Chillies and empowerment, #WithOxfam

As you know, I love chillies. Anything spicy – I’m there.

In my eyes, chillies are a super food. But what makes chillies so great? And why should we be using more of them in our diets?

Here’s my top 5 reasons to eat chillies followed by an awe-inspiring case study from Oxfam; which really proves that chillies are going a long way to becoming a true super food. The little fiery red capsicum’s are being used in Bangladesh to empower women to make better lives for themselves and overcome poverty caused by adverse weather conditions in that part of the world.

red finger chillies

Why I think chillies should be considered super-scran;

They contain a lot of vitamin C (up to seven times more than the average orange)

They add flavour, vibrant colour and warmth (but not always hot-heat) to a variety of dishes

Chillies can increase the speed of your metabolism, and help burn fat

They aid sinus congestion, which is why your noes runs after a hot curry!

There’s such a huge range to choose from, there’s literally a chilli for everyone and every dish!

habaneros variety
habaneros variety

Chillies in action #WithOxfam

So chillies might be good for our health, metabolism and taste buds, but when Oxfam contacted me to see if I wanted to hear more about how they coordinate projects across the world and use chilli farming as a way to empower women out of poverty, I was excited to find out more.

In Bangladesh, many of the poorest people live in areas badly affected by terrible weather conditions like flooding, cyclones and heavy storms. These conditions make communities in the area vulnerable; there is little work and many people are forced to go hungry as their crops and cattle get washed away with the floods.

Due to food being scarce, women need additional support as their husbands are away for long periods, seeking work in the cities.

Oxfam work with their partners in Bangladesh to help flood-hit communities earn an income through growing chillies.  Amazing, right?

Joygun Islam, who’s pictured above, is directly affected by Oxfam’s work. She said:

“We eat less food when there is a flood. We mostly eat dried food, and we try to save some rice if we know the flood is coming.

“Sometimes we have two meals a day, but some days we only have one meal.

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.”

Joygun is now vice president of her local community based organisation (CBO). The CBO uses chilli production as a practical catalyst to improve peoples lives in these badly affected villages. She’s received full training on how to grow chillies, which she says has given her confidence and self-belief. Her husband now recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income, and this financial boost allows them a more varied and nutritious diet.
Chilli (10)
I fully support this sort of project work and feel that more should be spoken about these incredible projects and how a regular donation can really improve people’s lives in the simplest but most effective ways.
Cheshire Food Blog
Joygun Islam spreads chillies out to dry in the sun, they take between 3 and 11 days to dry thoroughly. The dried chillies are then sorted for quality, colour and size. Only the best go to market.

What can a regular donation do?

£9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.
£24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution to overcome poverty. Women like Joygun can now give their children nutritious food and prepare for future disasters.

I hope you have enjoyed this read and finding out more about this type of project. This is just one of many, many initiatives Oxfam run to help beat poverty across all corners of the world. The next story I am going to feature is about coffee production in Honduras, so keep your eyes peeled for that one and in the meantime follow Oxfam on Twitter for their latest project updates ❤

Dried Chillies for sale in the market <3
Dried Chillies for sale in the market ❤
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What is healthy eating?

Looking after yourself is important, we all know that. The mantra that ‘you are what you eat’ is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I get older, and so recently I have been favouring an intake of more lean protein, ‘good fats’ and fibre, and in turn less sugar, saturated fats and unnecessary carbohydrates.

All the big dogs seem to be on the health-hype too. Deliciously Ella promotes a healthy lifestyle with her “clean-eating, gluten free” recipes. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters also promote a healthy approach with their #TheArtOfEatingWell campaign, and I have recently taken to following @TheBodyCoach (Joe Wicks) on Instagram, as I love the way he is revolutionising quick-and-easy meals for gym buffs with his “#LeanIn15” recipes.

Jamie Oliver has also recently released his Everyday Super Food book, along with a full series on Channel 4; really promoting a healthy approach to food to the masses. Another firm favourite of mine is Gizzi Erskine, she’s always promoted healthy eating and her newest cookbook, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, shows us how healthy can be delicious and doesn’t always have to be rabbit food!

I love all of the above chefs and foodies and have taken tips from all of them (as well as recipes, of course) over the past 12 months. My version of the Hemsley sister’s light cottage pie makes use of cauliflower and sweet potato mash instead of the usual mashed white potatoes. And Gizzi’s roast duck and noodle soup is low on calories but doesn’t compromise on flavour whatsoever.

My approach to healthy eating is simple, I try to follow a sort of 80:20 rule (eating more considered 80% of the time, and relaxing it a little for the remaining 20%). When I first started my blog, there was a split between ‘Mid-week rustle up dinners’ and ‘Weekend gourmet’ dishes – so I am going to be focussing more on this approach going forwards. It works for me and can work for you too!

Below is a short list of some of my favourite bloggers who promote a healthy lifestyle:

www.spamellab.com – Pamela focusses on gluten-free, high protein, healthy AND tasty recipes, made from clean ingredients. Her #IndulgingInnocently campaign proves that you can have your cake and eat it, its shows that sweet treat don’t need to be packed full of sugar and additives.

www.tessward.com – Tess says ‘Count colours not calories and goodness not grams with simple, unprocessed, stripped back dishes.’ Her ‘naked’ recipes are vibrant, simple and gorgeous.

www.thebodycoach.co.uk/blog – I mentioned him earlier, and I will again. You can catch most of Joe’s amazing #LeanIn15 recipes on Instagram for now, but I mean it when I say his recipes are SO QUICK, SIMPLE, LEAN and taste fantastic.

www.minimalistbaker.com – these guys are so cute, and their ethos is simple: easy-to-make, delicious food, all recipes either require 10 ingredients or less, 1 pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free too.

How do you define healthy eating, and which approach do you prefer? Who are your favourite bloggers, cooks or chefs that inspire you to eat well and use fresh, quality ingredients? 

In my next blog post I will be sharing my key tips for keeping your diet healthy, fresh and interesting. Make sure you stay posted our subscribe so you don’t miss it ❤

With love, Sophie -x-