Plates over Pills: Alternative eating for better health

When Nelwamondo became more aware of the crisis of lifestyle diseases in the country, she was battling with obesity herself.

“When my son was born I weighed 120kg. I wanted a different life for him.”

And so began Nelwamondo’s dogged and devoted investigation into food. As she designed her son’s diet around homemade, locally-sourced, organic foods, she began designing hers by proxy.

Fast-forward two years, and Nelwamondo now describes her prescription pad as “culinary medicine”. She consults patients from a 100-year-old home in Houghton, using her exploding backyard vegetable garden as her medicine cabinet.

“I am in no way disregarding medicine,” says Nelwamondo. “There is a place for both healing with food and with medication. There is simply more opportunity with food as we engage with it throughout our lives.”

Adapting traditional foods to a modern palate led to Nelwamondo calling her practice Modern Traditions. Amaranth, blackjack, sorghum, eggplant, kale, millet and more grow with wild fervour. Large trays of marula seeds are dried out on her patio, sourced from a female-led small-scale farming enterprise in Limpopo. She uses this produce in creative and delicious ways. Soaked marula seeds, for example, are turned into a creamy chocolate and vanilla vegan ice-cream that she sells at markets.

Dr Nelwamondo amid her corn and pumpkins

Nelwamondo works closely with her “kindred spirit” – dietician Mpho Tshukudu – in her consultations. Tshukudu published a cookbook with food journalist Anna Trapido called ‘Eat.Ting’ in 2016 which explores the healthy eating solutions inspired by traditional southern African foods. Colourful images of sorghum flapjacks, thepe (amaranth) smoothies, pearl millet pudding, mabele porridge with coconut cream and peanut butter fill the pages of this cookbook, but the foreword provides just as much food for thought.

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