Refined or Ruination: How Our Western Food Lifestyle is Damaging Our Health


One of the rarest characters to encounter is a person who is authentic. It’s quite unfortunate but we tend to aspire to be someone or something other than ourselves. This issue appears to be an insurmountable challenge because society encourages this malady. I couldn’t agree more with Ralph Waldo Emerson “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”.

The world has become a global village and every corner of the Earth is getting civilised and this is especially true for Nigeria. And, there are benefits to this development; we can access other parts of the world and share their goods, we can form partnerships for work purposes and create rich experiences from our different world views, we enjoy perks from the developed countries and are motivated to grow together as people of the world.

However, as with every other thing, there are draw backs; we imbibe some aspects of various cultures and for the purpose of this article; my focus is on feeding habits. Nigerians have caught the bug of western civilisation and this has affected our eating habits; our portion sizes are overwhelming and our eating pattern skewed. As seemingly unimportant as food and feeding may seem, its impact is colossal to the Nation’s growth. If we must grow as a Nation, we must learn how to eat and learning how to eat though seemingly ordinary at face value is deeply connected to our level of authenticity. From years of emulating the Westerners, we have gradually lost touch with the essence of who we really are and this has shown up in our lives. We have become refined and have settled for refined foods.

The question remains; what good is it to be refined or sophisticated? To be refined is to acquire but to be authentic involves a process of separating and moving within; essence is synonymous with authenticity. Could our love for refined foods be a mere representation of our level of refinement? The generations before us were less civilised but seemed to eat whole and less processed foods; bread was made from whole and stone ground wheat, people consumed less sugar, ate more home cooked meals and lead active lives and consequently harboured fewer diseases.

Now, we feast on refined foods; pastries, soda, unhealthy snacks. We eat out more frequently and lead less active lives. Our degree of sophistication lures us to desire “Sophisticated” foods – polished rice, white bread, and sugar. We choose juice or soda over water and fries over cooked, we tend to prefer condiments over savouring the natural flavours of food, we associate eating out with class and lead sedentary lives.

Unfortunately, the full benefits accrued from eating can only come when we accept food as they come i.e. naturally without interference or changing them to suit our “sophisticated tastes”. Foods used in this state have a lot of goodies to offer. Fresh fruits are replete with vitamins that help regulate body processes and improve your level of immunity; seeds have minerals that serve as co-enzymes in body processes and in the maintenance of body balance. The outer cover of seeds and grains possess phytoestrogen and may aid in the prevention of cancer.

Lignin, a woody fibre found in the stems and seeds of fruits and vegetables and bran layer of cereals serve as antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical substances that help destroy free radicals that cause damage to the cells. Unfortunately, all these goodies are thrown away during the milling/refining process leaving us with products depleted of nutrients, products that have to be enriched to produce any significant benefit to our bodies, products that tend to contribute to the obstruction of our blood vessels and promote disease conditions.

In a research conducted by some Nigerian teaching hospitals, rural to urban migration, increased salt intake and fat intake, the consumption of processed foods, increased tobacco use and sedentary lifestyle were blamed for the rise of sudden unexpected deaths (SUD) in the country. The same studies concluded that the commonest causes of these deaths were cardiovascular system related, with 87.5 percent of the cases manifesting as hypertensive heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, cardiac rupture and coronary atherosclerosis with thrombosis.

Fortunately, these ailments can be prevented and largely managed and treated by adopting healthy dietary practices. It’s high time we returned to our essential selves and realize that pleasure is fleeting, to remember that food is firstly for nourishment than pleasure, it’s time we look within ourselves  to dig out our relationship with ourselves and with food, it’s time to realize that food is just food and will give us nothing else but nourishment. We need to stop seeking comfort, pleasures, fulfilment e.t.c from food and retrain our taste buds to accept food in its essence – the natural form.

Nigeria has lost many eminent personalities such as former captain and coach of the Super Eagles Stephen Keshi and former Eagles coach Shuaibu Amodu and so many others to sudden unexpected deaths and other ailments that could have been prevented with appropriate diets and lifestyle.

The ball is now in your court. Are you ready to make a detour and accept food as it comes without aiming to damage it just to suit your taste buds? The choice is yours to make.

Hello! I am Clare Udeagwu. I studied Biochemistry and Nutrition. I am a freelance Nutritionist and writer and work part-time at Foodsense. I love food and struggle daily to remain a master over food and not the other way round. I am also passionate about helping people gain mastery over food as they journey through an active and fulfilling life. So, welcome on board.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *