cancer.

Studies have shown that men who eat 10 servings of tomato-based foods per week are 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who eat small amounts of tomato-based food.

Lentil Bobotie

Swapping out mince for lentils creates this meat-free take on a popular South African classic. Serves: 4


  • 2 cup lentils, cooked
  • 30 ml canola oil
  • 1 onion, peeled & chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped or crushed
  • 20 g grated fresh ginger
  • 100 g green beans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 30 ml mild curry spice
  • 5 ml ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1/4 cup low fat yoghurt
  • 2 ml ground turmeric
  • Salt & pepper
  • 10 g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 extra bay leaves


  1. Put a large pot on the stove on a medium heat and add the oil.
  2. Add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic and sauté lightly for about 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, red pepper, green beans and raisins and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the curry spice, cinnamon, and bay leaves and stir in for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and water and stir in.
  4. Cook the sauce for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened and the vegetables have softened a little. Add the lentils and season with salt and pepper to taste and mix in.
  5. Put the lentil mixture into an oven proof dish and set aside.
  6. In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, eggs and turmeric. Pour the egg mixture over the lentil bobotie and place the 2 bay leaves on top.
  7. Bake the bootie in the oven at 180ºC for about 20 minutes until the egg custard has set and is slightly golden brown on top.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve hot with chopped fresh coriander

Source and image: Vanessa Marx and the Association for Dietetics in South Africa

Berna Harmse is a private practicing dietitian in Cape Town, she holds a MSc in Dietetics and has a special interest in oncology nutrition. She is also an external lecturer at Stellenbosch University Division of Human Nutrition.

MEET OUR EXPERT – Berna Harmse

Berna Harmse is a private practicing dietician in Cape Town, she holds a MSc in Dietetics and has a special interest in oncology nutrition. She is also an external lecturer at Stellenbosch University Division of Human Nutrition.

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