You are what you eat

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"..Hippocrates the father of modern medicine. Food plays a very important role in our lives as humans. For our development, we need food regularly to provide us with energy for our daily activities. Particularly in the Corona Pandemic that we momentarily finding ourselves. We are advised to consume food that builds up our immune system. Which kinds of foods are healthy?Prof. Badu Akosa, a Cellular Pathologist and Lifestyle Wellness consultant said recent research on autopsied population reports in the United Kingdom and Ghana indicated that 9 % of the people who died in the UK were under 60 years, while those who died in Ghana under 60 years were 80 %.The pathologist further pointed out that the under 60 deaths in the UK were mostly due to road accidents and personal tragedies and not illness, however, in Ghana, it was due to poor lifestyles and the consumption of bad food.

Vegetables

The Ghana Health Service has also indicated that the majority of the Non-Communicable Diseases were cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, obesity, etc. The main causes of these diseases are our food and lifestyle choices. These diseases affect both the young and old, rich and poor, and rural and urban.

The Dietary and Physical Activity Guidelines for Ghana 2010 reports of a study conducted in 7 African countries comprising Nigeria, Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Ghana. Ghana was cited as leading in the Obesity League. The Ghana study was conducted among a sample of 5000 adults aged above (16 years and above). The results point to obesity as more of an urban than a rural problem. The prevalence was highest in Greater Accra,16.1% whereas in the Upper East and West Regions it was almost non-existent. The prevalence of obesity was found to be 5.5%, the prevalence is higher among females 7.4% compared to males 2.8%.Obesity is excess body fat which impairs the health of individuals. It is a major risk factor linked to type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and other heart diseases, cancer, and ultimately death.

During the 2020 State of the Nation address to parliament the president of the republic Nana Akufo -Addo, called on Ghanaians to change their food-lifestyles given the rising spate of Non-communicable Diseases. The president added that "we are in danger of falling into lifestyles diseases trap und too many of us are overweight and obesity is an increasing problem, even among young people."It was subsequently trending on the Social Media Platforms especially Twitter that the President himself looks overweight. He further added:" The food we eat, mode of cooking and the lack of exercise are all now having a great impression on our health. It time we all learn to take responsibility for our health and accept that our health is very much determined by our lifestyle.

PLANT-BASED DIET

Many people are of the view that this eating habit is not Ghanaian. But I am of a different opinion. Going back to our roots, our land is richly blessed with abundant vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, herbs, etc. These foods have always been part of the traditional African Diet. Gone were the days we ate perhaps chicken on very special occasions like Birthdays, Christmas, or Easter. It's not the case today. Meat consumption has recently become more apparent in our dietary pattern. A typical working-class Ghanaian will normally have eggs with breakfast, or cow meat with lunch and chicken with dinner. Our overconsumption of meat is linked to the causes of these Non-communicable diseases stated above. There is abundant strong evidence that many chronic diseases can be controlled, reduced, or even reversed by switching to a whole-food,plant-based diet. Scientific research highlighted in the landmark publication " The china study" shows that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, certain types of cancer, and other major illnesses.

There are 2 major types of plant-based types namely vegetarian and vegan

1. Vegetarians may eat dairy foods and eggs but no meat, poultry, or seafood.

2. Vegans-don't eat any animal products at all, including honey, dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, poultry, etc

Veganism is a way of life which seek to exclude as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, cosmetics, animal experiments, wool, leather, zoo, etc

Another very important reason for choosing a plant-based diet is the Environmental benefits. Raising animals for food required massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water. The byproducts of animal agriculture pollute not only our air but the water bodies as well.

Of all the agricultural land in the USA, 80% is used to raised animals for food and grow grains to feed them, according to scientists at the Smithsonian Institute. Chicken, pigs, cattle and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S. A single pig consumes 21 gallons of drinking water per day. For us in Ghana is a great matter of concern because of our perennial water scarcity. There are many communities in our country where Livestock and human drink from the same pond. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. The FAO of the United Nations cited in 2013 a value of 14.5% for the contribution of global livestock production to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Carbon dioxide accounts for about 76% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Methane primarily from agriculture contributes 16% of which 40% is solely from Livestock. The beef and dairy sector is one of the main contributors to that. Cows generate methane in two ways: through their digestion and their waste. Although carbon dioxide is much more abundant in the atmosphere than methane, methane traps roughly 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. This makes methane an important gas to keep an eye on. Factory farms also produce massive amounts of dust and other contaminants that pollute the air.According to the United Nations, a global shift towards a vegan diet is one of the steps necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.

Moral and ethical Factors

A person can decide to be vegan because of moral and ethical reasons.Animal cruelty is real and persuasive. It happens to all different types of animals and takes different forms. Our lack of compassion stems from the pervasive belief that animal life is inherently less valuable than human life.

What moral or ethical reason do we have for claiming certain rights not to be abused, exploited, or slaughtered if a superior race (aliens) from another planet ends up visiting earth? Although absurd the slave master had reasons for enslaving other races. Just like the justification of the murdering of the Jews by the Nazis. These other Earthlings we share our dear planet feel the same way daily for several centuries. In an ideal world, the fight should be to end animal cruelty altogether and work to abolish animal farming and animal consumption and use by humans. These abuses and cruelty also include animals used for entertainment i.e circus, horse race, zoo as well as at Lab where animals are used for the scientific test. In our quest to find a vaccine for the Covid-19, human tests have proven to be the most efficient and effective finding a Vaccine for human purposes. The barbaric system of testing human products first on animals whether cosmetics or vaccine is in most cases impotent. In Laboratories, rats suffer significant discomfort as they're forced to live in tiny cages without any hope of socialising with others of their kind or even breathing fresh air.

Unfortunately, animal cruelty extends to the farming world. While we would like to imagine that farm animals are grazing on pasture, those pastoral images are far from reality. We all witness how cattle are constantly beaten by herdsmen to bring them into submission. These animals are viewed as objects and are provided with little veterinary care. Farmed animals often spend their entire lives in tiny cages that prevent them from moving in any direction or even from turning around. Because they live in their waste, diseases can proliferate quickly.These cruelties can involve debeaking, dehorning, castration without anaesthetic.Perhaps the most common recipient of animal cruelty are dogs, cats, birds, and other pets with whom we live. Most of us love our companion animals and would never hurt them, but some people see the family dog as a punching bag. These people allow their rage and hatred to overtake their sense of morality. Companion animals also suffer from neglect. For instance, pets can get pregnant and produce unwanted litters. Some cases are more heartbreaking than others. Neglect can include failing to provide food and water.Animals also pay the ultimate price for leather but the tanning process can be toxic to the environment and people too. A wide variety of animals are used to make leather most notable cattle, pigs goat, crocodile, snakes, etc. An investigative Journalism has revealed that donkeys are being smuggled into Ghana from Mali and Burkina Faso. After being slaughtered in the bush, donkey's skin is sold to local middlemen, acting on behalf of Chinese syndicates based in Accra and finally exported to china.All of these instances of animal cruelty can be stopped. There's no sensible reason for them, especially if we realised that we don't need animal products to survive.

EFFECT ON ANIMAL PROTEIN ON THE BODY

Daniel 1: 12-16.'' Please, test your servants for 10 days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the young men who eat the King's finest food be observed and compared by you, and deal with your servants by what you see. So the man listened to them in this matter and tested them for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days, it seemed that they were looking better and healthier than all the young men who ate the King's finest food. So the overseer continued to withhold their fine food and the wine they were to drink and kept giving them vegetables''.

The adverse effects associated with long-term, high protein-high meat diets may include disorders of bone and calcium balance, increased cancer risk, disorders of the liver, and the worsening of coronary artery disease. According to the American dietary guideline, strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies but also randomised controlled trials has shown that eating patterns that include lower intake of meat and processed poultry is associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases in adults. Animal Protein consumption also appears to trigger the release of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a cancer-promoting growth hormone. Unlike Plant protein, which comes packaged with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, animal protein comes with exactly none of the foregoing. To this point meat, eggs, poultry, dairy, fish, and other foods have absolutely no fiber whatsoever. High fiber intake is associated with decreased cancer risk, specifically colon and breast cancers. It may also reduce the risk of stroke, high cholesterol, and heart diseases.

Most animal foods contain saturated fat and cholesterol (even so-called lean meat like chicken breast, turkey, and salmon). As humans, we do not need to consume any cholesterol, since our bodies synthesise all the cholesterol we need for our physiological functions.

DIARY

Besides humans( and companion animals who are fed by humans) no other species drink milk beyond their natural age of weaning or drinks the milk of another species. Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have 4 stomachs and in a matter of months-sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old. Cow's milk does not suit the nutritional needs of humans, so its no wonder that consuming it and its derivatives cause us so many problems. Dairy Products include milk, cheese(which is 60-70% fat), cream, custard, whey, baby Formular, Yoghurt, Ice cream, pudding, casein, etc. Diary may also be hidden in pastries, salad dressing, kefir, Hot dogs, Sausage, chewing gums, medicines, chocolate, etc.

A medical study has found people who consume the most of cow's milk have a significantly higher fracture rate than those who drink little or no milk. Dairy contains large amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Milk and cheese have been linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Globally, 65% of people are lactose intolerant. That number is 85% among the Latina, Blacks, and Asian communities. The lactose in cow's milk is difficult for many people to digest, resulting in nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, asthma, autoimmune disease, etc.

Fortunately, many plant-based milk substitutes are not only healthier but also better for the environment,lactose-Free, and cruelty-Free. The most popular dairy milk alternatives are Soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, quinoa milk, oat milk, rice milk, pea milk, flax milk, etc.

FISH

It seems that everywhere you look these days, there are people out there telling you that fish is healthier, and that should be eaten as a healthy diet. Heart specialists advocate fish eating as part of a healthy diet to avoid heart diseases because of Omega-3 in fish. A research-based on studies concerning Omega-3 oils showed that the risk of secondary heart attacks is reduced by 70% on plant-Based Omega-3 oils as compared to only half this amount with fish oil.

A UK study comparing fish oil and flaxseed oil observed that fish oil also increased the susceptibility of cholesterol to oxidation, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease, whilst the flaxseed oil diet did not. In most cases, fish has more fat than Chicken and pork, high in cholesterol, eg tuna, mackerel, and no fiber contributing to the risk of obesity, increasing the risk of cancer. Fish fat is also known to suppress the immune system and is also paralyze the actions of insulin as a result of increasing the tendency for high blood sugars and eventually diabetes.

Mercury contamination is a global environmental problem and is listed in the International Program of Chemical Safety as one of the six most dangerous chemicals in the world's environment. It is warned that many fish contain such high levels of mercury that may increase heart attacks. Mercury is known to be toxic to the nervous system and kidneys with long term exposure being linked to atherosclerosis

Proper disposal of fecal waste in Ghana is a huge sanitary and environmental challenge. Every day about 100 trucks of untreated waste are dumped into the Atlantic(odawna) ocean. Plastic, oil, and chemical spill, garbage ends up in the ocean. While plastic is estimated to take up to hundreds of years to fully decompose, some of them break down quicker into tiny particles, which in turn end up in the seafood we eat.

COVID-19 AND MEAT

This new infectious disease that first emerged in the Hubei province, China in December 2019, was found to be associated with a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan. There is another known zoonotic disease that has been transmitted from animals to humans causing the lives of many people worldwide. Examples of other zoonotic diseases include ebola, anthrax, H1N1, bird flu, etc. Most of these diseases come from our consumption of livestock. Animals can sometimes appear healthy even when they are carrying harmful germs like viruses, bacterial, parasites, and fungi.

A worker at a fish processing factory in Tema was responsible for infecting other 533 workers at the facility. Worldwide slaughterhouses and the meat packaging industry are a key spreading medium of the corona pandemic.

In preventing the next global pandemic it fair to pay attention to the link between animal use and almost every major outbreak of the last 120 years. We can also abolish animal exploitation to save countless human and Non-Human lives

SPORTS AND PLANT-BASED DIET

A plant-based diet provides all of the nutrients your body needs for training and competitions. Because a plant-based diet is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it can support or improve your athletic performance. Plant-based athletes benefit from improvements in heart health, performance, and recovery.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel used during high-intensity exercise and improves ones endurance and performance. Protein's main function is building and maintaining body tissue. Plant-based protein sources are best because, unlike animal sources, they contain high fiber and complex carbohydrates. Examples of plant-based protein include beans, tofu,non-dairy milk, nuts, seeds, tempeh, seitan, and soya.

Whole food Plant-based diets present potential safety and performance advantage in endurance sports. These include improvement in cardiovascular risk factors, improved blood flow, leaner body compositions, reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation, and improved glycogen(stored energy).

For decades many believed that in other to be an athlete in peak physical condition, you need meat and dairy. And if you thought of cutting back on eating meat, a question like ''but where will you get your protein from?''

Surprisingly, many top athletes including world champions, martial artists, and weightlifters don't seem even slightly worried about getting enough healthier protein from their vegan diets. Prominent among them are Venus and Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, Colin Kaepernick, Jermain Defoe, David Haye, Fabien Delph, Chris smalling, Patrik Baboumian.

Back in 2010 the former heavyweight boxer Iron Mike Tyson changed to a plant-based diet and helped him lose a whole lot of weight and he also claims it helped alleviate some of his health problems. He is in great shape at 53 years and expected a possible comeback. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, Mike made the following statements'' Well my life is different today because I have stability in my life. I'm not on the streets or clubs and everything in my life that I do now is structured around the development of my life and family. Becoming vegan gave me another opportunity to live a healthy life. I was so congested from all the drugs and bad cocaine, I could hardly breathe. High blood pressure, almost dying, arthritis and once I became vegan all that stuff diminished''.

Legendary Body-builder Arnold Schwarzeneggar has also revealed loving his mostly-vegan diet. His move towards plant-based food has benefited his health. He debunks the myth that athletes need meat to excel. After ditching animal products his cholesterol dropped .''It was the lowest that it ever was in my entire life'' Commando said.

AVAILABILITY OF VEGAN DIET AND CHANGING TRENDS

Most of the ingredients needed for a vegan diet can be grown in Ghana for example vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, seeds, etc. These crops have always been part of our dietary pattern and not alien to our typical Ghanaian dishes. Local delicacies like Gari and Beans, Ampesi, waakye, Fufu and soup, Rice and stew, Oats, Koko, Tuo zaafi, Akple are all vegan. We can still enjoy these healthy dishes without the usual meat, fish or egg but instead use mushroom, tofu(made from soya), beans, tempeh which are all-vegan meat substitutes

Some factors hinder the production of such food crops in the country including poor farming technic, shortage of seed at the required time, poor extensive services, insufficient use of fertilizers, unreliable rainfall, inadequate irrigation facilities, marketing, and the low income derived from most of the crops, etc.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a surge in the number of vegan populations around the globe coupled with the rise in the number of health-conscious consumers which has led to the emergence of local vegan restaurants mainly in Accra and other bigger cities in the country.

Several markets and supermarkets in the country also sell food crops required to prepare a healthy and delicious vegan diet.

The adoption of a plant-based way of life started as a fringe movement but is now echoing around the world.

Fast-food giants are incorporating vegan options into their menu strategy.

Social media has helped spread the word, particularly among young consumers.

VEGAN AND VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12 is an exceptional vitamin and capable to support optimal health. It is required in smaller amounts than any other known vitamin.

B12 is the only vitamin that is not recognized as being reliably supplied from a varied whole-food plant-based diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, together with exposure to the sun.B12 is found to some extent soil and plants. These observations have led some vegans to suggest that B12 was an issue requiring no special attention, or even elaborate a hoax. Foods like soya, nutritional yeast, astragalus, spirulina are plant sources of B12. All vegans must ensure they have an adequate intake of B12 from fortified food or supplement. Vegans using an adequate amount of fortified foods or B12 supplements are much less likely to suffer from B12 deficiency than the typical meat eater.

CONCLUSION

Plant-based diets have been linked to several health benefits including the risk of Non-communicable diseases like certain cancers, obesity, stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.

A major objective of a whole food plant-based diet is not necessarily to lose weight but rather a holistic health consciousness of one's wellbeing and the environmental and moral implications of our food choices as well as well respect for the lives of other earthlings like the animals we share our beautiful planet with. Transitioning to a more plant-based diet is an excellent choice for the environment.

We need as a country a new revised National Dietary Guideline to meet today's health challenges which will inform families, nutritionist, health professionals, policymakers who make dietary choices for the general populace particularly at home, The school feeding Programm, Secondary schools(boarding houses), hospitals, Canteens at workplaces, etc.

We also need to encourage urban backyard vegetable farming.

A national consumer protection agency is needed to provide scientifically-backed independently reliable education for the society to make informed and healthier dietary lifestyle choices.

Plant food has proven to be high-quality food that we should be eating for optimal health.

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