Nutritionists have urged Ugandans to refrain from eating animal foods and embrace healthy eating habits to curb the escalating rise of non-communicable diseases which are mainly brought about by lifestyle and bad eating choices.
Speaking during the climax event of the Africa Vegan Restaurant Week on Sunday, Sarah Ngalombi, senior nutritionist at the Ministry of Health said many people eat unhealthy foods to show class and as a sign of prestige yet actually putting their lives at risk.
“It is true that most of the non-communicable diseases are associated with consumption of animal products among other factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse and sedentary lifestyles,” she said.
Annually, over 100,000 Ugandans die of non- communicable diseases and this contributes to over 35% of total deaths in the country, according to the Uganda non-Communicable diseases Alliance (UNCDA).
From the findings in the Uganda National Panel Survey,26.5% of adults have hypertension,1.4 of adults have diabetes,3% of children under 5 years are overweight,17% of adult women are overweight,7% of adult men are overweight, 7 of adult men are obese and 1% of adult men are obese.
Ngalombi said the Ministry is committed to supporting initiatives aimed at disease prevention through creating awareness of the risk factors and advocacy to Ugandans to adjust their feeding habits and lifestyles.
She said key studies show that eating more fruit and vegetables in daily diet enables the body to fight non communicable diseases such as cancers, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis among others but also boosts the body’s immunity to fight infectious diseases.
“The ministry of Health developed maternal, infant, young child and adolescent nutrition guidelines in recognition of the critical role played by optimal nutrition in the health and well-being of women, mothers, adolescents and children,”she said.
Paul Kasenene is a medical doctor, who specialises in nutritional, functional and lifestyle medicine advised Ugandans to refrain from animal foods and processed foods, adding that they can lead to many problems including colon cancer.
“Of course, there are many things that cause cancer but definitely what we eat is a big factor. Colon cancer has moved up to second in the cause of death among cancers,” he said, advising Ugandans to refrain from taking sugar, adding that it is a very dangerous substance.
“Sugar has been shown to be the second leading contributor of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, memory loss, infertility and even low libido in men. Sugar seems to be an innocent thing but it is not, especially when it comes to cancer,” said Kasenene.
He instead advised people to use honey as an alternative but he said it is only good if it is organic therefore refined honey which is sold in the supermarket is not good for health.
The founder Vegan Society Uganda, Innocent Nabaasa said the main focus is to encourage ordinary Ugandans to eat and live healthy.
“An ordinary Uganda cannot afford medicare to treat diseases (non communicable diseases). These are some of the lifetime diseases. When you teach them, they may dodge getting those diseases,” she said.
She called upon the Ministry of Health to work hand in hand with people like them and nutritionists to promote healthy eating
She advised the ministry that when formulating diet guidelines especially for children under the age of 5, plant-based meals should be included.