Home African Caribbean The benefits of eating to retain muscle mass
Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Health news. In all of my reading on the benefits of a good diet there seems to be two recurring themes: (1) regardless of your income level if you aren’t considered in what you eat you’ll end up with a poor diet (2) what you eat on a day to day basis will have a long term effect on your well being.

For me the first theme is confirmed by the amount of health warnings and campaigns by respected health professionals and academics trying to persuade governments to legislate against some food industry practices. As for the second theme, if you need to be persuaded, just think about conditions like type two diabetes or heart disease, both of which develop over time and are closely linked to diet. Without wanting to appear too smug I can’t resist trotting out that old time saying: you are what you eat!

Nowhere is the saying better demonstrated than in eating to maintain a healthy muscle mass, by which I mean a muscle mass that will allow you to cope with a reasonably active lifestyle. It may be the case that unless you’re a body builder muscle mass is probably not something that you’ve given much thought to. What all body builders know is that maintaining muscle mass requires a combination of exercise and the right diet. This combination becomes ever more important as at a certain point in our lives muscle mass will be lost unless we work to maintain it. 

Sadly the rate of muscle mass loss increases as we get older and by the time we reach the age of 40 we start to lose muscle at the rate of 0.4 pounds per year, which is why many of us suffer from frailty in our old age. To quote from an article in the Journal of Applied Physiology by Rene Koopman and Luc van Loon, “Aging is accompanied by a progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, leading to the loss of functional capacity and an increased risk of developing chronic metabolic disease.” Now just in case you’re young and feeling smug you might want to know that while the rate of muscle mass loss is contested for different ages it is a matter of record that the loss begins in people in their twenties.

If you want a visual impression of muscle mass loss try this indicator, which is set out in Men’s Health: “flex your right arm. Assuming you have an average build your arm is packing about 5 pounds of muscle. It represents nearly 10 percent of the total muscle on your body. Now, imagine that muscle gone. No biceps, no triceps-only a jiggly mass of skin and fat covering your bones from your shoulder down to your fingertips. That 5 pounds of muscle is about the same amount most men lose between the ages of 24 and 50. And that number doubles by the time they’re 60.”

Stew beef with coconut dumplings Photo courtesy caribbeanpotcom

Stew beef with coconut-dumplings. Photo courtesy caribbeanpot.com

Losing muscle mass opens you up for experiencing old age as a frail body, with that comes a greater likely hood of feeling unstable on your feet, being more susceptible to trips and falls and therefore broken bones; frailty is also likely to increase the chance of cardiovascular problems. However, according to the medical profession frailty isn’t a disease but it is a state that lies somewhere between being functional and nonfunctional/between being healthy and being sick.

Just to be clear, exercise plays a significant role in staving off the onset of frailty but to be truly beneficial it needs to be accompanied with an appropriate diet. Just to quote a line from a feature in the ‘Wall Street Journal’ entitled ‘How to keep your muscles strong as you age’, “The best medicine available to maintain muscle mass and strength is … exercise and a healthy diet.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide on your exercise regime, save to say it should involve some resistance work, as you can expect I’ll focus on the type of diet that should accompany your muscle maintaining exercise routine.

When it comes to food and muscles every body builder or athlete knows about the value of high quality protein foods when eating to cope with a strenuous exercise regime; these foods are just as useful for maintaining muscle mass as we age. Epidemiologist Paul Jacques, of Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, says “It’s estimated that 20 percent of people between age 51 and 70 have an inadequate protein intake.” Complex carbs such as whole-wheat bread, whole grain rice, vegetables are just as important but for this particular article I’ll concentrate on Caribbean cookery using two of the most well known proteins: meat and fish.

Caribbean Stewed Beef With Coconut Dumplings.

This is one from the Caribbean pot.com kitchen so I’ll not waste too much time commenting on production values as regular readers will be aware of the esteem that I have for both the presenter and his products.

As for the preparation of the dish you can expect to put some time and effort into the preparation, which in itself isn’t straight forward as it involves a marinate and braising process. The complexities come not from any one process but the range of processes involved given that meat will have to be cubed, the ingredients for the marinate will have to be diced, the meat will have to be browned and braised and the dumplings will have to be prepared and cooked. Still I’ve always said that taking time and cooking food from scratch is the best way and healthiest way to eat.

While the actual preparation of this dish demands time and attention the shopping for the ingredients will not cause too many concerns, the only ingredient that may require a visit to a specialist food supplier is the Caribbean Green Seasoning, which I’ve not come across before. 


Supercharged Steak and Chips.

Yes on the face of it steak and chips doesn’t sound like Caribbean cooking but this video involves Levi Roots, sweet potato and a steak cooked in a sauce and if you need more convincing this video acknowledges that people from the Caribbean prefer their meat cooked well-done.

The video is one of a selection of ‘Caribbean Cookery Made Easy’ videos that have been put together by the BBC; so you can expect good standards in terms of sound, lighting and camerawork. This particular video features a Bristol based restaurateur called Beverly who explains that her mother passed on the ‘Super-charged Steak and Chips’ recipe to her.

For those of you looking for something quick and simple to do for dinner this recipe may well suit, providing, unlike me, you like steaks. Apart from the preparation of the ingredients for the sauce and the sweet potato chips most of the action takes place in a Chinese wok. If you want to be super healthy you could avoid deep-frying the chips by cooking them in an oven after they’ve been par-boiled.

As you can expect the ingredients in this particular recipe will not be hard to come by but it is interesting to see that the chips are made from the white rather than orange variety of sweet potato. You should be able to find both sweet potato varieties wherever sweet potatoes are on sale but you might need help working out which variety is which as there is little difference in look.


Lemon and Honey Chicken Recipe Dinner

I often think when I hear about this dish, why isn’t it up there with Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken or salt fish and ackee. It seems to me that using lemon to marinate meat must be as old as the hills and must certainly have been used as a way of keeping meat fresh when fridges weren’t in existence.

To my knowledge there are various ways of preparing lemon chicken; I’m quite fond of the version that my sister prepares which contains yoghurt. This particular dish comes from Chef Ricardo, whose videos have been previously featured here so I don’t need to say a great deal about production values save that there could be more close ups of his face.

As Chef Ricardo himself says, ‘this is very easy and simple to prepare.’ You’ll only need a single bowl and an oven to prepare this dish, aside from the seasoning ingredients. In terms of buying the ingredients most of them are straight forward but I would suggest that instead of using dried thyme as recommended you use fresh thyme as the flavour is so much better.

One last thing that I think is notable about the preparation of this dish is that it also meets another of our healthy eating concerns as the skin is removed therefore reducing the fat content.

The last two dishes I want to focus on are fish dishes and act as a reminder that fish is an excellent source of protein and in some cases is healthier than meat. I would most certainly say that a diet that contains more fish than meat is healthier than a diet that contains mainly meat and very little fish.


Oven Baked Red Snapper Recipe Whole Fish Allspice Scotch Bonnet

I make no apologies in saying that when it comes to fish nothing beats the flavour of a Red Snapper, especially when it is eaten on the same day that it comes out of the sea.

This particular video comes from ‘How to cook great food.com’, an outfit that seems to specialize in cooking a variety of dishes from around the world. The presentation style seems to be more about global appeal rather than having that smack of Caribbean authenticity: for the most part the presentation is just music and written text. That said the visuals are well thought out enough as to make it clear what each ingredient is and what you need to do with it.

All of the ingredients featured in the video are readily available but I would suggest that if you don’t live in the Caribbean you buy your Snapper from a reputable fishmonger and make sure its as fresh as possible.


Cafe Calypso Caribbean Salmon Fish Stew


This particular dish is presented by an outfit that I haven’t come across before, ‘MultiCulturalCooking’. Whenever I discover a new producer I like to pay particular attention to their production values as I expect this to be the same for all of their videos. In this case the sound and camera is of a good standard and it is particularly interesting to see that they have used written text along with verbal instruction.

Another thing I like to see in a cookery video is good food knowledge; in this case there is excellent information on how to shop for salmon. All in all the presenter has the easy going conversational style that I would expect from someone promoting home style cooking.

As the presenter says this is one of the easiest Caribbean dishes that you can prepare, however she does finish by saying that she usually servers the dish on Sunday morning with fresh baked bread, which might be a challenge in more ways than one. I would say that this would make a great evening meal without the bread.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


You may also like

Leave a Comment

Copyright © 2024 CaribDirect.com | CaribDirect Multi-Media Ltd | CHOSEN CHARITY Caribbean New Frontier Foundation (CNFF) Charity #1131481

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy