Back in the days when nutrition was a relatively new area of specialization ,about 10 years ago,everyone thought a nutritionist belonged either in refugee camps,hardship areas or hospitals .
Most of the Kenyan population still thinks so but a growing number of people are now realizing that a nutritionist is key towards achieving overall good health.
A number of them are being sought by all and sundry to advise on how to live healthier lifestyles.
Sadly every Tom,Dick and Harry now claims to be a nutritionist,even a gym instructor.
Affluence and better incomes in Kenya have brought a lot of things with them,and one of the most significant is dietary changes.
A lot of people when they get more money to spend on food items,the firs thing they think about is diet change.Processed and packaged foods are thought to go well with their elevated socio- economic status.
You will then find a lot of people having lots of processed foods like cereal-out-of-a box,sausages,hot dogs and all manner of packaged foods ,loaded with preservatives just because they can.
At the bottom of the economic pyramid are the very poor who for lack of choices will eat everything and anything of what is available.
Both of these groups have one thing in common,they suffer malnutrition for different reasons.
While one group suffers because it lacks knowledge and not choice,the other suffers from lack of choice because of limited economic resources.
Both of these groups need nutritionist but for different reasons.
Lets us start with the higher end of the socio-economic bracket,the upper middle class and the über rich .
What do they have for breakfast?lots of processed foods because they have more money to spend they shun porridge,arrow roots,sweet potatoes and go for high-end cereals,preserved meats just because we can afford it or don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.
Most of the cereals mask hidden sugars in all it forms from sucrose,glucose to fructose.
Kenya is seeing an increase in the number of lifestyle diseases like diabetes which previously were unheard of and the patients are getting younger by the day.
It is all because of the hidden sugars available in some of the foods we are giving our children.
Am sure we never read the labels..right?
Next on that list is preserved meats that are loaded with preservatives to lengthen their shelf lives as well as to appear attractive.
The most common preservatives used is sodium nitrite that gives preserved meat its fresh looking color.
Its use has been associated with increased cancer risk and especially that of leukemia and brain tumors in children and young infants.This is according to a study done by the American Association for Cancer Research which also linked the use of this preservative as a leading cause for the increased risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers.
But did you know you can make your own sausages from minced/ground beef ?well that is a recipe for another day.
Now on the extreme side of the socio- economic ladder are people who for various reasons and especially economic ones cannot afford to eat well-balanced meals.
So what do they do,they settle for fast foods like fries which have been cooked in oil that has fried tonnes of chips before, the oil has literally decomposed and turned color.
Which is always a bad sign,it should be thrown out.
But how many fast food joints throw out their deep frying oil after a few uses?
If you walk into most informal settlement in Kenya you will meet enterprising men and women frying up potatoes and little doughnuts and this are especially attractive to young children.
Most of them use wood to cook but just so that they do not use as much fuel as they should and to save on costs ,they pile plastics to get the right temperatures at which to fry their foods.
The result..obnoxious foul smells from the burning plastics and we all know the toxicity of these substances and how they increase cancer risks.
This group of people is especially liked by the manufacturers of soft drinks and other carbonated drinks that are loaded with sugar,preservatives,artificial color and all manner of chemicals that when conusmed in high amounts are increasing Kenyans risks of cancer development.
Now for both groups of people I would suggest re-education on the basics of what is healthy and what isn’t,both of them have the means and ability to be able to live well on their budgets with the food available without resorting to some lifestyles that are increasingly shortening our lifespans and increasing medical costs.
Let us arm ourselves with the knowledge that is available,seek medical advice from medical practitioners and especially consult a nutritionist if you are in doubt as to whether what is on your plate is good for your body.
Most government hospitals and private ones too now have nutrition departments .We should make use of these men and women who either for free or for a small fee can take us back to the basics of good and healthy meals.
NB:Some nformation on the risks of sodium nitirite has been sourced from www.naturalnews.com