Home Food Broken nutrition link: Is ugali nation, Kenya, malnutritious?

Broken nutrition link: Is ugali nation, Kenya, malnutritious?


Ugali, in regard to East Africa region, is a staple food and more so in Kenya. A typical Kenyan enjoys the maize-made food with nyama choma – roasted meat or omena – Silver cyprinid fish.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, according to nutritionists, arise from intake of much starch: Photo / Courtesy

As a country, is it right to frequent this starchy delicacy – consuming it on daily basis? As much as the passion for ugali is infinite, nutritionists have rung a warning bell on the nutritional value of the maize delicacy.

Diet planning
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Experts agree that planning – in terms of transforming your diet, is essential and on this basis, health professionals state the need for a healthy diet.

The basic truth, forming our topic today, is not feeding on too much starch when better alternatives are available. Various ailments emanating from poor eating habits are preventable.

“If you are too busy to plan for your health you will actually drop dead. Most of the lifestyle disease – almost 90 percent are preventable. Write down what you can eat which is balanced diet”, notes Dr. Esther Dindi, a Consultant Physician.

A typical working-class Kenyan will wake up morning, rush to the office and skip breakfast due to road rush-hour traffic. The common available breakfast, in most offices, is a cup of tea and mandazi – fried bread.

Consumption of ugali in the morning is better than the regular bread and tea: Photo / Courtesy

Unless a healthy lunch is packed, by midday, he/she grabs a fast food – say chips. In the evening very exhausted, the person prepares the usual ugali or noodles – which normally takes few minutes. Having such persistent eating habit isn’t recommended at all. Budget constraint is also a factor for some people.

Excessive starch

The problem, to our common understanding isn’t about ugali but excessive starch. Do you know that certain medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, according to nutritionists, arise from intake of much starch?

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The argument is here – what people call disease – is actually a lengthy process. The mistake people do is taking action at the last minute, the ultimate price is heavy.

“Many people make changes when it is too late. Disease is a process that occurs with time”, observes Kate Kibarah, a Clinical Nutritionist.

Dr. Esther articulates that diversifying our source of carbohydrate is equally important as long as we balance the starch going into the body adding that refined ugali without vegetables puts the body at risk of lifestyle diseases.

Nutritionist Kate, on the other hand, warns relying solely on the usual ugali-nyama choma or beef throughout simply because refined ugali lacks essential element of nutrient – an important aspect of the body development and structure including tissue repair.

Removed roughage

Additionally, refining the maize removes fibre which is roughage. To update you more, fibre is good for a healthy digestion and also absorption of nutrients. Soluble and insoluble fibre does this job perfectly.

One major health complication, as I may call it, is sluggish bowel movement. Imagine a scenario where your diet lacks fibre and vegetables and, at the time you are eating solid food, in that case, what happens?

Slow bowel movement is the first warning sign that something is not going right. Of course this depends on how long the food sits in the intestine. However, the movement could be frequent or easy-going. For unusual habits, you need to consult.

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Bowel movement

“Ideally, if you are taking a lot of solid foods, fatty foods, high sugar food and even low fibre food, you will have sluggish metabolism. In every 24 hours, you should have at least 2 bowel movement”, Kate expresses.

Constipation is yet another health concern raised by the experts. When nutrients are absorbed, under normal circumstances, waste should come out as required. Serious conditions arrive when the body – preferably the colon – fail to eliminate the waste.

When to visit the toilet?

“In the morning when you wake up your body system is active because a lot has been happening at night, so it is the best time. But you can train yourself and sometimes, it depends on your lifestyle – eating late in the night or not eating three meals per day or not drinking enough water”, summarizes Kate.

Drinking a glass of warm water, in the morning, helps the body to actively get rid of the waste. Furthermore, the time of emptying the bowel shouldn’t be a stress since it can take place any time – day or night.

Drinking a glass of warm water, in the morning, helps the body to actively get rid of the waste: Photo / Courtesy

“Bowel movement shouldn’t be something to be stressed about – it comes so natural unless there is change in the movement. There is nothing special about emptying your bowel in the morning or evening. Just when it is convenient”, pronounces Esther.

Alternative carbohydrates

You are what you eat, right? All is not lost for the ugali nation. As relieving as it sounds, consumption of ugali in the morning is better than the regular bread and tea but with one condition – if it is balanced.

Fortunately, other sources of carbs are available – sorghum, millet among others.

The secret, going by Kenyans love for ugali, is the focus on energy provision since huge part of the population do manual work.

Bravo for choosing ugali over mandazi, chapatti, white rice and spaghetti. It is less harmful but the key word is to balance your ugali and by extension – your diet.

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