Editor's Note [Volume 24 No. 2 (2024)]


Nutrition and Foods

“Why do you complain that you cannot afford meat? Why do you not just eat beans?”, by a well-meaning public figure to a gathering of people. It is ok if one is a vegetarian for whatever reason. You might be a vegetarian for religious or health reasons. You might even decide to eat a meatless diet on a whim. However, if your family is regular and not restricted in what they can eat, then suddenly fail to access a diverse diet, then one must think nutrition very seriously. Say a family has young children who have a good appetite and have been drinking milk, then all of a sudden milk is curtailed, advice cannot be “give them any other beverage”. Satiety-wise yes, but not nutrition-wise. So is meat a must in the diet? Yes, because of the unique essential nutrients it provides. And when we talk of meat we have to remember there are different types of meat. There is red meat from cattle, sheep, goats, and wild animals. Then there is white meat from poultry, fish, rabbits, and insects. Consumers delight in such meats for different reasons. Then the milk or eggs of these provide more or less the same nutrients. The human body requires certain essential nutrients, already determined scientifically as far as amounts needed. In most cases, it is a mixed diverse diet, which means both plant and animal sources. So, humans who consume only animal-source food, miss plant-source nutrients, and vice versa. For example, in Kenya, we have the Maasai who eat meat and drink blood and milk. But guess what? That is not all. They also take intestinal juices which help to digest the meat they consume, sometimes in raw form. We did some studies on Maasai eating patterns and found out that, their diet includes fruits, roots, and herbs from the wild. These provide vitamins and minerals to supplement what their meat-lacto diet provides.

So, human beings need a mixed diet to be able to meet fully the body's nutritional requirements. Should you choose to, or find yourself eating only meats or vegetables, you will most likely suffer certain nutritional deficiencies. Where you can affordably access good supplements, you better get a doctor's advice to start taking these before you develop nutrient deficiency symptoms. Most cultures seem to have diets where foods complement each other. More studies are needed on this topic. Meantime, let us continue to research and learn more. All these nutrients our body needs work in unison and when you study them carefully, you find out that they are interdependent, in that if you take too much of one or some, the functioning of the others is affected, likely to lead to negative effects on your health.

Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

ORCID: 0009-0005-8344-9093