Kenyans, especially those in urban settings, are gradually abandoning traditional, healthier foods for more attractive yet unhealthy foods. This is leading to an increase in non- communicable diseases (NCD's) like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory illnesses.
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These are responsible for over 50 per cent of all hospital admissions and over 55 per cent of all hospital deaths in Kenya. Foods to avoid or eat in moderation are:
A standard plate of food in a fast food joint is usually composed of a plate of chips, at least two pieces of deep fried chicken and a bottle of soda. A meal like this contains about 1140 calories and 740grams of salt. Excess consumption of calories increases obesity risk. Too much sodium makes the body retain water, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood. With time, the heart becomes weaker increasing the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
Processed foods have become the norm in most Kenyan households; whole, high-fibre traditional foods are slowly becoming a thing of the past. When food is processed, mostly to improve storage and shelf life, important components that are beneficial to health are removed. Preservatives, flavour and other chemicals in processed foods, alter its natural composition. Some of these chemicals can be detrimental to health over time.
A 2015 study confirmed the link between the consumption of processed meat and cancer. The risk increases with increased consumption; with every 50 grams of processed meat eaten daily, there is an 18 per cent increased risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum.
Processed meats like bacon, sausages, salami, sandwich browns and hot dogs among others also contain a chemical known as sodium nitrate, which can potentially damage blood vessels causing narrowing and hardening, which increases the risk of heart disease. This chemical can also impede the body's ability to process glucose increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
When the juices and fat drippings from meat hit an open fire when roasting, compounds known as polycyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed. With increased and frequent consumption of roast meat, these compounds can potentially cause changes in a person's DNA raising their risk of cancer, especially colon and rectal cancer.
The tasty burnt sections of the meat contain the highest concentration of the compounds hence it is important to trim them off before eating. Trimming visible fat from meat before roasting reduces the amount of fat and juice dripping onto the open flame. Marinating any meat in natural spices and herbs before roasting is also thought to reduce formation of cancer causing compounds.
Excess sugar intake
Excess sugar intake can cause obesity in both children and adults. Sugar acts like a drug on the brain, and many people become addicted. Excess sugar consumption prompts production of natural opioids, substances with a morphine-like effect which causes the brain to get addicted, increasing the desire to consume more sugar and therefore increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
People who are addicted to sugar eat when they are not hungry and tend to eat too much leading to obesity and the associated risk of diabetes and hypertension.