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Role of nutrition in achieving optimal health (2)

Every November 14th is World Diabetes Day and the theme for this year is ‘Access to Diabetes Care’.

If you are diabetic, Dr Chidi Ngwaba has a message for you and in his words, “You need a healthy plant-based diet. Every time you go for a meal and you are a diabetic, as you put your fork down, you should get up and go for a walk.

He went on to say, “I have told you quite boldly that anybody with Type 2 Diabetes does not have to live with it, it is completely reversible. Change your lifestyle and get rid of it.”

Diabetes is indeed a lifestyle disease. A lifestyle disease is a medical condition or disorder which is associated with how a person lives, eats, exercises and thinks.

With some lifestyle changes and proper nutrition, diabetes can be avoided and reversed.

We stopped on ways through which nutrition plays a crucial role in our health. Let us proceed.

  1. Helps maintain a healthy weight

The most obvious health benefit of optimal nutrition is that it is much easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding being overweight or obese puts you on a healthy trajectory and lowers your risk of developing serious or life-threatening diseases and conditions.

  1. Improves healing and recovery from injury or illness

Many of the same nutrients that act as immunity boosters also come into play for wound healing. But that is not all. When your body is properly fueled with nutrients, it is better equipped to heal and recover more quickly from things like surgical procedures, illness and injury.

  1. Helps the digestive system function properly
  2. Supports healthy muscles and strong bones
  3. Increases mood and energy levels
  4. Longevity: According to the World Health Organisation better nutrition is related to improved health at all ages, a lower risk of diseases and longevity.

Our dear country is not left out in this there is the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, a professional, non-governmental association founded in 1963 at the University of Ibadan.

The NSN is the only and largest gathering of stakeholders in nutrition in Nigeria. On an annual basis, the organisation invites nutritionists, dietitians, food scientists and related professionals for its Annual General Meeting.

The aims and objectives are:

  1. To promote and foster the study and practice of nutrition in its widest sense.
  2. To provide a common forum for nutritionists and public health professionals to liaise and cooperate with universities and research institutes, government departments, national commissions, corporate organisations, and other similar bodies for the exchange of professional and other relevant information in the promotion of nutrition and national development.
  3. To serve as a professional body in nutritional sciences, advise, advocate and influence the government on matters concerning food and nutrition policy.
  4. To publish journals, newsletters, and other publications and information on nutrition.
  5. To cooperate and liaise with national and international organisations in the advancement of nutritional sciences.
  6. To represent the interest of members on professional matters. To generate and hold funds to further the above aims and objectives of the society.
  7. To carry out all such other functions that are lawful and conducive to the attainment of the above objectives.

What should good nutrition look like?

Let us make the Mediterranean diet our blueprint. It is based on the traditional foods of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece and Italy.

Research has shown that people living in these regions tend to be healthier and have a lower risk of many chronic conditions, compared with people who follow a standard American diet.

Studies have linked the Mediterranean diet with lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and High Blood Pressure.

Research has indicated that the Mediterranean diet can promote weight loss, help prevent heart attacks, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes and reduce the risk of premature death.

Today, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthy eating plans that American nutrition experts recommend. It is also recognised by the World Health Organisation as a healthy eating pattern.

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is plant foods. It is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil and seasoning with herbs and spices. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are part of the Mediterranean diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only once in a while.

The diet encourages people to consume less processed foods, added sugars, refined grains and also to limit alcohol consumption

Unsaturated fats are a strength of the Mediterranean diet and are eaten instead of saturated and trans fats, which play roles in heart disease.

Olive oil and nuts are the main sources of fat in the Mediterranean diet. They provide unsaturated fat. When unsaturated fat comes from plant sources, it seems to lower levels of total cholesterol as well as low-density lipoprotein, also called LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Fish are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Some healthy choices are mackerel, Herring and salmon.

These are known as fatty fish. And the fats they contain are omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are unsaturated fats that may lower immune system action in the body known as inflammation.

They also may help reduce blood fats called triglycerides and they affect blood clotting.

Omega 3s may lower the risk of stroke and heart failure too.

A 2019 review found that the Mediterranean diet may help obese people lower the quantity and improve the nutritional quality of food intake, with an overall effect of possibly losing body weight.

In 2014, two meta-analyses found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a decreased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, findings similar to those of a 2017 review.

The American Diabetes Association and a 2019 review indicated that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy dietary pattern that may reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A 2023 review found evidence for a reduction of mortality and cardiovascular disease risk in women on a Mediterranean-type diet.

Good nutrition is the greatest weapon at our disposal to fight and prevent diseases. That is what we are going to use in this warfare.

On this journey, be free to create new recipes, eat more foods that come from the earth and say no to processed foods.

Let me leave you with some quotes:

“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” – English Proverb

 “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognise as food. Stay away from these.” – Michael Pollan

 “Man is What He Eats” – Lucretius

“Until you get your nutrition right, nothing will change”. – Anonymous

“Every time you eat or drink, you’re either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan

“The human body heals itself, and nutrition provides the resources to accomplish the task.” -Roger Williams.

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