The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
Nigeria Risks More Deaths as Consumers of Processed Foods Increase
“high body mass index-related deaths have increased by 29 per cent among females and by 79 per cent among males between 1990 and 2015.”
According to research published in the Journal of Agriculture, Oxford Academic, titled: Social Status and the Consumption of Highly Processed Foods (HPF) in Nigeria,” the rate at which Nigerians are consuming processed foods is alarming and based on the findings of the research, there is absolutely an 80 per cent probability of more deaths caused by obesity or cancer as a result of the consumption of processed foods.
Conducted by Daniel A Mekonnen, Thom Achterbosch and Ruerd Ruben, the research noted that as a result of the consumption of processed foods in Nigeria, “high body mass index-related deaths have increased by 29 per cent among females and by 79 per cent among males between 1990 and 2015.”
This poses threats to human existence and the market of processed foods companies, as the life of consumers hangs in between. But the riddle unsolved is the fact that most of the processed foods manufacturers will not desist from producing more of these cancer-causing, low-nutrient processed foods while some consumers too may be adamant due to their “social status” or their insatiable “desires” to take the processed foods, again.
The study added that most of the consumers of processed foods do it because of their social status—a belief commonly associated with the rich-few and the poor-many in the north and south, Nigeria. The rich-few believed eating some selected processed foods at worldclass restaurants or elsewhere is the height of enjoyment and the classical way to say “I am rich.”
The poor-many too believed eating the processed foods consumed by the rich-few is the only way to feel the abundance and the essence of being rich or wealthy. And so the trend continues, while the rich-few set the tone, the poor-many dance to it, leaving their health in great jeopardy.
Even though, some processed foods are bought by consumers only to show that they’re wealthy and are educated. Most of these processed foods are as sweetened death on the Armageddon isle, playing kites with the human life and while suspending it to hang convulsing in the air.
Further Findings: Sweetened NCDs
Further findings have shown that changes in lifestyle and food systems are associated with a nutrition transition towards highly processed, cheap, and nutrient-poor but fat-, sugar-, salt-, and energy-rich products.
Consumption of highly processed foods together with inadequate physical activities has been associated with overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Overweight and obesity have become major public health problems in many low- and middle-income countries that are also dealing with the problems of undernutrition, a situation commonly referred to as the double burden of malnutrition (DBM)
In fact, recent studies show that NCDs associated with overweight and obesity have overtaken communicable diseases as the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.
One of the potential solutions to addressing overweight and obesity in the population is by promoting healthier lifestyle and eating behaviours. This requires a better understanding of consumer behaviour and factors that determine dietary choices, the research concluded.
HOW TO EAT HEALTHIER: Recommended Changes for a Healthy Nigerian Diet
Knowing that the current situation is dire in Nigeria, PIJAlance reached out to a Nigerian Biomedical Scientist, Somi Igbene (PhD), website on Saturday to publish the recommended changes for a healthy Nigerian Diet, having tested and found the information worthy of the public interest.
1 | Change your grains and flours
We tend to eat white rice and bake with white, refined flour frequently. Refined products have lost the bran and germ layer, containing beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fibre we need for health.
Swapping refined grains and flours with unrefined versions is crucial. So, instead of eating only white rice, consider adding brown, black, red and traditional rice varieties such as ofada to your diet.
2 | Check your cooking oils and fats
Palm oil and groundnut oils used to be the primary cooking oils before urbanisation. Nowadays, we rely on heavily processed vegetable oils from cottonseed, corn, soybean and canola seeds. Vegetable oils contain essential omega-6 fats that we need for health. However, we use them excessively without increasing our omega-3 intake, causing low-grade inflammation and possibly, chronic disease.
Besides, vegetable oils are prone to forming damaging free radicals when heated to high temperatures. Free radicals cause oxidative stress that is associated with many chronic diseases like CVD and cancers.
Minimise or eliminate vegetable oils. Replace them with fruit oils such as palm, avocado, olive, and coconut oils. Palm and coconut oils are rich in saturated fat, so use them moderately.
3 | Optimise your portions
Consuming more food (energy) than you need causes overweight and obesity. Therefore, it’s crucial to balance your energy/food intake with your daily needs. Energy needs vary from person to person as it depends on age, lifestyle, physical activity, gender, and weight.
That said, some people retain their ability to eat intuitively – eating when hungry, stopping when satisfied, but others have unfortunately lost this ability. If you’re still able to eat intuitively, focus on choosing whole, unprocessed foods, and your body will naturally determine the correct amounts of food you need.
However, if you’ve lost your ability to eat intuitively, you may need to work with a registered dietitian/nutritionist to relearn the correct food portions and eventually intuitive eating.
4 | Improve the nutrient density of your diet – eat more fruits and vegetables
You can improve the nutrient density of your diet by eating more whole, unprocessed foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals and have been linked to lower risks of chronic diseases. They are also rich in fibre, which is crucial for digestive and cardiovascular health.
Most Africans living in urban and Western countries eat minimal quantities of fruit and vegetables. You can boost your fruit intake by using them as toppings for oatmeal and pancakes, incorporating dried fruit into salads and rice dishes and enjoying them as a snack with nut butter.
Eat more vegetables by adding them to rice dishes, soups, and stews, blending with fruit to make smoothies or making dips such as salsa, hummus, and baba ghanoush. And if cost is a concern, choose seasonal fruits and vegetables and buy from a farmer’s market instead of supermarkets.
5 | Check your beverages
High sugar intake, especially when the overall diet is unhealthy, increases the risk of obesity and chronic diseases. Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the largest sources of free sugars in the diet. And unfortunately, consuming soft drinks (soda) with meals or snacks and adding multiple sugar cubes to coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cereals is the norm in Nigeria.
Each bottle of soft drink can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than the recommended six teaspoons of added sugars for women daily.
Most people are oblivious to the amount of sugar they consume and its health consequences. Assess your sugar intake and if high, consider replacing soft drinks with water or fruit-flavoured water and avoid adding excessive amounts of sugar to beverages and cereals.
6 | Read labels on packaged foods
We don’t always have the time to cook meals from scratch, and that’s okay. Packaged foods are handy when we need quick meals. They can also be sources of vitamins and minerals, especially if they’re fortified.
That said, not all packaged foods are created equal.
Despite the buzzwords advertised on food packaging, some ready meals and packaged foods are high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, vegetable oils and additives. And for some foods, the sugar, saturated fat and salt content overshadows the possible health benefits of the added vitamins and minerals.
Always read the ingredients on packaged foods and choose foods with low to moderate salt, sugar, and saturated fat. Avoid foods with trans-fats and genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
7 | Change your cooking methods
Where possible, avoid deep frying. Grill, bake, stir-fry, air-fry or boil instead. Avoid using salt excessively; instead, use herbs and spices to boost flavour.