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Sunday, February 25, 2024

You are what you eat: Check your diet

food jollof and waakye

‘You are what you eat’ is a common phrase in our societies.

This phrase simply speaks to the fact that to be fit and healthy, you need to eat good food and drink.

Literally, we can agree that it is true that ‘you are what you eat’.

There are evidence showing that many of the diseases and health problems of our societies have their roots from our diets.

The modern diets are usually characterised by high sugar, fats, oils and salt.

These are ingredients in almost every food that we eat on a daily basis. 

Food Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG), therefore, is a vital tool for promoting healthy eating through increased access to evidence and informed nutrition and health information.

The FBDGs is firmly grounded on the principles of diversity, availability and affordability.

Need to act.

According to FAO in 2020, it was on record that 821 million people out of 7.1 billion of the world’s population  suffered from hunger.

The irony is that 672 million suffer from obesity while a further 1.3 billion are overweight.

This situation is quite disturbing and must change if the Sustainable Development Goal Two (SDG2) of zero hunger by 2030 is to be achieved.

Other statistics reveal that attaining zero hunger could save the lives of 3.1 million children a year.

Equally, well-nourished mothers are said to have healthy babies with stronger immune systems.

The journey

It is good to note that the journey began six years ago, in a bid to promote optimum health among the Ghanaian populace through food-based approaches.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) constituted a multi sectorial task team (MTTT) drawn from related ministries, departments and agencies to develop the FBDGs, with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The School of Public Health of the University of Ghana and the Women in Agriculture Development Directorate of the MoFA, the lead agencies, faced challenges with funding in the course of the preparation for the launch.

However, with support from the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the project was successfully launched last month.

The successful development of the FBDGs is an accomplishment worth celebrating, since Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa that has produced FBDGs.

It is an important milestone of the pathways of the United Nations Foods System Dialogue.

The FBDGs are significant because as we all know, food, nutrition and health constitute the bedrock of a healthy nation.

The FBDGs are built with the whole lifecycle from childhood to adulthood, with the aged also very much in sharp focus.

Staying healthy

We all know that nutrition-specific actions address acute health challenges, but they are usually unsustainable and so it is, therefore, important everyone gets on board to adopt the more sustainable measures through food-based approaches in addressing the myriad of challenges associated with food, nutrition and health.

Equally, we are also encouraged to take other recommendations seriously through more physical activity and eating what we grow.

We should as well, avoid the high consumption of processed foods since most contain high fat, chemicals and excessive salt and sugar, while alcohol should also be taken in moderation, as we all know the adverse impact of high consumption on our health.

Stakeholders

I take this opportunity to call on MoFA and other key stakeholders to remain committed to the quest of facilitating sustainable agricultural production to always meet food and nutrition requirements.

This is necessary for an active and healthy society, and the overall peace and stability.

Private sector involvement through investments along the agricultural value chain is also critical in achieving food self-sufficiency.

Investments in agricultural infrastructure, including machinery, processing equipment, dams, warehouses, among others are very important.

Several sectors are essential for building a robust food system, including energy, roads, transport, social protection, finance, health and education have important roles to play and ought to come fully and quickly to terms to that realisation.

Indigenous foods commodities

As a country, we are blessed to have food in great diversity, and we must maximise consumption of our food commodities to reap all the benefits to enhance our nutritional status.

Our indigenous foods have sustained generations and proven to be supportive of our focus towards optimum health.

Indeed, evidence from our food composition tables and research outputs, attest to the benefits of patronising the local foods.

Of great concern, however, is the exploitative activities that create serious environmental imbalance.

These include pollution of water bodies, deforestation, bush burning and other forms of degradation of the environment such as illegal mining activities such as galamsey.

As a country, there is the need to intensify efforts at protecting the environment if we are to fully benefit from the harvests of our investment in crops, livestock, and fisheries.

Commendation

Mention is made of Professor Anna Lartey, who during her tenure as the Nutrition Officer at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, spearheaded mobilisation efforts towards the development of our FBDGs.

Her efforts were complemented by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems.

The writer is the Head of Public Relations

Ministry of Food and Agriculture

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