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“Eat to live; not live to eat”.  – Socrates

When you hear about nutrition, what comes to your mind? We can unanimously agree that we all have a distorted image about nutrition. At some point in life, we have strived to either add or lose weight but the results were…well you know. So how about learning from the experts!

On Tuesday the 9th of February 2021, The Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central took time to reflect on matters of Nutrition and Young Adults; what we eat, how we eat it, and what we should be eating. Did you know that there is something like “Nutrition Confusion”! 

I can’t say I was overly excited, for some reason every time anyone talks about nutrition; it seems like a matter of life and death. Perhaps it is or I overthink the whole nutrition thing. Is it that serious, can I just drink water and live? I mean they keep telling us water is life, right? If you share my sentiments you are in for a very informative next few paragraphs.

So, keep scrolling. 

Our speakers for the day were Abigail Kabui and Wanja Nyaga, who is better known as the “Kenyan Tele Nutritionist”. The meeting was moderated by our very own Makena Mwaniki who makes everything nutrition sound so fun and while at it, she did such an exemplary job moderating. Thank you Makena!

The meeting began at around 7 pm with members introducing themselves and stating whether they eat healthy meals. The word “Healthy’ is very relative. You will soon find out that what you call ‘healthy eating’ is in fact far from the truth. Very far!

So, again, keep scrolling. 

A few members were honest about their chapati eating habits while others hid behind the veil of a zoom call. “My mic is not working. Kindly allow me to type in the chat’’ No need to hide. We have been seeing what you’ll post on your Wozap status! We know!

I don’t often think about nutrition but every time my plate has Ugali, Sukumawiki, and Nyama (ugali stable Kenyan food made from maize flour, spinach, and meat) with a touch of guacamole, I often regard that as a nutritious meal because carbohydrate, protein, and vegetable and according to my science teacher this was a well-balanced meal. Shock on me! 

Turns out, nutrition is multi-disciplinary and a core element in our lives. Whatever you allow into your body affects your body weight and weirdly your hormones which in turn sometimes could affect your body weight. Can you imagine!!! Hormones are chemical messages which play a huge role in metabolism and growth development. I’m sure if you are an avid social media user you have seen people talk about how important metabolism is and how it reduces the older you get. Haiyae!

A few introductory hormones that the experts took us through in a more practical way are the ones we learnt in high school; Estrogen which helps in the utilization of calcium in the body, Testosterone which helps in burning calories and building muscle, and Progesterone. Please note that all these hormones are found in both females and males with a variation in quantity. 

Hold up; did you know you have a stress hormone?

Well, Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also plays a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. Thus, the name “stress hormone”. 

High production of cortisol leads to the craving for carbohydrates and sweet things. Stress eating is actually a thing your body suggests. Another interesting hormone we talked about is Leptin it plays are role in sending messages to the brain when you are hungry or full, works well with ghrelin as this hormone sends messages to the brain when the stomach is empty. I hope you have noticed that hormones are very good communicators.

However, sometimes possibly due to an apparent ‘blue tick’ from the brain, your body can undergo hormonal imbalance. Some of the general symptoms of hormonal imbalance include but are not limited to constant bloating, fatigue, depression, and infertility. Hormonal imbalance in men may cause; weight gain, unexplained weight loss, erectile dysfunction, acne, and even mood swings.

Hormonal imbalance in women may cause; weight gain, stress, vaginal dryness, low sex drive and unexplained weight loss. Some of the ways one can deal with hormonal imbalance through nutrition is by increasing protein intake and hormone replacement exercises.

The session was just getting heated up and everyone wanted to know just a bit more but time was doing the thing it does best; run out. However, the panelists were kind enough to answer a few of our questions; 

  1. Does intermittent fasting work? Both nutritionists agreed that it does work but can be referred to as a quick fix as it is not a sustainable way of living.
  2. Are young people encouraged to take supplements? This highly depends on your diet especially if you are vegan you are advised to take supplements that are said to be mostly derived from animal products.
  3. Best time to take fruits? As there is no proper formula fruits can be taken thirty to forty minutes before food, however, there are some fruits especially ones that provide vitamin A, D, K, and E that can be taken after having meals rich in oil.

Congratulations on reading this article to the end. It is said that reading boosts your brain and you my dear reader have done just that. A healthy lifestyle has become a major priority in the quest for meaningful living and, as all the experts tell us, nutrition is its anchor.

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Michael Pollan. So choose what you eat. Choose wisely.

Article by Susan Maina,

Assistant Secretary, Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central

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