How to get healthy this Women’s Month: Advice from a dietitian

In honour of Women’s Month, our guest dietitian Melanie Sher, unpacks key ingredients and lifestyle advice, from plant-based protein, what to eat for optimal hormone production and self-care for overall health and wellbeing for women.

Hello August! Woman’s Month! And in my opinion, and I may be ever-so-slightly bias, the best month of the year!

One of my favourite quotes goes as follows “I am a woman – what’s your superpower?” And this is indeed true – most women are superwomen, nurtures, caregivers, organizers, co-ordinators… they just manage to do it all. We are great at looking after others, but are we always as good at looking after ourselves?

This month, the focus is on women’s health and what women can do to live right and stay healthy.

So let’s discuss a few things that YOU, as a woman, can do for yourself to ensure you live your best possible life.

Eat well

“You are what you eat?” Heard this one before? Food is the source of nutrition and all good things for the body. The food you eat will affect everything: your appetite control, your mood, your energy levels, your health, and your immunity. So let’s discuss some foods you can incorporate into your diet for overall health and wellbeing.

  1. Soy. It is considered to be ‘A storehouse of nutritional riches,’ as it contains all 9 essential amino acids, vitamin E, some B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium, amongst others, making it one of the best vegetarian protein alternatives. Some examples include edamame beans, soymilk, miso, tempeh, tofu and meat alternatives, like Fry’s. My favourite from the Fry’s range are the Chicken-Style Strips! I love including it into a veggie stir fry for dinner – yum!But for years, soy got a bad rap because of its isoflavones, as it was feared that they could act as oestrogen in the body and stimulate cancer cells. But a steady stream of studies showed that a diet moderate-to-high in soy didn’t increase the chances of developing breast cancer and may even reduce that risk.

    In one study of more than 73,000 Chinese women, researchers found that those who ate at least 13 grams of soy protein a day, roughly one to two servings, were 11% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who got less than 5 grams. So without going into too much science, soy can be eaten in combination with a healthy, balanced diet. But, as with everything else that we eat in our diet, it should be eaten in moderation, and in combination with other foods.

  1. Healthy fats. Yes, you heard me right, fats are not the enemy. In fact, the ‘good fats’ are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Fat is a major source of energy and helps you absorb certain vitamins and minerals. We need fat to build cell membranes and protective myelin sheaths. Healthy fats also have a cardio-protective effect, are essential for brain functioning, and are the raw material that we need to produce and maintain proper hormone function. So what are these healthy fats we talk of? Your mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, of course. Here are some of my favourite food items you can eat to  ensure you’re getting your ‘daily dose:’
  • Seeds! Eating pumpkin, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds consistently as part of a healthy diet supports hormone balance. They provide the body with omega-3 fatty acids, trace minerals, and nutrients needed for hormone production. But remember to grind seeds with a harder shell, such as flaxseeds, before eating them, sprinkling them on your salad or adding them to your smoothie. This allows easier digestion by the body, and ensures that you get the full nutritional value!
  • Avocados! Besides for the fact that they are absolutely delicious, avocados are another excellent addition to your hormone-balancing diet. They’re full of mono-unsaturated fats, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid — all essential for maintaining hormonal balance in the body. They are also low in sugar and high in fiber, making them a great choice for regulating the production of insulin in your body.
  1. Non-dairy calcium sources. It’s no secret that calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, but it goes beyond that. This mineral also helps the body maintain healthy blood vessels, regulate blood pressure, and even prevent insulin resistance (which could lead to type 2 diabetes).  For women, it is extra-important to reach our daily calcium requirements to decrease our risk of developing osteoporosis. So with all these known benefits, we need to make sure we are eating enough calcium daily. Not sure how to add alternative food sources of calcium into your diet? Why not make a tasty broccoli salad, throw some black beans into your stir fry or prepare a scrambled tofu wrap from work lunch? Some other non-dairy sources of calcium include almonds, fortified orange juice, and soy milk and products, which can all be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet. Did someone say non-dairy, delicious smoothies?!

Exercise regularly

One of the keys to living a healthy, well-balanced life is making time to exercise regularly.  Exercise is one of those controllable factors in ensuring overall health, and whilst cardiovascular exercise improves heart health and assists with weight management, resistance training – especially when using your own body weight – will help you build and maintain muscle mass.

Other benefits of exercise include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, preventing diabetes, improving mood and cognitive function, and reducing mortality.

Many of the health issues that women face can be improved substantially with consistent exercise.

  • Exercise helps counteract hormonally-driven mood swings. Women live with shifting levels of oestrogen and progesterone that impact their fertility patterns as well as their brain chemistry and moods. When oestrogen levels drop, such as before and during a woman’s period or leading up to menopause, there is a decrease in the release of the “feel-good” brain chemical called serotonin. This makes them more susceptible to moodiness, depression and anxiety attacks, such as the symptoms found in severe premenstrual syndrome or postpartum depression. Exercise counters these hormonally-triggered mood swings by releasing endorphins, another mood regulator. Sometimes called the “runner’s high”, endorphins leave you feeling happy and relaxed after a workout. 
  • Exercise also plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones. This is because exercise helps release hormones that promote the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids. This helps them grow and reduces their breakdown, which helps promote overall health.

Over and above these health benefits of exercise of women, exercise can also increase your energy levels, improve your digestion, improves your quality of sleep, and can decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases. Exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health!

Practice gratitude

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life. Whether you choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude journal, or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have, giving thanks can transform your life.

Some health benefits of practicing gratitude are as follows:

  • Gratitude improves self-care.
  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude increases mental strength.

So superwomen … what are you going to do to take care of yourself during this beautiful Women’s Month?

Want to know more about your nutrition? Get in touch with Melanie Sher.


Inspiring change this Women’s Month

This month is Women’s Month and we are celebrating all women! With National Women’s Day falling on the 9th, we are celebrating the achievements and spirit of women throughout the month of August. Get to know the incredible women behind The Fry Family Food Co, Debbie, Tammy, Hayley and Stacey.

Debbie Fry


What was your dream job as a kid and why?

I always dreamed of living on a farm and working with animals – I love the open spaces and just couldn’t see myself fitting into a corporate world.

Which woman inspires you and why?

Thuli Madonsela – she lived through the struggle in South Africa, educated herself and then stood up for the people by not being afraid to tell the truth.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

I personally think this is one of the most challenging times for women in the world! A time when roles are changing and blending in more with men’s roles – a very different world to the one our grandparents grew up in.

What would you say to your 15-year old self?

I am proud of myself that in a time when there were few vegetarians/ vegans and coming from a “meat-eating” family that I never waived from my meat-free diet.

What message would you like to share with women this Women’s Month?

Love yourself, be proud of who you are, and take time out to enjoy quality “me” time.


What was your dream job as a kid and why?

When I was 5, I wanted to be just like my mom. I thought she was amazing!

Which woman inspires you and why?

The truth is that all women inspire me. I have met so many incredible women and it never ceases to amaze me how many beautiful qualities women have. My mother played an integral role in my life, as did my sisters, my “grannies”, my amazing friends, people I have met along my life journey.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

To fight the corporate world and the propaganda, to expose the truth of big industry, to fight hard for what’s right, and then to go back to being women again. To be so tough and then so soft – this will be challenging!

In your opinion, how do the principles of equal women’s and men’s rights align with vegan principles?

It’s about equality and respect. Men and women should be treated as equals, as should every creature that walks the earth. It’s about living a value-led and principled existence and standing up for what’s right. Human rights and animal rights are both rights!

What would you say to your 15-year old self?

Love and accept yourself for who you are – you are the perfect you.

What message would you like to share with women this Women’s Month?

Find yourself a woman mentor that is older than 85 and ask her for advice. Her wisdom may astound you.

The answer I got:

Indulge in the things that are the most important to you. Don’t strive for success, strive for happiness. Forget the to-do list and make a to-don’t-do list instead. Spend an extra 5 minutes every night cuddling your kids.

I am working on applying these to my life!

What inspired you to start the self-defense and functional fitness program, Tough Love?

This poem:

“She is a woman, she is mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister. She is a person, she is strong, smart, crafty, passionate, and generous. Cooking barefoot is one of several superpowers. She is action, emotion, devotion. She has hope, beauty, power, she has a brain and she knows how to use it. She gives you life, she gives you respect, love, gratitude, she believes in you. She will nurture you and fight for you. She deserves nothing less from you.”

My motto is – “if you can, you should!” – I know I can help women in South Africa by empowering them with self-defense skills and so I try my best to do this.


What was your dream job as a kid and why?

Anything to do with serving people, I have always loved looking after and nurturing people, I am not sure why it is – just who I am I guess.

Which woman inspires you and why?

No one woman in particular, I am inspired by women who are fearless in living their personal truths. The ones that know who they are and are not afraid to own it. Women of today have great pressure to be perfect… the perfect mother, always present and patient; career-driven, while also maintaining a perfect home, and let’s not forget the perfect body, a good sense of style, and last but not least a good social media presence! I am inspired by the ones who don’t pretend to get it all right, the ones who are clear on their priorities and work hard to maintain those.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

I guess similar challenges to my generation… maintaining balance and choosing what is important to them rather than striving for it all. Defining their concept of success (not society’s idea of success) and then working towards that.

What would you say to your 15-year old self?

Do not follow societal norms, follow your heart, do not do what is expected of you but rather what truly resonates with you, scares you and excites you. Think clearly about what success looks like to you. This is easy to say now – but I doubt my 15-year-old self would have listened. Some things you can only learn with time and living.

What message would you like to share with women this Women’s Month?

Support one another in a real and authentic way; share your hardship stories openly so that you may give people the gift of learning from your experience; be vulnerable, this allows people to connect with you on a deeper level; learn to be with yourself and listen to your heart – meditation is a great way to achieve this. Find joy, by noticing the things around you, the sunset, the warm sun in winter, your daily cup of coffee, a stranger’s smile, all of it! Have fun, having fun keeps us alive too much adulting does not!


What was your dream job as a kid and why?

Growing up I always wanted to be a vet because I absolutely loved animals and could think of nothing better than working with them all day.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

I feel like communication would be a big challenge for the younger generation as technology and social media have taken over. I often see a group of teenage girls out at dinner and they are all on their cellphones. I think we need to focus on human interaction and face-to-face communication as nothing beats this.

What would you say to your 15-year old self?

I would say, don’t stress about the small things. There are so many obstacles that you have to overcome throughout your lifetime so just take it one day at a time. Tomorrow is a new day.

What message would you like to share with women this Women’s Month?

Be bold and humble. Do not be ashamed of what you stand for and what you believe in.


South African women in business


Celebrate the power of change with these women in business

In August, South Africans celebrate Women’s Month in remembrance of the more than 20’000 women who marched to the Union Buildings against the pass laws on 9 August 1956. Today, women in business are having a positive influence in South Africa and are part of the change which could lift the emerging market’s GDP by 12%. In 2012, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), found that 126 million women had started running businesses in 67 countries around the world, including South Africa. Businesswomen across the country are showing their entrepreneurial spirit and this is reflected by the statistics that show that 28% of senior management positions are held by women (compared to the global average of 21%).


Fry’s is a business that operates as a family, with women playing a major role in all levels of operations and management. The company was co-founded by Debbie Fry, with her husband Wally back in 1991. Debbie was a born vegetarian and was part of the inspiration for Wally developing a range of meat alternatives that were high in protein and delicious. Their daughter, Tammy Fry Kelly, is the International Marketing Director of Fry’s Family Foods. Tammy combines her passion for healthy food and animal welfare to market a product that allows anyone to eat a compassionate diet.

The Board of Directors also consists of Hayley Richardson, who is the Technical Director. Hayley is responsible for the research and development of all new products and the maintenance of the highest factory standards. The South African business is run by Acting Managing Director, Caroline Garnett, who is a Chartered Accountant and the Chief Financial Officer. Caroline oversees all operations of the company and ensures that delicious food is available to all leading retailers across the country.

Fry’s Family Foods is dedicated to making a difference to the Earth and the animals that inhabit it. This is made possible by the businesswomen who make key decisions on how to grow the company in the most sustainable way possible.

Follow Tammy now if you want to find out more about Fry’s and the businesswomen who run it!