Healthy diet for the Yuletide
Let me say Merry Christmas to all the wonderful readers of this column. I also wish all of you a happy, prosperous, healthy and peaceful new year. May the knowledge you acquire from this column and practice keep you healthy in the new year and behond in Jesus name.
The mainstay of a healthy diet is the vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and their oils. In fact these all contain the macro and micro – nutrients. However there are the traditional sources of the macronutrients and at this time of the year one that stands out is rice. Rice can be said to be a staple in Nigeria today.
The rice as we have it, is either polished or unpolished. Polished rice is one that has been processed and in doing so, all the vitamins, minerals and fibre on the grain of rice are scraped off. When such rice is cooked, it looks very white, which is an attraction for the modern day house wife. Unknown to her she is feeding her family with only starch (carbohydrates). The vitamins that would have come with the rice as antioxidants or the mineral co-factors that would have supported the metabolic reactions have been removed.
Equally as important is the removal of the fibre. The fibre that would have ensured the free and fast movement of faecal matter through the colon is no longer there. The end result of this is constipation and increase in the generation of acids and other toxins. Another significant point to note is the consumption of animal and poultry protein.
There is usually so much of these at this time and if there is not enough vegetables and fruits to increase movement, constipation will also set in. Paying too much attention to these sources of proteins without a commensurate addition of vegetables and fruits with their enzymes, may lead to indigestion. The body does not produce sufficient enzymes to handle animal proteins. Enzymes from other sources such as vegetables and fruits have to be brought in to enhance enzymatic functions. Where this is not done, rotten and parcially digested food particles will be found in the colon. This also will lead to one type of disease or the other. As we eat in this season let us not forget the various phytonutrients which help to prevent different kinds of diseases. There is no doubt that all these things we eat during Christmas have a way of influencing the normal gut flora, a topic that I wrote about just before the yuletide.
Here now are my recommendations: Whatever the kind of macronutrients you want to eat, let it always be in moderation. Do not overeat. You may want to leave some for the coming year. The unpoished Ofada or Abakaliki rice is preferred to any imported polished rice. Make sure you always add fresh and raw vegetables to your meals. If you find it difficult to eat these vegetables raw, you can steam them. Avoid boiling them so as not to destroy the nutrients in them. Examples of vegetables to be included in your meals are the leafy green vegetables such as pumpkin leaves (ugwu), spinach, lettuce, celery, parsley, bitter leaf, runner beans, cucumber etc. Others are the cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, brocolli, Brussels sprouts. You also have the non-greens, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, pepper, okra and egg plant.
For fruits, make sure you eat those fruits that are in season. For example, you have the following fruits in the market at this time: paw paw (papaya), water melon, pineapple, banana, apples, grapes and the citrus fruits – orange, lime, lemon and grape fruit. It is better to eat the fruits in the morning as part of your breakfast. In all your eating in this period, please do not leave out yogurt. It is your sure-bet source of good bacteria to increase and maintain your normal gut flora. Nunu, made commonly in the northern part of Nigeria is yogurt and a good and cheap source of good bacteria for the colon.
As a confirmation that all is well, you should be opening your bowels at least twice daily. The stools should be well-formed, not hard and never too watery. This is also supported by the type and quantity of water you drink.