16 February 2013

Uganda: Vegetables Prolong Life

In times when many people look out for chips, chicken and other calorie-laden foods, the need to have a diet with vegetables is a matter of life and death.

Recent findings from the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organisation reveal that about 2.7 million lives could be saved every year if vegetable consumption was increased. Greens such as nakati, doodo, cabbage and spinach contain nutrients that would save people from deadly diseases.

As such, the cost of not consuming vegetables is enormous worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation, lack of vegetables in our diet causes 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11% of heart disease deaths, and about 9% of stroke-related deaths globally.

In developing countries like Uganda, vegetable production and consumption is one of the cheapest ways of having a balanced diet, yet many seem not to tap into the nutritional benefits of this food.

An informal survey on the streets of Kampala revealed that while vegetables are accessible and cheap, some people do not consume them. Out of seven people interviewed, only one said they ate vegetables at least twice a week. The rest said they ate vegetables, on average, once or twice every month.

What is at stake?

According to Dr. Margaret Kabahenda, a nutritionist from Makerere University's department of food technology and nutrition, vegetables are rich in vitamins, some minerals and phytochemicals. Dyno Keatinge, the director general of the World Vegetable Centre, says: "Vegetables are our best source of micronutrients, and fibre.

A collaborative study between The Food Tank- a food and nutrition think-tank and the AVRDC reveals that in developing countries, lower rates of vegetable consumption are linked to higher rates of mortality in children under five years.

How much is enough?

Kabahenda says Ugandans do not have sufficient amounts of vegetables. The required amount of vegetable intake a day constitutes one cup of (250 ml/flask cover but not Tumpeko) of chopped leafy vegetables or a half diced/chopped vegetables such as carrots or beetroot or a quarter of cooked leafy vegetables.

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