Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Thank you Kepha for giving the Wacha niKwambie blog an opportunity to interview you on Good Eating practices with a focus on Kenya. May I begin by understanding what your approach to Health and Wellness is.
Kepha: I practice a holistic approach to Health and Wellness, which means that I look at how all areas of our life are connected. My primary focus is to find out the underlying factors affecting my clients’ health and as we work together, we look at how different dimensions of their lifestyle affect their health as a whole. I work together with my clients to reach their health goals in areas such as achieving optimal weight, improving sleep patterns, and maximizing energy levels. As we work together, they develop a deeper understanding of the food and lifestyle choices that work best for them and implement lasting changes that improve their energy, balance and health.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Kepha, how would you describe the current eating practices of Kenyans?
Kepha: Our eating practices are not good and there is an urgent need for lifestyle change. This is clearly evident since statistics are always reporting increasing cases of lifestyle diseases in Kenya. For instance, seven Kenyans get cancer on a daily basis and at least 3.5 million Kenyans have diabetes. I see many people becoming medical tourists unless we change our lifestyle. Many people choose foods not because of their nutritional value but taste and convenience. This together with a sedentary lifestyle is the genesis of the increasing cases of lifestyle diseases. I sympathize with the younger generation that has embraced unHealthy Eating practices at an alarming rate .We should create more awareness to this segment of our population due to their increased risk of lifestyle diseases. A sad reality.
Our culture is the other factor that predisposes us to lifestyle diseases. Most people tend to eat more of certain foods based on the communities and regions they hail from. For example those from Western, Kisii , Central, and Coast tend to consume a lot of ugali, matoke, githeri and fried foods respectively. The Kamba community appreciate muthokoi which is a deficient in fibre content and would lead to poor digestion.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Those are sad statistics Kepha.
Now that you have mentioned that Kenyans in general have poor eating practices, what are the benefits of maintaining a Healthy Eating lifestyle?
Kepha: A healthy and well balanced diet offers the following benefits to us:
Boosts immunity: Your body should be able to fight disease on its own. When people have a poor diet they fall sick easily and recover slowly from illness.
Energy supply: A balanced diet ensures the body has sufficient energy. Without energy there is no life. However, when we get excess energy, there is increased risk of developing obesity. This happens when we take processed foods which have empty calories.
Growth and development: A healthy diet promotes growth and development more so for children who are growing. Children need foods rich in proteins also known as body building foods. Many people have challenges eating proteins due to acidity and allergies. These challenges can always be addressed by a Nutritionist.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Tell us more about the general principles of a Healthy Eating lifestyle for children?
What is most important in children is monitoring their growth curve. Concern arises when the weight gain or increase in height stops. When height stops increasing, children are said to be stunted and this is an indicator of severe malnutrition. Before six months of age, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for children. As a country, we seem to be doing well since 61% of women in Kenya practice exclusively breastfeeding. Complementary foods should start at 6 months and it’s important to get a weaning program from a Nutritionist. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a weaning program since most issues to do with malnutrition start from 6 months of age. Children with malnutrition exhibit the following symptoms:
1. Lack of appetite.
2. Poor weight gain.
Children need a well balanced diet comprising of vegetables, proteins and starches. We design complementary feeding programs using family foods. Water should also be introduced during weaning process.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: What do women like me need for a balanced diet?
Kepha: Women in particular need Iron because of their monthly loss during menstruation. Foods rich in Iron include; spinach, liver, beet roots and lean beef.
Other nutrients such as Calcium are important too. Calcium may be obtained from dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and sea foods. Vitamin C is also important for female health. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of Vitamin C.
Weight management in women is key. Women tend to gain a lot of weight during pregnancy. Others have slow metabolism that leads to weight gain. This can be addressed by getting assistance from a Nutritionist.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Finally to men. What are their key nutritional requirements?
Kepha: Men tend to have more muscles than women. Their nutritional and energy requirements are generally higher than those of women. They also need to manage their weight since excessive weight gain causes several health issues including infertility.
The optimal way to lose weight is to follow a Healthy Eating pattern and to incorporate daily physical activity into your lifestyle. These habits must become a way of life. Successful weight loss starts with taking an honest look at your eating patterns and daily routine bearing in mind your destination. I need to emphasize that 80% of weight gain is due to poor nutrition and 20% due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Oh my, this resonates with me. After I changed my eating habits is when my journey to a leaner me began. I am still learning.
Kepha: The following foods should be avoided if one is keen on maintaining a Healthy Eating lifestyle: Processed foods which lack nutrients, foods rich in preservatives and foods rich in saturated fats. Many of these foods are considered tasty, convenient and cost effective to many people. However, with time we end up treating medical conditions related to lifestyle which is expensive!
On the flip side, we should embrace the following foods: Natural foods that are not refined and with no preservatives. For instance, we should consider traditional foods such as arrowroots. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients and compounds like antioxidants and should be part of our diet. Unfortunately, many of these foods are not popular because of their taste yet they are the best of food choices.
Elizabeth “ Kwambie”: I am keenly taking notes for the readers of Wacha niKwambie blog. Are their certain health conditions that call for dietary interventions?
People with lifestyle related health conditions should seek nutrition advice since they require personalized information. I always attend patients with the following medical conditions and I have many success stories:
• High cholesterol levels
• High uric acid levels
• Digestive disorders e.g. Gastritis, Irritable Bowel syndrome
• Acid reflux
• Allergies etc
Kepha: One last word on the role of Exercise that goes hand in hand with Good Nutrition. We know that our lifestyle has changed and many people are addicted to a sedentary lifestyle. For us to fight obesity, we must increase our energy expenditure through exercise.
Kepha’s Parting Shot! We don’t get lifestyle diseases because God hates us! We get these conditions because we are not proactive. For us to obtain optimal health, lose weight and feel better every day, we must make the right choices.
Elizabeth “Kwambie: Thank you so much Kepha, it has been a pleasure talking to you this afternoon. On behalf of all the readers of Wacha niKwambie blog I would wish to say ,”Thank you!”
Kepha: You are most welcome. Here is to Good Nutrition and a Healthy Eating lifestyle.
Kepha Nyanumba’s Profile
Kepha Nyanumba is a registered Nutrition Consultant and a writer with over 11 years experience in Food Nutrition and Dietetics (FND). He is a member of Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Institute (KNDI) and a beneficiary of a Post graduate program in Pediatric Nutrition from Boston University School of Medicine (USA). Kepha is frequently featured on national print and electronic media and is the nutrition expert in the “Food for Thought Weekly Program” by The Health TV Channel. He features in other TV Channels including: Citizen TV, NTV, KTN, KBC, Kass TV, K24 TV and Y254. He is a public speaker giving numerous Corporate Nutrition and Lifestyle Talks and is a columnist in a number of magazines including Marketing Africa, Afya Digest, Kids and Parents, Mum and Dad etc. Kepha contributes articles and expert opinion to a number of newspapers including: The Daily Nation, The Standard Newspaper, The East African Newspaper,The Sun weekly, Star Newspaper etc. He serves as a member of Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Nutrition and Health Technical committee and is an author with Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) where he develops content for the new curriculum (2-6-3-3-3 system) spearheaded by the Ministry of Education. He offers expert services to various corporates and currently serves as a Nutrition Consultant at AAR Healthcare (K) Ltd where he also serves as a member of the underwriting team.
For further information and personal consultation on matters nutrition, please contact Kepha Nyanumba on: Tel- 0723 103 028, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kepha on Twitter @knyanumba or Blog: kephanyanumba.blogspot.com
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© Kwambie Nyambane,
Disclaimer: This interview article is meant to create awareness on a Healthy Eating lifestyle and Good Nutrition practices. It is not a substitute for professional advice. For more information and personal counsel please seek the services of a registered Nutritionist.