Eat yourself better

Sarah Kelen from Buckinghamshire wrote to us to share how using Pelagonia in her diet has helped improve her health condition.

Hi Sarah - how did you first learn about the Pelagonia range of products?

I discovered the Pelagonia range about two years ago when looking for low-fat, but appetizing products that could used straight out of the jar or in cooking. A routine medical check-up had shown that my cholesterol level was exceptionally high - over 8mmol/ (under 5 is 'normal'). My GP explained the risk this posed of stroke or heart disease, but I was reluctant to take the recommended medication, statins. A search on-line listed possible side effects from statins as cataracts (already had those), memory loss (ditto), and aching muscles (no thanks); common symptoms of ageing, but how depressing to have to take a daily pill that you might think was causing or exacerbating these conditions. I decided to first try a radical change of diet, and then have further, more extensive blood tests to see the result.

What is the medical alternative to Pelagonia and what are the side effects?

Out went all butter, cheese, rich meat dishes, curry, coconut milk - anything containing more than 3% saturated fat, or cholesterol itself, so even, controversially, eggs. In came sacks of oats, fish, certain nuts, fruit and vegetables; the aim being not only to reduce my overall cholesterol level, but to increase the protective elements that these foods contain. But I also provide meals for my husband who works at home, and a vegetarian teenage son. So I need versatile ingredients that can be incorporated into our quite different diets.

What is it about the Pelagonia recipes that appeals to you on health grounds?

The Pelagonia range was a great discovery. Unlike many (pasta) sauces and spreads, they don't contain cheese, but are full of fresh natural flavours, and not sickly sweet or over salted. So often 'low fat' products, specifically designed to lower cholesterol, have a cloying 'nursery-food' taste and glutinous texture. Conversely half fat cheese has no flavour at all and resembles yellow plasticine. But there is no compromise on taste with Aivar, Luteniza or Malidzano. As a snack, and, for me, ideally spread on eg Rude Health Oaty Thins (50% oats, 50% spelt), water biscuits or matzos they are really satisfying and delicious - the perfect alternative when others are eating cheese or salami.

Which of the products is your favourite and how do you enjoy serving them?

I also use the Pelagonia range extensively in cooking. Trying to make a rich sauce without using butter, cream or egg yolk, is quite tricky. Again, because they are not heavily seasoned (as are pasta or bruschetta sauces, even those without cheese), I use 'the Pelagonias' freely, mixed with chopped fresh eg tomatoes/olives/celery etc to thicken or just flavour many dishes. They are a great asset as a base for baked fish, particularly delicate fish such as hake which needs very careful timing in the oven. (Crucially I can't imagine myself taking the time to achieve the same velvety consistency with raw ingredients.

And the result of this change of diet? Well within a few weeks my cholesterol was down to 6.2 - still high, but with a very good ratio of HDL - the protective factor. It has fluctuated a bit since then, but I am sticking to the life-style, not statin, decision. The low saturated fat diet keeps my weight down, and I think I am pretty healthy for my age - 64. The very extensive tests that I had at a specialist clinic in London were reassuring. 

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