As lifestyle-related health problems, including food intolerances, type 2 diabetes and obesity increases, more and more people are turning to healthy and balanced eating to cure their ills, rendering food a form of preventative medicine.

WORDS Candice Ludick photographs Melanie Maré

As people make better dietary choices for a healthier lifestyle, Garden Route health food producers are noticing a market trend towards more conscious dietary choices.

Organic farmer Lello Incendiario, owner of Quarry Lake Estate outside Plettenberg Bay, completely changed his eating habits and overhauled his health. “We are the first generation where parents are outliving their children due to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, stress and malnutrition – many of which can be prevented or managed by clean living,” he claims.

Lello and his family moved to their farm about eight years ago as they pursued optimal health. He says as restaurateur in Gauteng his health was compromised by the typical South African lifestyle of braaivleis, beer and readily available, unhealthy food. He suffered shortness of breath, headaches and nausea. After spending around R160 000 over 18 months on doctors’ visits and diagnostic tests to try and find out what was wrong with him, Lello turned to a naturopath. Tests revealed his system was too acidic. “My body was not functional, it was not absorbing oxygen,” he says.

After three weeks of drinking wheatgrass daily, as the naturopath suggested, Lello noticed a difference in his energy levels. This dietary change made him realise he could change his life by changing his lifestyle. He eliminated meat and alcohol from his diet, becoming a vegetarian for the next ten years. Six years ago he ditched dairy and made the transition to veganism. Lello says he noticed a difference in his health after cutting out dairy and has not needed a medical consultation since changing his eating habits.

Lello advocates clean living. “It is the difference between being 70 at 48 and being 48 at 70,” he says. He is fanatical about living in balance with nature. He developed six acres of organic gardens on his farm and proved pesticides and chemical fertilisers were unnecessary. Instead, he uses solar lights set up away from his crops to attract pests, which are then disposed of by natural predators. He plants annuals, perennials and fruit trees to create a natural eco-system that mimics nature’s balance. He also produces organic mulches and compost. Quarry Lake Estate produces wheatgrass trays, sprouts, dehydrated kale chips, root vegetable chips and organic herbal teas. He also sells natural produce and vegan delicacies at the family’s coffee shop, Bocca Dolce. On Saturdays and Sundays a harvest table showcasing the finest calibre of vegan food is available. He is proud to bring products to the market that he believes will not cause illness. “Sometimes people fail to see the connection between diet and health, and that’s something I aim to change.”

The freedom of baking
All things Annabelle produces wheat, gluten and dairy-free baked goods. Knysna resident Anne Watson established All things Annabelle after a health scare that led her to make the connection between diet and optimal health. After being diagnosed with endometriosis shortly before her first pregnancy, a magazine article prompted her to eliminate red meat, alcohol and wheat from her diet. The change resulted in a marked improvement of her symptoms. However, she found the commercially available wheat and gluten-free products prohibitively expensive and simply not satisfactory. “I began experimenting with wheat-free recipes, researching and refining them as I went along.” When her second child suffered from eczema and was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance, she added dairy-free products to her repertoire. She sells her products at the Harkerville Market in Plettenberg Bay on Saturdays, or by order. “I have noticed a growing market for my products, which I think can be attributed to an increased awareness of the health risks associated with wheat and dairy intolerance.” She is working on a recipe book to help those who want to move to a healthier lifestyle.

Natural produce
The Grain Mill Organic Bistro in Knysna serves food made from natural, organic produce. Organic products are not always readily available in South Africa but Adelheid Schmid, originally from Germany where she ran an organic bistro, sources the finest free-range, hormone-free, locally farmed foods. She also introduced spelt products to Knysna. Imported from Germany, the spelt is milled on-site to make spelt pastas, breads, bread rolls and pizza bases for the bistro. “Wheat-free but not gluten-free, this ancient grain has none of the negative impact wheat does on the bodies of those who are intolerant. Many people are becoming aware of spelt in South Africa, resulting in a growing demand for these products,” says Adelheid. The bistro has vegan, vegetarian and meat options on the menu.

The Banting bandwagon
As more and more South Africans climb onto the Banting bandwagon to increase their energy and drop weight with a low carb, high fat diet, the demand for carbohydrate-free foods has increased. Prof Tim Noakes, author of The Real Meal Revolution, proposes Banting as a more natural way of eating. Noticing a market trend and demand for low carb alternatives, Sea Food at The Plettenberg Hotel introduced a Banting menu. It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner options, which must be booked 24 hours in advance. The menu features fish, roasted pork belly, rib-eye steak and springbok loin served with cauliflower rice or cauliflower fries.

“An increasing number of guests started asking for Banting options during the last December holiday season and we decided to make a Banting menu available,” says Kevin Coetzer, Head Chef under Executive Chef Grant Parker.


Lello’s vegan potato and spinach gnocchi
1kg potatoes
300g spinach
250g (2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp salt

Boil the spinach and leave to cool, squeezing all the water out and mince finely.
Boil, steam or bake the potatoes in their skins until tender. Leave to cool slightly, then peel.
Finely mash the potatoes and add the spinach. Mix well.
Using your hands, lightly work the flour into the potato mixture.
Roll pieces of the dough into small cylinders, about 1.5cm in diameter.
Cut the cylinders into gnocchi, around 2cm long. Press lightly with a fork to create grooves for the sauce.
Place on well-floured dishcloths (to avoid sticking).
Cook in small batches in boiling, salted water. The gnocchi are ready when they float to the surface.
Serve with a simple sauce (sage and butter or tomato). Vegan Parmesan sprinkles give it that cheesy taste.

Grain Mill Organic Bistro
cnr Waterfront Drive and Union Street, Knysna
Weekdays 8.30am – 4.30pm
083 635 7634
Bocca Dolce coffee shop at Quarry Lake Estate
Stofpad, Wittedrift
Daily 9am – 3.30pm
083 562 7236
All things Annabelle
Harkerville Market on Saturdays
Makes to order
083 779 4119

SeaFood at The Plettenberg
40 Church Street, Plettenberg Bay
Daily for breakfast 7.30am – 10.30am; lunch 12 noon to 2pm; dinner 6.30pm – 10.30pm. Booking essential
044 533 2030

Disclaimer The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.