African diets – rich in fibre, good for your health

Growing up, I could never understand my mother’s aversion to fried foods, spices and fast food. We had all the fibre and roughage and boiled much of what we ate. Perhaps parboiled rice, moi moi and akara were the only processed foods in our diet.

I do not remember my family storing noodles and spaghetti cartons in the house. Mother was adamant. “No junk food in my house”, she would announce. She would rather we boiled potatoes and unripe plantains for breakfast, than deep – fry delicious ripe plantains like the neighbours usually did. The aroma from the neighbours’ was a constant source of harassment. Mother would not let us use Maggi. It was completely out of the question.

But we had lots of fruits, vegetables and lots of whole foods. There was little room for “snacks” – the baked stuff that kids craved with their heart and soul. Moi moi was for lunch at school. Later, I would come to respect the way my mother ran kitchen affairs. I lost a family friend to colon cancer when I was in medical school. I had only just learned that fibre, what my mother called roughage, could prevent certain diseases of the colon.

Have you ever wondered why there is a high incidence of colon cancer in many western societies? It is only second to lung cancer in importance. Indeed, low-fiber diets have been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

In addition to providing fecal bulk and preventing constipation, current data indicates that adequate intake of dietary fiber (38 and 25 g/d for adult men and women, respectively) reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, diverticular disease, provides energy for colonic bacteria, provides satiety, and attenuates blood glucose and lipid levels. It has been harder to establish cause and effect relationships between colon cancer and low intake of dietary fibre, especially due to the presence of confounding risk factors.

Good sources of dietary fibre include brown rice, legumes, beans, cowpeas, corn flakes, oatmeal, sycamore (figs), corn, cabbage, lettuce, pumpkin leaves, almonds, prunes, peanuts, banana, orange, grapefruit and tangerine.

Beans (shutterstock)

Legumes (shutterstock)

 

Later, I would come to respect the way my mother ran kitchen affairs. I lost a family friend to colon cancer when I was in medical school. I had only just learned that fibre, what my mother called roughage, could prevent certain diseases of the colon. To cut a long story short, when you have sufficient fibre in your diet, be rest assured that your health will be the better for it, and your pockets will suffer less financial stress.

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