Flick onto Instagram at any moment of the day and you’ll see picture perfect meals; plates dripping with colourful foods, perfectly proportioned and contrasted against clean, white serving dishes. You would be forgiven for thinking that every second person is a MasterChef competitor in the making. After practising as a dietitian for over seventeen years, and living in the pressure cooker of modern day Western life, I know that the reality is you can count on one hand the number of people who are actually preparing these artistic showpieces on a weekly basis. One of the most common requests I get is for simple, speedy meal ideas that can please a family. Throw in an impetus to eat more plant-based meals and you have people tearing their hair out thinking about suitable food options. Cue Syndian Natural Foods!

Achieving optimal nutrition for clients is often about compromise; “No time to fit in breakfast? OK, let’s look at some oat bar or liquid options. Only have thirty minutes after run training to eat and get to bed? Let’s bulk prep some meals.” I am frequently averse to recommending packaged food products due to both additives and ingredients that are less than health promoting: palm oils, sodium, sugar, emulsifiers, artificial colours and flavours, and to the removal of nutrients such as fibre during processing. Syndian Natural Foods is one of the few companies offering a range of vegan and gluten-free packaged food products that have almost none of these caveats.

I have weaved a tasty path through a couple of products from each of their ranges, including dips, ready-made curries, vegan sausages, burgers and bites. The first thing that struck me is that aside from natural spices and flavourings such as garlic, ginger, cumin, chilli and coriander, you truly won’t find any artificial ingredients. Far from resulting in a bland product, which would be the danger to taste buds exposed to a market flooded with sugar, salt and artificial additives, the bold flavours hit your taste buds with a zing. Particular kudos given to the unabashed use of garlic in their Baba Ganoush dip and the perfect hit of fire in their Spicy Smoked Chipotle Vegan Sausages. Their Adzuki Bean and Kumera Burgers hold the perfect balance between the sweet cinnamon and the savoury notes of the cumin and coriander. Traditional earthy flavours permeate their Pumpkin and Cashew Masala, and you could almost convince yourself it was made in a home kitchen. My only flavour complaint comes from the misrepresentation in the title “Spicy” Wholegrain Burgers. Despite chilli, black pepper and paprika in the ingredients list the level of spice was underwhelming to non-existent. It would be remiss of me not to mention the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits attributed to many of these spices on top of their outstanding taste properties.

How do the products stack up nutritionally? My first and foremost gripe with packaged foods is usually the high salt or sodium content. Diets high in sodium cause increased risk of cardiovascular disease amongst other detrimental effects. You can tell that Syndian has worked hard to keep sodium content down. For the most part they achieve sodium levels that are at least below the 400mg per 100g cut-off demarcating a higher-sodium product. There are however some exceptions to this such as in their Asian Bean & Kumera Patties, and Super Green Falafel Bites. As an aside, their falafels are deliciously moist and far from most of the store-bought balls that crumble and suck the moisture from your mouth!

None of the meal products I trialled breached the 10g per 100g of fat mark that wanders into higher-added-fat territory. The Baba Ganoush dip has a slightly higher fat content at 11.5g per 100g, but given the smaller quantity this would be consumed in, it is unlikely to present a huge dietary fat intake issue. It is only the Spicy Smoked Chipotle Vegan Sausages that have a marginally higher saturated fat content due to the addition of coconut oil. The predominant oil added to Syndian products is rice bran oil, which is low in saturated fatty acids and contains roughly equal parts of oleic (monounsaturated) and linoleic (polyunsaturated) fatty acids. Some studies have shown cholesterol-lowering effects of rice bran oil in individuals with mildly raised cholesterol levels.1 As a general rule, diets higher in unsaturated, particularly monounsaturated, fatty acids lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Extra virgin olive oil, with its high levels of monounsaturated fats and antioxidant compounds, may confer further health benefits.2-3 Refreshingly, sugar or variations of sugar (corn syrup, rice malt syrup, dextrins, etc) are non-existent in the Syndian products I taste-tested.

In a plant-based diet it is often harder to achieve adequate intake and absorption of nutrients such as iron, zinc and calcium. Legumes are rich plant-based sources of iron, zinc, and protein and are used as the major ingredient in many of the Syndian products such as the Dal Makhani Curry, Adzuki Bean and Kumera Burgers, and Super Green Falafels. Admittedly, their vegan sausages do not contain legumes and are consequently on the lower-protein side at less than 5%, and only 1.4-2.8g protein per serve. Options such as pairing these sausages up in a meal with a quick cannellini bean mash or placing them on a grainy roll with some Syndian Beetroot Hommus could help to sidestep this dilemma.

Sadly, Syndian has not paid to have fibre quantities tested and added to their nutrient information panels, but considering the level of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and additional psyllium husk in their products, I would make an educated guess that they would provide more than decent fodder for the gut bugs.

The icing on top of the organic cake is that Syndian as a company not only talks the talk but walks the walk in terms of locally sourcing whole ingredients where possible that are non-GMO at the very least, and organic for the most part. Their products are kosher, halal, vegan and gluten-free.

It has been more than once over the last couple of months that I have found myself ‘saved by Syndian’ when in a tight time predicament, or with hunger levels through the roof and creativity in my boots! It’s an added bonus that Syndian has such a large range of products that you’re unlikely to be able to get through them all in a hurry. Adding Syndian to your freezer and meal rotation a couple of times a week could be a simple way to save both your health (mental and physical) and that of the planet. Check their website for the best place to find their products near you: https://www.syndian.com.au/

References:

  1. Most M, Tulley R et al. Rice bran oil, not fiber, lowers cholesterol in humans. AJCN. 2005: 81:1; 64-68.
  2. Beauchamp G, Keast R, Morel Det al. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature. 2005:437(7055); 45-46.
  3. Berbert A, Kondo C, Almendra C et al. Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition. 2005:21;131-136.