The African diet has evolved over the years and sadly, this development has not been positive. With this evolution in diet has come high incidence of diseases, most of which are preventable and which predictably have added to shortening the lifespan of the average African. This wasn’t the case before. Our forefathers ate well, worked hard and generally lived long lives. What happened to us? What changed? My perspective of this is that our lifestyle and diet changed and became plain SAD.
These days, the average African in the urban areas eats energy dense foods yet hardly expends any energy because there is no time. The hustle and bustle of the big cities steal one’s time and the search for money is never-eneding. People drive or get a ride to work, sit down all day at work, drive/get a ride back home and basically just sit down all day while eating starchy carbohydrate and extremely high fat foods. We like our cassava, deep-fried yam and plantain, white sweet bread, white rice and high-fat beans meals and we also like our very oily sauces, soups and stews. We like our processed sugar and transfat-filled snacks and when we feel like being ‘healthy’, we indulge in large quantities of high sugar fruits alongside our normal foods and snacks. Because we want to de-stress, we like our beers after work and when the weekend comes around with its throng of parties, we indulge in more beer or other alcoholic beverages. This new version of the African diet is a far cry from that of our ancestors and it is synonymous with the Standard American Diet which is popularly referred to as SAD. Yes indeed our diet is now SAD!
Not everyone eats this way though. If you leave the urban areas and go into the rural areas, people still maintain their afrocentric way of eating, live much more active lifestyles and generally fare better in terms of their health. Though a large percentage of their meals still come from starch, they consume more fibre from unprocessed carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits, eat lean meats and eat good, unprocessed fats alongside. In general, those in the rural areas tend to consume whole, organic, unprocessed foods which are synonymous with what our ancestors ate and managed to live long, good quality lives free from so many diseases.
So how can we help ourselves? We need to change our diet and overhaul our lifestyles. Though factors like the environment and stress contribute a great deal to what goes on in our bodies, diet and exercise matter too! This is the essence of a study comparing traditional African diet to that of African-Americans in the development of colon cancer. After swapping the diets of the two groups for two weeks, the researchers found out that while the risk of colon cancer increased in the Africans, it reduced in the African-Americans. From this, we can induce that our new SAD diet which is high in processed, fatty food replete with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles is killing Africans slowly as evidenced by the increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cancers, stroke and heart diseases in Africa today.
Food is good but instead of living to eat, our mindset should be eating to live. It is important to cut down on all the processed, starchy, high trans-fat, high sugar foods and instead eat natural, organic, whole meals. In other words, let us go back to the basics of our traditional eating. In addition, we need to cut down on our large meals and eat for sustenance rather than eat because it tickles our fancy. Apart from improving our eating, a lot of Africans need to find time (wherever it is) to exercise. Not only will it help in moderating our weight, it will also help in improving our health and preventing many diseases.
It’s time to move away from the SAD diet and go back to our traditional way of eating. As seen above, our traditional diet is being recognized as a dietary solution to the high rates of diseases that have overtaken modern society. We need to eat right and keep our bodies healthy so that we can live long, good quality lives.
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image source: 9jafoodie
Uzo The Gym Addict is a certified personal trainer and Nutrition coach. She runs an exclusive online coaching program for Brides-To-Be who desperately need to get in shape to fit into their dream wedding dress.She also works with other individuals who need expert help and guidance to lose weight and/or transform their bodies.