Ghana is known for its vibrant culture, warm hospitality, and delectable traditional dishes. Our cuisine has been an integral part of our identity for generations. However, in recent years, a silent invasion has been underway, threatening to reshape Ghana’s diet and health landscape.
Processed foods, with their convenience and allure, are gradually overpowering the once-dominant traditional healthy Ghanaian meals. As this culinary revolution unfolds, concerns over the impact on health and the overall population of Ghana have started to take centre-stage.
Ghanaian cuisine, steeped in tradition and history, has long been based on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Traditional meals are abundant in plantains, cassava, yams, millet and various leafy greens, complemented by protein-rich sources such as fish, lean meats and legumes. These dishes, packed with essential nutrients and dietary fibre, have been a key factor in supporting good health for generations.
However, as Ghana’s urban centres grow and modernisation sweeps through the country, the eating habits of our population have also begun to change. The convenience and affordability of processed foods have lured many away from their traditional diets, leading to a decline in the consumption of fresh, nutritious meals.
Fast food chains, offering tantalising noodles, fries and soft drinks, have found their way into the hearts and stomachs of Ghanaians. These processed delights, loaded with unhealthy fats, refined sugars and high levels of sodium, have contributed to a rise in diet-related health issues. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes, once relatively rare in Ghana, are now on the rise, posing a serious threat to the well-being of the nation.
Processed foods’ marketing and packaging can be misleading, leading consumers to believe they are making wise food choices. However, these products often lack essential nutrients and fibre, leaving individuals feeling less satisfied and craving more.
The increased availability of processed foods has altered Ghana’s dining landscape, shifting from home-cooked communal meals to quick, solitary consumption. This decline in shared meals affects social bonds and can lead to overeating and mindless snacking.
Processed foods have significant health implications for Ghana’s population, causing diet-related diseases and straining the healthcare system. Younger generations adopting unhealthy habits increase the risk of intergenerational transmission of chronic diseases, affecting public health and public health.
How do we counter this?
Recognising the dangers of the fast-food frenzy, there has been a growing movement within Ghana to promote healthier eating choices. NGOs, government agencies and community groups are working together to raise awareness about the importance of preserving traditional diets and making informed food choices. Considering these recommendations can help reduce the consumption of unhealthy processed foods.
- Education: Education is the key to empowering Ghanaians to resist the allure of processed foods. By teaching about the nutritional value of traditional meals and the potential harm of excessive processed food consumption, individuals can make more conscious decisions about what they put on their plates.
- Support for local farmers: Supporting local farmers and markets is another crucial aspect of promoting traditional cuisine. By encouraging the consumption of fresh, locally-sourced produce, we can not only support our economy, but also reconnect with our cultural heritage through food.
- Encouraging culinary diversity: Embracing the vast array of traditional Ghanaian dishes can also help create a diverse and nutritious diet. Celebrating regional specialties and exploring lesser-known recipes can revitalise interest in local foods, fostering a sense of pride in Ghana’s culinary heritage.
- Building community kitchens and cooking classes: Establishing community kitchens and offering cooking classes can empower individuals with the skills and knowledge to prepare traditional meals. By providing practical cooking tips and showcasing the ease of making healthy dishes, these initiatives can make healthy eating more accessible and enjoyable.
- Implementing food labelling regulations: Government agencies can play a pivotal role by enacting and enforcing food labelling regulations that require clear and accurate information on processed food products. Nutritional labels can help consumers make informed choices, enabling them to identify healthier options and avoid products high in harmful additives or excessive sugars and fats.
- Promoting home gardening and urban farming: Encouraging home gardening and urban farming initiatives can promote self-sufficiency in fresh produce. By growing fruits, vegetables and herbs at home or in community spaces, Ghanaians can access nutritious ingredients conveniently and reduce their reliance on processed foods.
- Raising taxes on unhealthy products: Consideration could be given to imposing higher taxes on processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. These measures can serve as a deterrent and help level the playing field for local, healthier food options, making them more competitive in the market.
By combining these various solutions, Ghana can create a multi-faceted approach to tackle the impact of processed food on health and the population.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any organisation.
>>>I’ll be your wingman on your health journey! The writer is a public health professional with a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, USA and works as a Medical Fraud Analyst at the Illinois Office of Inspector-General. He founded GD Consult in Ghana to promote healthy lifestyles and developed innovative projects, such as a Health Risk Assessment Model for hydraulic fracking operations. He can be reached via [email protected]