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Thursday, July 18, 2024

You love processed meats, refined carbs? You risk type 2 diabetes!

Picture yourself at a bustling local market in Nigeria, basking in the vivid sounds and the riot of colours. Vendors left and right, urging you to try their suya or purchase their freshly baked pastries.

However, amidst the seductive aroma and enticing tastes, have you ever wondered what kind of impact these foods might be having on your health? While it’s true that these flavours are a part of our cherished culinary tradition, some of these ingredients, particularly processed meats and refined carbohydrates, can lead to health issues like type 2 diabetes.

Processed meats

Take, for instance, the illustrious suya. This tasty treat, when prepared with chemically-treated meats or certain store-bought spice mixes, falls under the category of processed meats.

A report by experts at Cleveland Clinic warns that processed meats can contain additives like nitrates and nitrites, both of which are chemicals used for preservation and enhancing color. Once they enter the human system, these chemicals can contribute to insulin resistance, the forerunner of type 2 diabetes.

Complex carbohydrates vs refined carbohydrates
Carbohydrate-rich foods

In similar vein, the advanced glycation end products (AGEs) present in these foods are another cause for concern. These compounds, formed when proteins or fats combine with sugars, particularly during high-heat cooking, are known to increase oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.

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White bread, white rice, and pastries
Shifting the lens to refined carbs, you’ll find another wolf in sheep’s clothing. White bread, white rice, and pastries, as charming as they might seem, carry a hidden threat.

Assorted bites of refined carbs
White bread

Online portal Healthline reports that these foods, bereft of their bran and germ during processing, lack the fiber and nutrients of their whole grain counterparts.

The result is a quick breakdown during digestion, causing a rapid spike in our blood sugar levels. Over time, these frequent spikes can lead to pre-diabetes and eventually, type 2 diabetes.

This narrative might seem grim, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Within the rich tapestry of Nigerian cuisine, there are ample opportunities to make healthier choices. Mayo Clinic researchers suggest incorporating whole grains such as the Nigerian brown rice [ofada], into your diet.

Ofada rice served on leaves

This grain, teeming with fiber and nutrients, is a healthier alternative to white rice. Accompany it with a vibrant sauce brimming with tomatoes and lean proteins for a wholesome meal.

Different types of fresh lean meats

Again, instead of processed meats, explore the realms of fresh, lean meats. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat is “the flesh of animals (including fishes and birds) used as food, that can be part of a healthful diet.”

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So,  healthier suya can be made with fresh chicken or fish, marinated in home-made spices and grilled to perfection.

Bottom line

A healthy plate of berbecued lean beef and roast potato

True, these changes might take some getting used to, but remember, they’re steps towards a healthier life, a life where the risk of type 2 diabetes is significantly diminished.

So, the next time you find yourself at a bustling market or a family feast, make choices that make you feel good, not just in the moment, but for your long-term health, too.

Your journey towards sound health doesn’t require monumental changes, but consistent, small steps. Each choice you make is a testament to the value you place on your health and well-being.

Now, that’s a thought as satisfying as a well-cooked bowl of ofada rice, isn’t it?

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