The old adage “you are what you eat” holds true when it comes to health. Your diet can have a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being. In Nigeria, a country where malnutrition and diet-related diseases are common, it’s crucial to understand how it affects health.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer account for 29% of deaths in Nigeria. The prevalence of NCDs is increasing rapidly, and unhealthy diets are a significant contributor.
The traditional Nigerian meals consists of starchy foods like cassava(eba, fufu and others) yams, and plantains, along with vegetables, soups, and sauces. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards a more Western-style diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats. This shift has led to an increase in diet-related diseases in Nigeria, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
“The food we eat has a significant impact on our overall health. In Nigeria, there is a need for a shift towards a more balanced diet, rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and low in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats. By making small changes to our meals, we can improve our health and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases.” Said Ayomide Adebogun dietician who spoke briefly to Pottage Of Health.
Maurice Gabriel, a gym instructor added that “Exercise is also crucial for maintaining good health. Regular physical activity can help control weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve mental health. In Nigeria, where many people have sedentary lifestyles, it’s important to find ways to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives, such as taking regular walks, cycling, or joining a gym.”
Obesity is a growing concern in Nigeria, especially among urban populations. The prevalence of obesity has increased from 8.1% in 2010 to 11.8% in 2018. This increase can be attributed to the consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and a decrease in physical activity.
Diabetes is another diet-related disease that has become more prevalent in Nigeria. In 2020, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that there were 4.8 million people living with diabetes in Nigeria. Unhealthy meals and a lack of physical activity are contributing factors to the increase in diabetes cases.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a significant health problem in Nigeria, affecting up to 44% of adults. Meals high in sodium, found in processed foods and fast food, is a contributing factor to hypertension. A high salt intake can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The good news is that a healthy diet can prevent and even reverse diet-related diseases. A balanced diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats can provide the essential nutrients the body needs to function optimally. For example, a diet rich in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and promote weight loss.
“As a dietitian, I believe that education and awareness are key to addressing the challenges of poor nutrition in Nigeria. People need to be aware of the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diets, and also the need to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and processed food . We also need to make healthy foods more affordable and accessible, particularly for low-income families, and work with food manufacturers and retailers to promote healthier options. By working together, we can create a healthier food environment and help Nigerians make positive changes to their diets.”
In Nigeria, efforts are being made to promote healthy eating habits. The federal government has launched various initiatives to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce the consumption of processed foods. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has also implemented measures to regulate the sale of unhealthy foods, such as trans fats and sugary drinks.
However, there is still much work to be done. Education and awareness campaigns are needed to inform Nigerians about the importance of eating healthy and how to achieve it. Nutrition education should be integrated into school curriculums, and healthcare professionals should be trained to provide dietary advice.
In conclusion, diet plays a crucial role in determining one’s health in Nigeria. Unhealthy meals can contribute to the increasing prevalence of NCDs, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. However, healthy meals can prevent and even reverse diet-related diseases. Efforts are being made to promote healthy eating habits in Nigeria, but more education and awareness are needed to achieve significant progress in this area. By choosing to eat healthy, Nigerians can improve their physical and mental well-being and live longer, healthier lives.