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Nutrition- Shift from traditional diets leaves Ugandans prone to disease

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th June 2009 03:00 AM

UGANDA’S national health policy aims at attaining good health standards for realistic development. However, a glance at its current menu is a deviation, with most Ugandans oblivious of the essential nutritional requirements and health habits.

UGANDA’S national health policy aims at attaining good health standards for realistic development. However, a glance at its current menu is a deviation, with most Ugandans oblivious of the essential nutritional requirements and health habits.

By Frederick Womakuyu and Richard Wetaya

UGANDA’S national health policy aims at attaining good health standards for realistic development. However, a glance at its current menu is a deviation, with most Ugandans oblivious of the essential nutritional requirements and health habits.

There is increased consumption of high salt, sugar and fatty foods; a shift from Uganda’s traditional diet that included luwombo, vegetables like dodo, cassava, potatoes, fish, atapa (millet bread) and malewa (bamboo shoots).

Health experts from Mbale School of Hygiene say Uganda’s growing urbanite population may bear the brunt of chronic diseases such as heart attack and diabetes among others.

The health advisors say that the essential rule is to consume a variety of sufficiently balanced diet foods, that have a combination of both high quality animal protein such as low fat milk, eggs, fish, lean meat and low quality plant proteins like beans, cereal grains, legumes, flour, whole grains and enriched breads.

Mbale School of Hygiene nutritionists say more whole wheat brown breads, rice, greens, fruits, whole grain barleys and millet grains are necessary for a healthy diet.

They say a combination of brown rice and beans can supply the same protein value as meat.
Macaroni, legumes, cheese, milk and cereal, are protein-rich combinations which people should include in their meals.

Dr. Sam Wamimbi, a nutritionist at Bududa Hospital in Mbale said proteins do not only build the body and muscles, but also improve on the texture of the hair.

“We run very high risk by eating high fat and high cholesterol fast foods,” he warns. High fats and cholesterol foods block the kidney and reduce oxygen intake.

He said some of the foods with high fat and cholesterol include fried potato chips, burgers, pickles, salty sauces, pizzas, pretzels, sausages, red meats with high levels of saturated fat, and grilled chicken.

“These contain few nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which the body needs for growth of body cells,” said Dr. Andrew Magona, a nutritionist at World Relief Services.

He adds that Vitamin A that is found in food sources like liver, milk, oranges, green vegetables (broccoli, mustard greens, sweet potatoe leaves and butternut leaves) and fresh fruits is essential for healthy bones, eyes and skin.

Dr. Wamimbi says a well-balanced diet of protein provides more energy to help one stay fit, stress-free and active.

Another dietary guideline, Magona says is to eat lean meat, less grilled foods like hot dogs and burgers, less processed foods, minimum cheese and more chicken.

“However, one must remove all crusty skin from fried or roasted chicken, that is normally eaten while drinking beer.”

Magona said if one is already in the habit of enjoying fast foods and snacks, they may need to limit additives like tomato and chill sauce.

Dr. David Kigozi, a nutritionist at Ahamadiya Clinic in Mbale, says: “Similarly, reduce on the intake of fried fish and pork. They contain too much cholesterol that destroys the liver and kidney.

Its accumulation blocks the organs’ functions of excretion,” he said. He also says people should learn to have a diet which includes fruit juice, plain fruits, vegetables, fresh tomatoes and carrots.

“This is to make up for the nutrients lacking in fast foods. Fresh tomatoes will be a replacement for snacks in fast food restaurants,” says Dr. Kigozi.

The experts’ advice is that good habits and choices like physical exercise, proper nutrition programmes in schools combined with good human relationship skills and regular medical check-ups will help Ugandans rediscover good standards of health.

Dietary guidelines
Eat a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, legumes, whole grain, breads and cereals.

Maintain ideal weight. Improve eating habits — eat slowly, prepare smaller portions and eat less fatty foods.

Avoid too much fat. Saturated fats and cholesterol. Choose to have lean meat, fish, poultry and peas.

For protein sources, eat foods less deficient in acids like salmon fish. Moderate use of eggs and limit your intake of butter and cream, hydrogenated margarines and coconut oils.

Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber like whole grain breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.

Avoid too much sugar-use, especially white sugars, brown sugars, raw sugars, honey and syrups. Eat less candy and minimum soft drinks such as ice creams, cake and cookies.

Avoid too much sodium to enjoy unsalted flavours of foods.
Limit intake of salty foods, such as potato chips, salted nuts and popcorn.

Nutrition- Shift from traditional diets leaves Ugandans prone to disease

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