Consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods high in fats and sweeteners is increasing throughout the developing world and especially in Africa. Research shows that obesity has reached epidemic proportions our African society. More and more people and especially youths of our generation are overweight and obese. This has resulted in the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases including cancer, stroke and hypertension as well as other obesity-related diseases. Dietary and lifestyle patterns have shifted from a “traditional” to a more “modern” pattern. Can this situation be reversed? Let’s take a look at 10 healthy lifestyles habits our great-grand and grand parents adopted that kept them healthy and happy for centuries.
1. Consumption of fresh food
Our grandparents ate most often fresh food from farm to pot to table. Vegetables were grown in the backyard which was harvested and immediately cooked.
2. Combining vegetables with complex carbohydrates.
Our parents and grannies ALWAYS combined a starchy food with a vegetable. Think about “fufu” and “njama njama” , rice and beans, “sese” plantain, “ndole” and plantain, “puff puff” and beans. All healthy combinations that include a variety of nutrients that nourished them.
3. Cooking with healthy oils.
They cooked with heart-healthy fats like red fruit palm oil which is considered one of the world’s healthiest oil for its richness in nutrients and its disease-preventing properties.
4. Consumption of fermented foods.
Fermenting foods was a way of conserving foods for longer since most did not own a fridge. They ate fermented food like water fufu, pap etc. presumingly without knowing the health benefits of fermented foods. But hers’s the thing, natural fermentation of foods has been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion.
5. Drink naturally sweetened drinks
Before the introduction of alcohol and sugary drinks of all kinds, our great-grand parents made juice from fresh fruits without added sugars. They drank sweet or fermented palm wine. Even with the introduction of sweet drinks and alcohol, this was consumed in moderation and especially on special occasions like “cry dies”, “born-houses or marriages.
6. Eat raw and use healthy cooking methods
Our grand parents ate most foods raw especially fruits and vegetables which guaranteed they intake of most of the nutrients in food. Also, the way they cooked minimized nutrient loss e.g. roasting and grilling, steaming.
7. Walk long distances
In those days, our grand-parents were (unconciously) physically active. They walked long distances to fetch water or fire wood, work farm, go to distric hospitals, to school or neighbouring villages to visit friends and family.
8. Physical activity
They played games like hopscotch and jumped ropes. Women pounded grains or tubers with babies on their backs, used grinding stones to grind all sorts of ingredients, carried heavy buckets of water while men hunted for game in the heat of the sun and carried heavy logs of wood to make firewood for their household.
9. Spend time with each other
In those days TV was not available, or was for the rich and priviledged. There were no computers, internet or computer games so our grand-parents spent quality time with family and friends, around the table with their kids eating lunch or dinner or nights around the fireside telling stories.
10. Sleep early
Because there were fewer distractions, our grand-parents slept early. Sleeping 8 hours a day has been shown to favor health.
In contrary to their lifestyle, industrialization and the introduction of fast food and new technology in sub-Sahara Africa has caused people in our era to start eating fast foods which is generally foods made with lots of saturated fat, extreme amount of salt and simply carbs: plus a little and a half of sweet drinks, coke, sprit etc. a deadly combination. That’s the source of obesity and obesity-related diseases e.g diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc. To add petrol to the already heavy flames, we live a sedentary lifestyle whereby TV watching, internet consumption is the order of the day. To reverse the trend of obesity in our continent, there is a need to go back to adopting grandma’s lifestyle.