About 2 years ago,I was waiting for a friend outside the Lavington Mall just outside the entrance to the mall on the side where they have the Fiore de Latte cafe. Of course i had already had a sorbet there a few weeks before and my friend upon hearing me rave about the place asked that we meet there.
A few minutes after taking my seat,I see a mother and a little girl,someone i presumed to be the daughter, about 10 years and as they pass by me one of the attendants sweetly smiles at them and asks if they would like to have some sorbet .The girl quickly brushes her off and tells her its no carb week in the house and she quickly follows her mother down the stairs.
Months after this incident it was still puzzling to me ..what was the kind of relationship that this little girl was going to have with food for the rest of her life?And what had informed that relationship she was forming with food at a young age ?
We live in a time where food as been demonized for all the wrong reasons and we have people swearing off all manner of foods that their bodies actually need in order for them to live healthier more productive lifestyles.
Of great concern to me is when children develop unhealthy eating habits born out of fear at a young age which they then carry into adulthood.Are we going to have a generation of adults that at some point in their life were mistakenly led to believe carbohydrates are bad for them and so in their late teens and into adult hood they end up battling anorexia ?
When you hear a pre-teen say she wants to lose weight and she starts skipping meals,do you think….. wow,she is such a fastidious eater…. and congratulate her on her clean eating or do you get concerned that she is not getting enough calories to meet her body’s growing needs ?
Carbohydrates in high amounts especially if the carbohydrate sources are from junk food will definitely result in weight gain. A diet high in carbohydrates triggers more insulin production which results in the body turning all extra calories in the body to be stored as fat.
What we now see as a trend ,the “clean eating trend”,can turn into a consuming obsession where we categorize food as either being good or bad.This inflexibility around the food choices we make can result in anxiety disorders which can lead to guilty feeling whenever we think we have made the “wrong” food choice.I would not want to go into what this anxiety and fear will do to your mental health,but people who have battled anorexia have heart breaking stories.
This self restrictions we have put on on the food choices we can take results in nutrient deficiencies whose effects especially on growing children who are physically more active than adults and whose bodies need more nutrients can be detrimental .
What food choices are you making at this moment in time for yourself,family,children and what are they based on?
Are they based on whats is trending,what is beneficial to the body or are they made out of fear.
If you were in your pre-teens in the 1990’s and are reading this,your parents may have made the very wise decision to send you to boarding school and among the many items that were on your back to school shopping list was either a bottle of Scott’s Emulsion or Seven Seas Cod Live oil.
Unlike today where Scott’s Emulsion is available in Strawberry flavor and you can get it in chew-able Pastilles or Gummies then we had to deal with the arduous task of taking a teaspoonful of this fish oil as it was.
That was our first introduction to nutrition in a bottle and then because we did not know better,we took it whenever we felt like it and consequently by the end of the term you would end up with more than 2 unfinished bottles of cod liver oil which when you went home you could not satisfactorily explain to your mother why you had not been taking .
The contents of the bottle of Cod liver oil were meant to strengthen our immune system as the boarding school we went to tucked somewhere in the scenic location of Kyeni could get really cold especially in the second term , the longest term of the year when temperatures were very low.
On a clear morning,you might probably see the tip of Mount Kenya the air was crisp and fresh,no other place could boast such fresh air,but wait till winter set in during the months of May-July,that is when we saw our breath turn into mist when we walked outside of the dorm for some of the quickest showers I have had. Later we would cover ourselves in scarves and what we then called leg warmers which were knitted socks but without a heel and which we put on over our white socks.Second term was the period in school when you made the most visits to the school matron who also doubled up as the school nurse .For anything she could not treat she sent you to Kyeni Hospital which was tucked into these cul de sac that included a primary school,high school and church complete with a nunnery and a hospital. That’s is when you got to spend a few hours out of school ,sitted on a hospital bench waiting your turn to see a doctor.
The purpose of the cod liver oil was meant to keep these visits to the hospitals to a minimum but we adhered to our own rules and with no one to ensure we took the fish oil daily,well we ended up at the sanatorium more often than our mothers would have liked.
There are various stages in our lives where our dietary intake of the required nutrients,especially vitamins and minerals may not be adequate or maybe needed in extra amounts .Ideally we should get all our nutrients from our diets but changing dietary patterns or conditions necessitate intake of supplements.
Thanks to scientists who found a way to package some of the 13 essential vitamins we need as humans in a pill format a in the 1930’s and 40’s and nowadays there are a wide range of nutrition supplements you can buy over the counter.
However,before you go buy that bottle or box of supplements,a key question to ask yourself would be ,do I really need it?
And how do you determine if you really need that supplement.
If you are eating healthy and at every meal y are able to eat your recommended amounts of energy giving food(carbohydrates),protein,vegetables and fruits then supplements will not be the first thing you reach out for every morning.A balanced diet should be able to cater for all your nutritional needs.
It becomes an issue when your diet consists of mostly highly processed foods that are high in fat which puts you at risk of suffering from a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.Our bodies need 13 vitamins to thrive,Vitamins A,C,D,E,K and 8 from the B group of vitamins.The Global Micro nutrient deficiency crisis has only become of major concern in areas where there is over nutrition and people especially in urban areas have increased their intake of calories,animal protein and are taking too little of the plant proteins, fresh fruits ,vegetables and in areas where we have humanitarian crisis and there is under nutrition.
In vulnerable groups such as in young children,pregnant and lactating mothers and the elderly ,doctors may recommend taking of supplements to safe guard against potential risk of running into deficincies.Mircronutirents are especially important in the stages in life like childhood and pregnancy because these are periods where a lot of physical changes are taking place and micro nutrients play a very vital role in these bodily changes .(You may want to refer to the previous post to learn about the very important role of micronutirents).They are key ingredients of growth and a deficiency may result in a lasting physical impairment.
In the elderly their intake of nutritional supplements may be necessary as they may not be able to absorb it very well from what they eat daily. Due to a decreased appetite we tend to consume less as we grow older which affects the consumption of certain foods that provide essential nutrients. Of special importance is the intake of calcium in the elderly which is highly affected as we get older and research has shown that we consume less calcium as we age.Calcium is essential for healthy bones and no wonder there is an increase in bone related injuries as we age as bones due to a decreased intake of both Calcium and Vitamin D which are essential for healthy bones results in weak and brittle bones .
For post menopausal women the risk of injuries is higher as the levels of estrogen in the body decrease,among the many functions of oestrogen is that it protects our bones and ensures they are strong and healthy .The drop in oestrogen levels after menopause leaves women prone to bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis which is a condition where the bones become thinner and may easily fracture.
For women a diet of 3-4 servings of dairy is recommended as well as physical exercise but more on that in the next article.
If you are eating well already,you might not need to use nutrition supplements as a nutirient rich diet should be able to cater for all the nutrients your body needs .However if your diet is poor and you are prone to infections seek your doctors advice before you get on the path of taking nutrition supplements.
As African countries transition from low income economies into middle income ones there has been a rise in the number of health challenges these economies are facing. Increasingly we are seeing a rising number of individuals with non communicable lifestyle conditions like heart attacks,cancer,diabetes and other respiratory diseases like asthma on the rise.
Individuals living in urban and peri urban areas are at risk as we have seen the mushrooming of convenience fast food stores that are selling energy dense foods high in trans fats,sugar ,salt and low density lipoproteins which contribute to high cholesterol levels .
These change in eating habits is not just an African problem but it is a global epidemic and health analysts are warning of an epidemic if we do not change our eating habits.The rise in the consumption of energy rich,protein dense foods in lieu of nutrient rich foods has affected about 2 Billion people globally who are affected by micronutrient deficiency.
WHO defines micronutrients as the “magic wands” that enable the body to produce enzymes,hormones and other substances that are essential for proper growth and development.
While emphasis has been placed on overnutrition and issues like obesity and the dangers of being overweight have been discussed extensively ,deficiencies in micronutrients have not because very few people understand them.This lack of information on the health risks associated with micronutrients has fuelled a narrative where we have focused more on maintaining healthy weight while losing focus on emphasising the need for a more informed approach to the health challenges we are facing.
The lack of micronutrients especially among growing children,pregnant and lactating mothers and the elderly has been associated with risks such as lack of resistance to infectious diseases,blindness,lethargy,reduced learning abilities,death during childbirth,and impaired physical and mental development in children.
The WHO classifies Vitamin A ,,Iodine and iron as the most important in term sof global public health and their deficiencies can cripple the affected populations.
Let us try to go through what the lack of these micronutrients results in and in our next article we will tackle how to ensure elimination of these deficiencies.
Vitamin A plays a starring role in vision,bone growth,reproduction,cell division and differentiation and in growing children and pregnant women these processes are essential for proper growth and development in children and healthy pregnancy outcomes in childbearing women.
Vitamin A also plays a very important role in the promotion of a healthy mucous lining of the respiratory,urinary and intestinal tracts which make it hard for bacteria to enter the body and cause infections.
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and due to a weakened immune system as the body is more prone to infection individuals are more at risk of disease and even death from severe infections.
Iodine is needed by the human body for the production of the thyroid hormone ,the body needs the hormone to aid it in metabolism.
Iodine deficiency in pregnant or nursing mothers has been associated with miscarriages,preterm deliveries and congenital abnormalities in babies.
In children iodine deficiencies is associated with cretinism which is exhibited by children having stunted physical and mental growth .
The most common symptom of iodine deficiency in the body is a swelling at the front of the neck which we know as goitre that results from the overexertion of the thyroid gland.
Your whole body contains about 4 g of iron .Iron is an important micronutrient and its role is in the body processes that involve energy release .Iron is a component of the oxygen carrying blood compounds like haemoglobin which is found in the red blood cells and myoglobin which is found in muscle tissue.
In a World Health Organization report titled The Global Prevalence of Anaemia 2011,it was found lack of dietary iron which results in anemia was prevalent across all sectors of the global economy from low to middle to high income countries.
“Anemia, defined as a low blood hemoglobin concentration, has been shown to be a public health problem that affects low-, middle- and high-income countries and has significant and adverse health consequences”
Iron deficiency had adverse effects on the development of cognitive and motor functions and the result is fatigue,low productivity,in pregnancy it was seen in children born with a low birth weight and was also associated with maternal and perinatal deaths.
Zinc is involved in over 100 metabolic enzymes and specifically those that are needed for metabolism,cellular division and DNA and RNA synthesis and structure.
Zinc deficiencies are exhibited in a lack of appetite,retarded growth in children,poor bone growth,problems with male and female reproduction,poor skin,hair ,nails and a poor sense of smell and taste.
Micronutrient deficiency has become such a global public health issue that the World Health Organization has endorsed a policy plan which sees to address this issue by 2025.The plan focuses on maternal,infant and young children and it aims to :
1.achieve a 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted;
2.achieve a 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age;
3.achieve a 30% reduction in low birth weight;
4.ensure that there is no increase in childhood overweight;
5.increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%;
6.reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%.
Individuals raising children or those that want to take active charge of their health as well as those of their families,staff members need not wait for governments to implement policies that will tackle these micronutrient deficiecnes.By seeking information healthy lifestyle choices and making more well informed food choices s we can help reduce the risks associated with micronutrient deficiencies.
By tackling micronutrient deficiencies we also help reduce the crippling cost of public health as well as private health insurance costs that have been on the rise annually.
In our next post we will tackle how you can do this through making better and well informed lifestyle choices.
The Maridadi Yoga Tour kicks off next Saturday at the Coffee Casa on 3rd Parklands Avenue,Doctor’s Park .
This Yoga + Brunch event will take place at a different venue each month till the month of November and participants will have a chance of experiencing something different and exciting at each of the participating restaurants/venues as well as enjoy the health benefits that come with practicing yoga.
Yoga improves your muscles strength,posture,flexibility,respiration and increases your energy levels.Would love to have your company as we kick off this exciting tour.
Pay for your tickets well in advance as we have limited slots available,just 15 for this month,looking forward to seeing you all on the 16th.
Have you ever lived in denial like I have been doing for the last couple of months?
We all do .At least I know there might be at least one person reading this that will identify with living in denial about some aspect of their life.
For me it is the fact that I need to be taking better care of myself.
Am a fastidious eater and I exercise,though not much .When I started having stiffness in my joints especially when the cold season started I knew it was time to get out a yoga mat and engage in some exercise that would do my joints some good.
Yoga would also give me some me time,Nairobi is such a fast paced city and one can easily forget to take time out for themselves,which might explain why we are seeing a rise in the number of people having to deal with stress related conditions getting younger by the day.
I have tried yoga before and I like the fact that it is a low impact work out program that will be easy on my joints because I cannot run !
Yoga is a great option for me because as I said I cannot run and I did not want a work out program that would hurt my joints .
In the short time I have done the yoga workouts which take me about one and a quarter hour every morning,I have righted my posture,learned to listen to the cues my body is sending me and not push it too much.My knee joints feel much better already and I thought to myself why not organize a fun work out for a Saturday morning then follow it with lunch at a swanky upmarket in Nairobi ?
In the hope that some one else out there might be interested,I have space for just 20 people who would like to enjoy a low impact fun work out with some amazing people.
If you feel some time out for yourself on a Saturday morning feels like fun,then by all means sign up for the event.
Thereafter followed a vibrant conversation from the people who read it and rearing its head very often were these 3 letters -BMI.
BMI or Body Mass Index as we know it has been bandied around by health and medical professionals and we have scared people into thinking that it is the be all,end all and ultimate marker of good health.What scientist have found is that BMI scores vary among different groups and some like countries in South Asia have developed their own way of calculating BMI’s among their populations.
At its inception , the BMI was a simple,easy tool to screen populations at a time when Western populations were having to come to terms with the increase in obesity in their populations that were becoming more prosperous and were seeing changes in dietary habits.
Health and medical professionals now use the BMI to determine “how much body fat ” you are carrying .Research however shows that the amount of body fat individuals carry varies across ethnic groups.
For most people in Kenya ,finding their BMI score is a scary thing , especially when they find out that they score a higher or lower than average score and fall on either of two extremes, severely underweight or morbidly obese.
As a guide a Body Mass Index was developed thanks to a population of individuals who were all of European descent.Any casual observer can l see that as Africans our physiology is different from Europeans and since the BMI does not differentiate between body fat and muscles we will have different scores among different ethnic groups .
But what is the Body Mass Index really and how did it come about and is it really a good indicator of how healthy you are or of how much weight you should gain or lose?
To better understand what the Body Mass Index is,we have to go back in history ,more than 150 years ago to the 1830’s through to the 1850’S when the BMI was first developed by the Belgian Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet.
As a tool for studying population trends and giving a rough idea of the health status of groups to medical professionals it proved very useful .What it was not able to point out was the amount of visceral fat individuals carried with them.
Visceral fat you said…this is the fat that is around your abdomen and internal organs and is the dangerous kind of fat that will predispose you to conditions like diabetes Type 2,hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
The amount of visceral fat we carry is more worrying than the BMI score .
When you first get your BMI,remember it is the value got from the weight of an individual divided by their height squared and will give you kg/m squared.
The resulting value is used to classify individuals as underweight,normalweight,overweight or obese.As such when describing an individual’s BMI score,one often hears the description of the resulting value being how far from the ideal one’s weight is from what is desirable for their height.
Over the years there has been an increase in the concern of using a universal cut off point to determine the health of individuals and scientists have been calling for a more individualized approach to determine the health of individuals as Body Mass Index has been shown to differ among ethnic groups .
In a paper titled Ethnicity and BMI ,that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition by Amy Luke a Professor from the University of Loyola’S Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology,she wrote:
“The WHO’s 2004 call for more research to be conducted in diverse populations seems quite important and necessary if the relationships between BMI,body fat and chronic disease are to be better defined.”
Individuals who are more athletic and have more muscle than fat may also inadvertently find themselves in the overweight bracket and shorter people find themselves being classified as thinner than they really are.
As a result with the BMI , it does not differentiate between body fat and muscle and people will sometimes find themselves in the wrong classification. Some scientists have argued that using a waist to height ratio would give a better and more specific evaluation of a person’s health .
Why a waist to height ratio ?
Because a waist to height ratio is a better indicator of abdominal fat and abdominal fat has been shown to be a better predictor of individuals predisposed to obesity related health conditions.
However,the jury is still out on this and the BMI remains king. .
To be clear, the Body Mass Index is a good tool for population studies but not for individualized health care.The World Health Organization has defined obesity as a condition in which excess body fat affects the health and well-being of an individual and it has used the Body Mass Index as a tool to classify individuals ,research however has shown that Body Mass Index across ethnic ,cultural groups differs and genetics and environmental factors also affect our well being.
When the BMI was developed humans were leaner and having mainly focused on Western societies where diets were different from lets say individuals in Africa and Asian countries,the Index was and is a guide and could be used with other more specific tests to determine the health of individuals .
In this paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE ,scientist from Leeds Beckett University do say that Body Mass Index while remaining a useful tool for population screening is not able to identify individuals at risk of developing obesity related medical conditions.
Do we then get rid of the BMI and stop using it as a guide to screen individuals at risk of health complications ?
No,we should not, instead of chasing a number that determines how perfectly healthy we are,it will be more useful to adopt a healthier lifestyle by making healthier food choices and adopting more active lifestyles .
Active lifestyles where we incorporate more exercise will ensure we burn more of the visceral fat we carry,making healthier food choices like cutting back on alcohol,cutting back on deep fried foods,eating more fiber rich foods are ways of ensuring that you can lose the abdominal fat you carry with you and reduce you waist to height body fat ratio.
My challenge to the great scientists and researchers in Africa would be for us to adopt more multi pronged approaches to tackle the heath challenges of the continents population .Countries in South Asia have been able to do so.
We could do more research on the increasing number of lifestyle conditions that are on the rise on the continent and share ideas of how we can help our populations adopt more healthy lifestyles.We should promote consumption of more indigenous foods,advocate for more active lifestyles and create policies that will advance healthier lifestyles.
For now do not just rely on your BMI,take a more active step towards living healthier by making more healthy food choices and becoming more active.
The last post I did on why sugar is not good for your body elicited a lot of interest and questions from people on whether there are ways to manage sugar cravings in a healthy manner.
Before I explore ways of how to manage sugar cravings I thought I should mention a hard and cold truth about sugar .
Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever,yes it does sweeten some foods and drinks the craving for sugar is derived from the pleasure it triggers through the release of dopamine into our brain.
Sugar has no proteins,vitamins or minerals that the human being would need in order to be healthy .
The danger with the added sugar we take in is that it plays havoc with our metabolism and it also contributes to a lot of the lifestyle diseases we see on the rise.Everything from obesity,heart disease,tooth decay are related to consuming more sugar than our body needs.
Sugar gives you nothing but empty calories and consuming foods high in sugar and fats leads to nutritional deficiencies as well as it affects the consumption of other healthy foods.This deficiency on certain nutrients then leads to deficiencies that compromise our health and leave our immunity exposed.
The way to stave your sugar craving is to look for healthy alternatives to sugar that give you more than the sugar high and are high in nutritional value.
1.Take a fruit and leave out the sugar in your hot beverages.
Instead of having your tea with sugar,leave it out and instead have a fruit with your breakfast.Not a fruit smoothie because fruits have sugar in them in the form of fructose and over consumption of sugar in the form of fructose is unhealthy as all excess fructose will get turned by your body into fat.
2.Make your snack choices healthy ones.
To stave off the hunger pangs when you are feeling low on sugar at 3 pm Monday afternoon,take a fruit instead of the afternoon mug of tea.
Note:Intake of fruits should be limited to about 2-3 in a day.
Nuts and seeds also make very healthy snack choices nuts provide essential vitamins from the B group,Vitamin E and minerals like potassium,calcium and magnesium and they will leave you fuller for longer as they slowly get broken down and sugar gets released into your body in amounts your body can use.
3.Take note of your calories
Take your calories from whole grains,starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes,grains,cereals and not from baked foods .When you make healthier choices about where you will get your calories from,these sources of carbohydrates as highlighted are also sources of other micro nutrients that your body needs.
As you grow older your body needs less calories and what your body needed when you were 20 will change as you head towards your 30’s and 40’s when you become less active and your body’s metabolism slows down.
Sometimes the hunger pangs we think we have that force us to reach out for something sweet may actually be a sign from our body that we a dehydrated.Pick up that glass of water instead of a doughnut ,a cookie or a fruit drink.
5.Make your food choices healthy choices.
Instead of eating three large meals during the day,stagger your meals through out the day in small portions and make sure they are made up of foods from all the major food groups,cereals/grains,milk and dairy,fruits and vegetables,nuts and seeds.By taking your foods from the natural sources you are ensuring your body is able to metabolize the food in such a manner that stabilizes your blood sugars through out the day rather than experiencing the highs and the dramatic falls that come with consumption of processed foods which are high in sugar and fat.
6.Get to exercise
If you are struggling with your sugar craving,getting physically active will help you mange those cravings as it forces you make more healthier food choices,take in more water and you will definitely have to take in more than sugar for your muscles to get working and to be physically fit.
Exercising will force you to be more conscious of your food choices and it will lead you to healthier ones.
By now you know that sugar is not good for you,yet every time you seem to try to go cold turkey and stay off it you keep coming back unable to let go off what can only be described as an addiction.You cannot have tea or coffee without it and you prefer calling your addiction a sweet tooth.
But do you have a sweet tooth or what exactly is it about sugar that makes life so much sweeter (pun intended) ?
Yet everywhere we look there is something sugary and sweet calling out to us and tea,coffee does not really taste the same without a teaspoon or two or maybe three of sugar.
We cannot tell exactly why tea in our sugar or tea hits such a sweet spot and many people swear that they cannot take tea without sugar .If you have a cup in the morning another at 10 am and another at 4 pm and with each cup you take about 2 teaspoons of sugar that equals to about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar,depending on how much you put in per cup/mug.
If you are a woman a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar daily is recommended.
Now imagine you take a soda during the day,it is hot ,then you decide to take with you a fruit smoothie of about 4 different fruits as you drive to work,meet a friend for coffee after work and you each order for a slice of the moist carrot cake you were told is fresh from the oven,how many teaspoons of sugar do you think that will total to
It will equal to a lot of teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar occurring naturally in food are an energy source for the body’s cells .When we consume carbohydrates they get broken down by the enzyme carbohydrase which breaks down the starch in foods into sugars.
It is not just carbohydrates that contain sugar ,fruits also contain sugar made up of two simple sugars sucrose and fructose.It is why making a habit of drinking fruit smoothies made up of 3-4 fruits daily is not a good idea while trying to mange your wait is not a good idea as in the final end it will get converted to sugar and any extra sugar you do not use your body stores it in the form of fat.
“It is better to eat your fruit rather than drink it.”
When sugars are added to food it is because they play an important role ,they add texture taste and color to baked food products .Sugar is added to yoghurt,to tomato paste and sauce for added as well to balance flavor, and to o dried fruits as a preservative,to bread act as an energy source for yeast as well as in tea coffee to add taste to these drinks.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and not more than 9 teaspoons for men daily.That is about 100 calories and 150 calories respectively for women and men respectively.
Sugar does play a role in a healthy diet ,it is the the source of sugar and the over consumption of sugars from other sources that pose a problem to your health.When you over consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks your body experiences rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels.The rapid rises and falls of your blood sugars drives your pancreas crazy!
Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin which is released from your pancreas.Insulin is a hormone that prompts your body cells to absorb sugar that the cells need to use for their cell functions and the excess then gets stored as fat.When your blood sugar falls the pancreas prompts the release of the hormone glucagon that has the liver releasing the stored sugar for use by the body cells.
We live at a time when there has been an increase in the number of people living with Type 2 Diabetes and the onset of diabetes in Type 2 keeps going lower.A major cause of these could be the foods we are taking in,especially foods high in added sugars.Type 2 develops over a period of time when the body is unable to use the insulin it producees in the correct way.The body then becomes unable to respond to the insulin it produces and this prompts the pancreas to release more insulin.This over production of insulin wears the insulin producing cells out and eventually the body stops responding to the insulin it produces and that is when Type 2 Diabetes is diagonised.
Type 2 diabetes at the outset can be managed with a healthy diet and physical activity but with time one will need to take tablets and maybe have insulin injections as well.
The reason why the over consumption of sugary foods is discouraged is mainly because sugar plays havoc with your body’s metabolism. Occasional indulgence in a cookie or a slice of cake is okay but it should not become a daily habit.Management of your weight is important as excess weight makes your body unresponsive to insulin which will lead to over production of insulin and eventually your pancreas will lose its insulin producing cells which will lead to pre diabetes,then diabetes type 2 as your body loses the capacity to be able to produce and respond to insulin which is needed to regulate your blood sugar levels.
While it is very easy to avoid soda,cake,cookies,ice cream and other foods where it is obvious sugar has been added,there are other places where we have hidden sugars.
A good habit to start practicing is reading food labels ,as sugar gets hidden in commercially produced foods and the names used may confuse most people .Sugar in the food you buy from the store will be hiding with names like corn syrup,fructose,dextrose,maple syrup,fruit concentrate,caramel,molasses and many other titles.
Having struggled with kicking off sugar in my teens,I finally did so in my early twenties and I know how hard it can be to keep off sugar . Sugar is actually a “drug” and its consumption from other sources other than the naturally occurring ones releases the feel good hormone dopamine into your brain making you cry out more,more ,more.It is why it is so hard to give up sugar because we have already created neural pathways for this pleasure habit and the reason why it becomes hard to give up. Just like learning a new skill is hard,we have to create new neural pathways in place of the old ones by replacing our cravings for sugar with healthy ones like eating more fruits,nuts,drinking more water and taking pleasure from these healthier habits.
It can be done,and you can take your tea without sugar and enjoy it,have your coffee without sugar and thoroughly enjoy it and yes even your cereals do not need the sugar as well and the plain yoghurt actually tastes better when you add fruits real fruits to it.
If you found this article useful or helpful,please let us know in the comments section .
If you follow the Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi which I have for a couple of years,you may have noticed that there are now more places where they have organized for Kenyans to buy organic food as well as more vendors, which means there has been an increase in the demand for organic food from the Kenyan market.
You must have wondered about what all the noise is about Organic farming and why suddenly there has been a surge in the demand as well as consumption of organic produce. I thought this post would be helpful in helping us appreciate organic farming as well as see why the demand for organic food has grown.
Organic farming is a system of agricultural production that involves the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals using natural ways.
Conserve Energy defines it as a process that involves the use of biological materials,avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.With a world population that is more than 7 billion and a land size that remains the same yet it is fighting with encroachment from human settlement,the demand for arable land is on the rise and people are looking for all manner of ways to make the most of the available land and animal resources.
One of the ways unscrupulous people have found to get more from their land and animals in order to make a few quick dollars is to pump it with chemicals,pesticides as well as speed up the maturity of farm animals like chicken by injecting them with growth hormones.
The bottom line in all of these endeavors is not a concern for the people who will eventually buy these foods from the supermarkets,it is profit greed that is the only driver for such practices that puts the lives of other human lives at risk.
It is true organic food costs more , because of the work involved as it is a very labor intensive exercise.It is also true that you expose yourself to less risk if you choose to go organic.
About 4 years back,I lived on a farm in Nakuru where we grew vegetables and other crops I also took up some organic farming on the side as an experiment project as well as to keep me busy.
My crops of choice were potatoes,zucchinis,carrots , to prepare I read widely and found that potatoes do very well especially if you mix dried manure into the soil and so I went about asking for dung from the farmers that owned cows around where we lived.I got a lot of it as well as a lot of curious looks as to what I needed cow dung it for.
But the venture came with a lot of challenges as well.The area where we lived was infested with moles ,how to get rid of them without using chemicals?
And we set about looking for a mole catcher,they do not exist anymore by the way and before we found we had a village of molehills on the farm as well as lost a lot of potatoes.
Up until the time we harvested the potatoes and carrots I never used a single drop of pesticide on them and they did fairly well.They potatoes and carrots came in all manner of sizes and we lost some as well to pests,but I had done it ,grown something without use of a single pesticide or chemical.
The need for organic farming is driven by the need for more sustainable methods of farming that ensure we will still be able to produce enough food 50 years from now on when the world population is estimated will be at more than 10 billion.
For those that have tasted organically grown fruits and vegetables you agree with me that they taste better than what you get from the supermarket shelves.Eggs from free range chicken are also more tastier ,have a yolk with the must delicious yellow color and just a bit smaller than the eggs that you get at the supermarket.
We consume a variety of pesticides and chemicals from foods like chicken,beef and other dairy products as well as from fruits and vegetables .The chemicals from pesticides and other drugs like antibiotics used to treat these animals have found their way into our food and we have started seeing resistance to the most widely available antibiotics used to treat very common infections.
Scientists are having to work very hard to keep up with the microbial mutations are now resisting the currently available antibiotics.
These resistance is leaving scientists and researchers worried as it means the increased resistance by disease causing bacteria to these drugs will expose us to infections which currently available antibiotics will not be able to treat.
The discovery of the latest antibiotic was reported this April and it was done by Canadian scientists,it was the first in antibiotic discovery in 3 decades 30 years and the drug is still years away from being available to the public.
The increasing public awareness on what is going on,increasing incidences of disease and the effects of environmentally unsustainable decades of farming methods have pushed organic farming front and centre.
If you are in Nairobi, follow the Organic Farmers Market on Facebook to see where the market will be next and get to interact with the farmers working hard to ensure we produce food in a more sustainable ad environmentally friendly manner than we are d right now.
Why is organic farming important and why should you care,I have a few reasons to think about why organic matters and who knows maybe you may take it up or talk to someone about it then we have a new generation of organic farmers.We may even meet at the Organic market.
1.Buying organic foods creates a demand in the market and will push farmers to be more responsible especially over the use of pesticides and other chemicals as they grow crops or rear their animals.This is already happening in some countries where consumers are demanding more responsibility over the use of drugs and pesticides.
In this way we are promoting a more sustainable model that ensures the earth is able to feed the future generations that come after us.
2.Buying organic foods means that you get the foods fresh,these foods have not been treated with any preservatives or had nay additives added to them to lengthen their shelf life.
The shelf life of organic foods is very short because of their very minimal journey from the farm to your plate which is what has encouraged the farm to fork movement globally and has had people support local farmers by buying local foods.
3.Buying organic has helped promoted the growth of agriculture as a means of livelihood especially among young people. Across the globe young adults are taking up agriculture and providing us with food.It has helped stem the increase in the number of the unemployed,helped increase food production as well as seen technology revolutionize farming.Europe has seen the number of its youthful population taking up farming,you may find this article from The Economist really interesting.
In Kenya as well we have several groups on social media platforms talking nothing but farming.See how dailies are falling over themselves to provide information on farming especially in the Saturday paper .
Young people are going back to the farms to ensure there is food for the more than 7 billion of us.
4.Buying organic and consuming organic ensures you know where your food comes from,how it gets produced and what goes into the production process.You are reducing your exposure to the chemical toxins that could put you at risk of developing certain life threatening conditions through the ingestion of chemicals that may have been used in their production ,processing or packing.
5.By buying organic you get to interact with the farmers that grow your food and there are benefits to that.There is nothing like meeting the person or people that put so much work to ensure you do not go hungry and appreciating the work they do.Human interaction especially in an age where technology is taking over how we socialize with each other,a conversation with another human being is always a great way to spend the weekend.I think one of the reasons people in big cities like Nairobi are always angry and stressed is because we speak so little to each to other,yet we know healthy relationships are part of living a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle.
6.Taking your children with you to the organic market for grocery shopping and let them feel,touch,sell and taste food.As I mentioned in an earlier post taking your children grocery shopping is a way of getting them involved in meal planning and ensuring they adopt healthy eating habits early in life.
They will get to know how to choose fresh ingredients,how fresh food looks like and most important they will learn to value the hard work of the people like farmers who work behind the scenes to make sure we get fed.
And just in case your children hardly ever get to travel upcountry,they will know food does not grow in the supermarket :-).
7.Buying organic is an opportunity to increase the awareness on more sustainable forms of agriculture and hopefully this will lead to legislation by governments as well as push them to develop policies that can protect as well as promote organic farming.
Do you buy or grown organic food?would you love to be featured on our blog,please get in touch with us.
As always your feedback,comments and suggestions are welcome.See you in the comments section.
Having listened to a lot of people share the challenges that come with losing weight or making a healthier choice of what they put into their bodies,I do find that a lot of them have the mistaken belief that to live healthy is somehow more expensive.
It is not.
It is also interesting to see that most people choose to eat out rather than carry lunch or a snack to work which I think is healthier because then you know exactly what has gone into preparing that meal.
Carrying lunch or a snack to work was something I did when was employed some time back and the greatest motivation for doing so was because I got to save some of the money I would have used for lunch on something else like shoes or a handbag.
And no,I really do not mean that you should not enjoy lunch with friends and colleagues every now and then, you can .
To live healthy and to lose weight is affordable because we live in a country blessed with an abundance of healthy food.
When writing down meal plans for people who either want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or lose weight or manage any condition my first rule of thumb is to always get to hear from them what it is that they like eating .
Some of the questions I ask is what foods they enjoy eating and how using those choices I can help them make more healthier choices.Getting to know other foods then enjoy eating helps me show them how they can incorporate healthier choices from the foods that are available to them and that they can afford.
That is how I come up with a meal plan.
The first thing in being able to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle is to take stock of where you are and how you got there and a great tool that will tell you exactly how you ended up there is by keeping a food diary.
A food diary is a record of everything you eat through out the day,how often and in what amounts.It includes keeping track of what you ate for breakfast,lunch,dinner and any snacks in between.You need also to have an idea of how many tablespoons of oil you use in preparing your meals,how much margarine/butter and the number of teaspoons of sugar you are taking in.
A food diary can surprise you and just by looking at it you will be surprised at how much you really take in.With a detailed food diary a Nutritionist is able to calculate exactly how many calories you are taking in.
Now,back to discussing living healthy is not expensive and I will show how you can do that in just 3 simple ways.
1.Know where to shop
In Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of food and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can eat and are willing to spend.You just have to know where you need to be shopping.
Vegetables and fruits especially come cheap and we have no excuse to not eat more of them .Sources of carbohydrates like rice,maize flour,wheat flour,traditional grains like millet and sorghum are very readily available.You can get them at the supermarket,neighborhood kiosk or in the numerous open air markets scattered throughout Nairobi.
Toi market that is located on Ngong Road is a great place to buy vegetables cheaply and City Market gives you fairer prices on beef,chicken and fish fillets.Ngara Market and City Market just opposite the Aga Khan hospital will also give you a wide variety of fresh vegetables to pick from.
There are also the organic markets organized at various venues around Nairobi by the Organic Farmers Market as well as farmers around Nairobi who do deliveries of their produce every week.
It is the sources of protein that make mealtimes more expensive but you do not have to have beef,chicken,fish fillets to meet your nutritional requirements for protein.More affordable sources of protein are legumes like various varieties of beans,dried peas,omena(Lake Victoria sardines) offer youd the proteins your body needs without breaking the bank.
Omena can be bought for cheap at Toi Market.
“Yes,good food does not have to be eaten with a fork.It is all around us if we are willing to make the right choice.”
2.Carrying lunch or snacks to work
Which do you think is easier,carrying lunch to work or buying food 5 times a week from a restaurant ?
When you carry lunch to work then you have more choice over what exactly is in your plate and especially if you are losing weight then you need to know what it is you are putting into your body.
Having watched how our food habits have been changing over the years,I am happy to see the opening of more restaurants that are serving real food as well as the demand from Kenyans for healthier food rather than the choice of fries, deep fried chicken and soda that was available some years back.
This demand has seen restaurants that are serving traditional Kenyan foods as well as foods from other cultures find a home as well as enthusiastic foodies in Nairobi.
There has been an increase as well in the number of entrepreneurs setting up companies giving the Kenyan consumer more healthy food choices.
3.Learn how to cook
Maybe after reading the first two you thought how can I eat healthy when I cannot cook and I do not have time to learn?
If you cannot enroll for a class,but a cookery book from any of the bookshops,follow food bloggers or watch the food shows available on TV or YouTube as well.
A quick search of this blog will give you some recipes,easy ones I promise using local ingredients that you will enjoy.
When you cook for yourself you get to experiment and once you get cooking you will be surprised at what you can whip up with simple ingredients and a sense of creativity.
Eating healthy is only one side of the healthy living coin,physical exercise is the second side.
One of the most affordable ways of exercising available to anyone on planet earth is walking.Physical exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and every human being of whatever age will thrive with physical activity.
Physical activity also helps reduce the risk of developing certain conditions that may come with weight gain and it also helps improve physical as well as psychological well-being.
As always I love hearing feedback from readers,how are you living healthy or making more healthy choices,what has helped and what do you think I have left out from my list that has helped you and would help someone else?
Please share your feedback in the comments section.