A dietary shift from junk foods to eating natural foods, particularly of plant origin, would result in the availability of high fibres, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and other nutrients needed to reduce the incidence of hypertension, chronic kidney diseases, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and to enhance the quality of life has been recommended as a way to healthy living. Olufunmilayo Omoba, a Professor of Food Science and Technology, made this recommendation while delivering the 132nd Inaugural Lecture of the Federal University of Technology, Akure titled Healthy Eating and Human Disease: Dietary Shift in a Sustainable Food System on Tuesday, August 3rd at the Institutions main auditorium.
She described healthy living as food consumption systems that help to maintain or improve the health and overall wellbeing of man. It is such that offers the body the essential nutrition in terms of fluid, macronutrients, micronutrients and adequate calories. Omoba added that the essentials of healthy living include; timing of eating (taking the last meal at latest two hours before bed), choosing whole-grain foods, limiting highly processed foods, taking balance diets, eating a range of foods and eating moderately, and drinking sufficient quantity of water. According to her, eating natural foods, particularly of plant origin, results in the availability of vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients needed for optimal health and wellbeing.
Omoba, a doyen of Food Science said, “Dietary shift is a major means by which non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can be combatted since we have a food system that is sustainable in Africa. This implies shifting from modern unhealthy diets and dietary patterns, characterized by the consumption of high calories, proteins from red meat, and animal-based fatty foods, to the traditional (old) diets; high fibres and phytochemicals that have the potential to reduce the incidence of NCDs and enhance the quality of life”.
Dwelling on the consumption of snacks, the don said snacks are becoming increasingly popular due to increasing urbanization, which compels many people to stay longer outside their homes, thereby becoming more dependent on snacks for the supply of a part of their daily nutritional requirements. She thus recommended a dietary shift from modern snacks to maize-based snacks of improved nutritional qualities and high antioxidant properties.
Other dietary recommendations according to the lecturer include the consumption of food made from peptides to tackle the challenge of high blood pressure and its complications, and consumption of carotenoid-rich food to combat vitamin A deficiency which is a widespread nutritional problem amongst children in developing countries, including Nigeria, leading to impairment in growth, development, vision and poor immune functions. She added that herbs which include green, leafy parts of plants are most effective and flavoursome when used fresh. According to her, the constituents of herbs and spices have complementary and overlapping actions, including reduction of inflammation, antioxidant effects, modulation of detoxification enzymes, modulation of the immune system and antibacterial and antiviral effects.
She called for a reduction of daily intake of salt or sodium to less than 1,500 mg per day if older than 50 years of age; restriction or elimination of sodas and other sugar-added drinks that are high in calories and contain few or no nutrients. This, she said, reduces susceptibility to hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Omoba, the Director of the Centre for Gender Issues in Science and Technology (CEGIST) and member of the Organization of Women in Science for Developing Countries (OWSD) warned against over-indulgence in alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking which can have a negative impact on both human mental and physical wellbeing.
She called on governments to raise awareness on the importance of healthy living through the media and health educators to educate people on the consumption of healthy diets and physical activities in addition to providing more funds for research to enable researchers to generate data on the available but underutilized tropical crops sustainable in our agricultural system that can produce healthy diets to achieve dietary shift. The don further recommended regular exercise and medical checkups to maintain physical and mental wellbeing and early detection of potentially life-threatening health conditions and diseases.
The Vice-Chancellor and the Chairman at the event, Professor Joseph Fuwape commended the excellent delivery of the lecture. He said it was a timely one that will save lives and improve healthy living in both young and old. He described Professor Omoba as an astute scholar who has contributed immensely to academic and intellectual development in her field of study.