How to get good food at affordable prices
Daily Mirror Editorial
Nov 15, 2011

Countries around the world marked World Diabetes Day yesterday amid alarming reports that more than 60 per cent of the people in scores of countries including Sri Lanka are suffering from one or more non communicable diseases including diabetes. Reports here indicate that a disturbingly large number of people including 14 per cent of the schoolchildren are suffering from diabetes, which medical specialists say should be considered as more of a heart ailment because it could cause a silent heart attack at any time.

Widely respected nutritionists including Dr. Damayanthi Perera who has been asked by the Sri Lanka Medical Association to advise thousands of its doctors on how to prevent or manage this dreadful ailment believe the main cause for the spread of diabetes is the absence of a clear-cut national food and nutrition policy. We could ask on a day like this why an allpowerful government, which rushes through business acquisition bills as being urgent in the national interest is slow if not unconcerned about addressing a life or death issues such as good health in which food and nutrition play a vital role.

The main question that the government needs to address in working out a National Food and Nutrition Policy is how to provide nutritious, clean or unpolluted food for the people at affordable prices. An important part of the policy would be to work out a programme whereby qualified nutritionists who are not directly or indirectly sponsored by transnational food conglomerates are called upon to educate the people and make them aware of how to obtain nutritious food at affordable prices. Such a programme will also meet the urgent need of bringing down the cost of living but more importantly it would help people to be healthy, and therefore more productive, wealthy and wise.

One major factor that needs to be addressed immediately and effectively is the unrestricted import of all sorts of food items including those that are banned in other countries because they are unfit for human consumption. Several of the food items we import are seen by nutritionists as processed rubbish or junk foods. Wrong attitudes and bad examples for the past few years appear to have driven most of our children into the habit of eating easy to get starchy foods or oily pastries, which though tasty in the mouth are known to be the cause of ailments such as diabetes and bad cholesterol. Parents, teachers and others need to educate our children on the wisdom of having nutritious local foods such as gram, green gram or cowpea for breakfast instead of fish buns or hamburgers.

Children and others also should be made aware of the need to eat low GI food or foods that are low in the glysemic index meaning low in sugar and starch. For lunch the nutritionists say the ideal diet would be less rice and more vegetables, mallum,salads, dhal or fish including the simple Salaya, which is known to be rich in protein. Besides nutritious foods that are not polluted by excessive chemical fertilizers, weedicides or pesticides, the people especially the children need to be made aware of a vital need for daily exercise. For children the exercise could be even physical play time while for others there is a need for daily exercise like brisk walking. Through simple methods like this we could bring down the number of people suffering from NCDS like diabetes and thus take a major step towards building a healthy nation.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka