Kenyans are paying dearly for shunning native foods and falling in love with the fast-food culture popular in the western world.
According to Ruth Kaloki, a lead nutritionist at Makueni County Referral Hospital, diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, stroke and obesity are on the rise in the country as more Kenyans forget natural foods and go for processed products.
Kaloki urged Kenyans to go back to “forgotten” foods that are highly nutritious and have plenty of antioxidants and fibre.
“It is important to know the nutritive value in these traditional foods both in macro-nutrients and the micro-nutrients, which help in regulating even the electrolytes in our bodies and therefore controlling and containing these non-communicable diseases,” she said.
“We did a survey in Masongaleni in Kibwezi East and the number of cancer and hypertension patients is overwhelming.
These are no longer diseases of the aged. As a ministry, we are working on the re-introduction of traditional foods,” said Makueni Agriculture Executive, Bob Kisyula.
For example, diabetes cases in Makueni rose from 9,081 in 2016 to 12,609, 21,426, 23,939 and 24,605 each year to 2020. High blood pressure cases went from 46,373 in 2016 to 50,522, 78,572, 81,312 and 83,773 over a similar period. On the other hand, cardiovascular disease cases rose from 297 in 2016 to 1,132 last year.
This is data from Makueni where the eat-out culture isn’t as big as in counties such as Nairobi and or Mombasa.
Foods such as Cassava, Mabuyu, pumpkin seeds, sorghum, amaranth and sorghum have disappeared from our daily menus but are something the government will try and bring back.