Quintessentially Brazilian: Healthy Eating

Last year, Brazil released new healthy eating guidelines to almost universal fanfare, with gushing articles spread across the internet as people fell over themselves to praise the 143-page publication. Why?

The booklet constitutes one of the world’s most progressive healthy eating guidelines, illustrated with easy-to-follow photographs of what a healthy and balanced meal actually looks like. Each plate is filled with a healthy portion of local, easily available food – the essential information without the jargon. By speaking directly to the population, the guide aims to become a useful reference tool in the homes of ordinary Brazilians rather than a hefty technical document consulted only by specialists to formulate government policy or calculate food labels.

©Ministry of Health of Brazil

Within Brazil, TV chefs like Bela Gil give healthy, local food a large audience: a bid to tackle the influx of processed, sugar-laden food the country has seen in recent years. As the population moves away from poverty-stricken malnutrition, the pendulum has perhaps swung too far, and the newly-employed parents want to spoil their children with the processed food they were denied in their youth. Increased employment, particularly for women, means theres no longer time to produce a home-cooked meal from raw ingredients. This has lead to increased levels of obesity, but Brazil is pushing back.

With abundant fruit and vegetable crops that offer a sustainable, eco-friendly diet, Brazil’s government has utilised these natural resources in its guide, which pushes açaí, jilo, and papaya amongst other native produce. The guide is also remarkable in that it specifically warns consumers to be wary of food advertising and any processed products, highlighting that these companies value profit over the health of consumers.

With the popularity of the guide, being praised online by publications from Huffington Post to Vox, Brazilian food has never been more popular as a healthy, delicious, and innovative food culture. Açaí may be old hat thanks to smoothie bars, but what about cajú, manioc or cupuaçu? Maybe it’s time to expand your taste buds’ horizons…

 

For newbies to Brazilian fare, SUSHISAMBA will ease you in, with their Japanese fusion restaurants in the U.S., London, and Amsterdam. Chef Claudio Cardoso melds together Japanese techniques with the flavours of South America in breathtaking settings – something he admits wasn’t easy “they’re very different in flavour, but sushi was well accepted in the Brazilian communities with their own interpretations.” London’s branch occupies the 38th and 39th floors of 110 Bishopsgate, offering views across the city that are almost as impressive as the food. The “joyful” atmosphere and music are a reflection of Brazilian habits, as are the bold flavours, most of which come from a cuisine that Cardoso agrees generally lives up to its health conscious reputation. “They usually combine starch, grains and protein, which is great for the retention of the essential amino acids in the body. [Brazilians] often have a selection of berries and good protein and tend not to eat many fatty cheeses or utilise that much better.”

 

Try the Moqueca Mista or the Churrasco Rio Grande for a high-end take on Brazilian classics. Away from the slick presentation and awe-inspiring surroundings, Brazilian food is generally found in small local haunts rather than playing a part on the international food scene. Claudio believes that can and will change in the future, with restaurants like SUSHISAMBA playing a part in that. The biggest obstacle though, is the people of Brazil themselves, who sometimes don’t take their own cuisine as a serious food culture. Cardoso’s hope for the future? “That Brazilians value what is there and not what is international. Brazilian food is still quite attached to other cultures. The original Brazilian street food which is amazing needs more exposure and things might naturally become more popular…”

Here’s hoping.