Restoring Diminishing African Food

Published on 26th June 2007

Ghanaian Health Minister, Mr. Courage Quashigah, has been attempting to awaken Africans to their superb values. Nowhere is this notable than being healthy through eating traditional food. Traditional African food is good not only in the global context where it does feature prominently compared to some Southeast Asian traditional food, but also in the context of the health care.

Quashigah campaigns for balanced nutrition derived from traditional food as vital in the face of inadequate health infrastructure. As Quashigah complains, some Japanese elites think their country’s traditional food is giving way to the fatty Western food. Bryan Walsh, in an article in the US-based Time magazine (June 06, 2007) entitled “Lamenting the Decline of the Home-Cooked Meal in Japan,” makes the case that despite Japanese traditional food emphasizing “the balance of nutrition” and “need to have fish, vegetables, soup at every meal," pretty much of healthy Japanese meal “prepared by mother and eaten on tatami mat by the entire family,” is declining. Drawing parallel from this, Quashigah echoes that Ghanaians are increasingly drifting from their healthy traditional food that “cures and minimizes ailments.”

Quashigah and the Japanese blame the decline of their traditional diet on the arrival of Western fast-food chains over the past several decades. This is driven by the pull and push of cultures. The uninformed Ghanaian thinks drinking and eating exported drinks and food is much better than traditional food. As an Asante, I was not brought up eating heavily fried foods. My Caucasian Canadian doctors tell me to go the Asante way and minimize intake of Western fatty food because they are not good for my health. A Nigerian told me that the World Health Organization (WHO) says Nigerians are among the people with the best eye-sight in the world because they eat more of their native green vegetables and palm oil.

Ghanaian indigenous foods, with heavy emphasis on green vegetables, like the famed healthy Arab/Mediterranean foods, are among the healthiest in the world. Japanese nutritionists and health experts are worried that millions of Japanese school children grow up eating like Americans and are told that traditional Japanese food is nutritionally deficient. Quashigah warns that unwholesome ingredients for food, pose great danger to the Ghanaians, who have been blinded to demean their healthy traditional food.

Ghanaian children are increasingly becoming confused about the benefit of their traditional foods.The unhealthy food consumption is scarier  even in hospitals. Some visitors visit patients carrying “different foods,” some of which often worsen the patients’ health due to their poor nutritional value.Inadequate public health information is responsible. There ought to be a development of  a new curriculum that  incorporates nutrition in  the training of health professionals in order to promote good feeding. If such best practices are mixed with the objectives of Millennium Development Goals, it will deepen Ghanaians’ health.

Like the Japanese, Ghanaians are having problems going for “balanced, healthy traditional meals.” Caterers should consider the introduction of indigenous healthy Ghanaian dishes, not only for its “higher nutritional values,” but also as source of medicine, as the Chinese will tell you, against the Western ones, “most of which led to obesity, diabetes and heart problems.”

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