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Be careful with garlic-ginger mixtures, nutritionists warn

Foodstuff on display at a community market in Lagos. Picture by Ijeoma Ukazu

By Ijeoma Ukazu

A community dietician nutritionist, Collins Akanno, has said that with some planning eating healthy and right can fit well within anyone’s budget. Quoting available statistics he said the national minimum wage for federal workers in Nigeria currently stands at N30, 000 ($77). And on average, the monthly cost of living for an individual in Nigeria is approximately N43, 200 (N137, 600 for family).

Covid-19 tipped food security concerns

With the downturn in the economy brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Akanno said many Nigerians have been forced to live on a very tight budget while looking for creative ways to reduce food budget and still enjoy tasty, nutritious meals.

In an interview with The Daily Report, he said that with the right attitude and approach people can still treat themselves to affordable and healthy food.

“The more you focus on purchasing local, unprocessed food and preparing meals at home, the healthier and tastier your meals will be, the better you will feel and the more money you will save,” Akanno advised.

A global health crisis, COVID-19 worsened food and nutrition insecurity generally. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, more than 820 million people across the globe are already suffering from hunger.

And from previous experiences, epidemics and pandemics have more often than not affected food accessibility due to market shutdowns, panic-buying, stoppage of food assistance programmes, curfews and so on. 

Yam tubers and local vegetables as seen in a community market in Lagos. By Ijeoma Ukazu

Eating right as medicine

This in turn affects vulnerable populations, including children, women, the elderly and the poor.

In recent times, people have been keener on preventive health through nutrition and medical practice is making a gradual shift from the disease-and-cure approach to preventative health. Nutrition awareness and education is at the core of this approach.

Collins Akanno

In Nigeria, more people than ever are making varying concoctions with lime, lemon, ginger and garlic; and vendors are seeing a boom in their operations.

A visit to Ogba retail market and Agege market show that most Nigerians purchase certain fruits more this period in a bid to improve their immune system resulting in a hike in the price of these products. For example, five pieces of Lemon which had cost N200 before the lockdown is now N450. And ginger which was N100 Naira (five pieces) now costs N200.

Cynthia Onyekwere, a Lagos-based registered Dietitian at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) has advised Nigerians to be careful with the ginger/garlic/lime concoctions as boosts for their immune system.

Beware of spices

“Yes, garlic and ginger are spices,” she told The Daily Report, “They also contain certain micronutrients that are relevant to the body. But instead of just taking it as a concoction, why don’t you add them to your food when cooking. For instance, use it to boil your meat and cook your stew.

Ginger, garlic, lime and lemon on sale at a neighbourhood market in Lagos. By Ijeoma Ukazu

“There are a lot of claims being made about garlic, ginger, lemon and lime. But like I said, there isn’t much research to show that they have been able to significantly prevent or treat Coronavirus disease or boost the immune system. We don’t discourage people from taking garlic and ginger. It is better to add it to your food because there are some people who have other medical conditions that ginger and garlic may not be okay for them. 

Great as these spices are, they also have side effects when taken indiscriminately, Onyekwere said.

Cynthia Onyekwere

“There have been reports of people who have intestinal perforation because of the concentrated form of garlic and ginger extracts that they were taking. There are people that have an ulcer; if they take that garlic and ginger it can trigger or worsen their ulcer. So people need to be careful.”

According to Onyekwere, no single food can boost the immune system but when properly combined in a diet can strengthen it. The immune system, she added, is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that help to fight infections and defend the body.

So for those cells, tissues, and organs to function well they need an adequate diet. And people need different nutrients, which all can’t be found in a single food. Keeping to a balanced diet will not only firm up the immune system but also help it to prevent certain infections or diseases.

This report is made possible with the support of Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (JERF)

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