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Mind what you eat

The festive season is finally here and so it is time to party. However, as you plan for the big day, it is important that you be careful about what you put in your mouth, lest you eat and drink your way to hospital.

This is because the festivities are characterised by people eating harmful fats and sugars, way above the recommended daily dietary allowances, and as such, provide a launch pad for long-term health complications.

“From the intake levels to how they are prepared, most of the food ends up not serving its purpose, and can cause diseases, some of them with long-term repercussions,” said Ruth Nashipayi, a nutritionist at Unicef.

Hydrogenation

In and around Nairobi, the most consumed food during this holiday will be meat – either roasted or fried – which is prepared using hydrogenated vegetable oils which are not good for your health.

These oils are prepared through hydrogenation, a process that converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats.

These fats are relatively cheaper and have a longer shelf life making them a favourite ingredient in commercial eateries and homes.

Health experts also recommend eating about 156 grammes of meat per day, however, during the Christmas and New Year period, people consume way above this amount.

Saturated fats

“Despite meat being a source of protein, it also has high levels of saturated fats that contribute in raising ones cholesterol levels. Therefore, I advise people to observe moderation in eating meat,” said Nashipayi.

Other sources of saturated fats include whole milk, cheese, ice cream, fatty meats, palm and coconut oils — food products which are heavily consumed over this festive period.

Saturated fat can also be found in margarines, cookies, crackers, snacks, fried foods, doughnuts and other processed foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

The secret in preventing sickness, added Nashipayi, lies in eating a balanced diet.

“If you eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, this will prevent deficiency diseases and obesity,” added the nutritionist.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is highly recommended, and given their varying nutritive values, these foods should be consumed regularly.

Whole grains are also an essential component of a healthy diet, with experts recommending at least 85g daily. This is because they have more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than the refined grains