The answer to this simple question may be as diverse as the ethnic tribes that make up Nigeria, what with our attitude towards food, which borders on consuming large portions.
Among the upwardly mobile, breakfast may consist of corn flakes (which are usually fortified with vitamins), bacon, fried eggs or omelet, white bread and tea sweetened with white sugar – or other forms of sugars that researchers say are not healthy.
At work, lunch may not be better, as it may be a combination of fried chicken or sautéed fish, with a generous serving of French fries, to be washed down with a large, chilled bottle of sugary beverage.
Dinner is no better, as it may consist of some take-away from the numerous fast food eateries that line major routes. Yet, experts say you eat Western diet to your peril. The unambiguous conclusion among dieticians, nutritionists, physicians and researchers is that Western diet is unhealthy and should not be taken regularly or served at the family table for that matter.
The Medical Director of Mart-Life Detox Centre, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, warns that a diet that comprises sugars, saturated fats and other appurtenances of Western diet can only ruin the health.
He says the effects of such foods are as bizarre as they are deadly, because they don’t only make you obese, they are the paved roads to cardiovascular diseases, which may lead to stroke and untimely death.
He also warns that through clinical studies, unhealthy diet and lifestyle have been shown to contribute to incidents of infertility in male and female.
But then, what is it about Western diet that makes for strident condemnation globally? Ashiru, a professor of anatomy, notes that it may increase the risk of disease and certain forms of cancer, while it has also been linked to obesity in adults and children.
Again, he notes, Western diet is heavy in trans fats, which are considered unhealthy and dangerous to health. He also vilifies the diet because, as he says, it does not promote a complete, nutritious menu, as it usually lacks vegetables and fruits.
Nutritionists say even when you are served the so-called salad during a typical Western meal, the salads are usually bathed in creams that make a total mess of the intended dietary restriction.
Online portal, dietsinreview.com, says “The Western diet is known for its lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and its strong reliance on fast-food, high sugar beverages, high-fat dairy, refined carbohydrates and red meat.
It goes on to describe a typical day on the Western diet, “Breakfast may consist of a stack of white flour pancakes with a side of sausage, with whole milk and syrup; lunch might be a fast-food cheeseburger, French fries and a high-sugar soda. Dinner might be fried chicken or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. Desserts and snacks include potato chips, cookies, ice cream, candy bars and other processed snack foods.”
And, to buttress all the vilifications that have greeted the consumption of Western diet, a new research published in The American Journal of Medicine deals a final blow to the unhealthy way of eating.
The researchers write, “Data from a new study of British adults suggest that adherence to a ‘Western-style’ diet (fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) reduces a person’s likelihood of achieving older ages in good health and with higher functionality.”
The research team, led by Dr. Tasnime Akbaraly of Inserm, Montpellier, France, identified dietary factors that would not only prevent premature death, but also promote ideal ageing.
Ashiru, whose clinic takes patients through weight loss programme via detoxification, says Western diet plans are not appropriate for weight loss.
He notes, “Dieters need to eat from all food groups. Bad fats, cholesterol and simple carbohydrates are three food groups to watch out for in the Western diet. Conversely, the Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, green foods and lean proteins. Switching from a Western diet to a healthy diet with fewer simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats is ideal for weight loss.”
He also notes that portion control is important, as Western diet tends to pack a lot of calories in a small space.
In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers warn that leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, which, they say, may be affected by unwholesome diet. Their conclusion? Eating healthier means living longer.
So, what do we eat to be in good health? Researchers say diets high in vegetables and fruits are associated with less weight gain, being definitely better than diets high in red meat and fried foods.
Investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Centre at Boston University say, “A diet high in red meat and fried foods can lead to consuming too many calories, because these foods contain more calories than the same amount of vegetables and fruits.”
The lead researcher, Dr. Deborah Boggs, say the findings suggest that replacing red meat and fried foods with vegetables and fruits could help to lower obesity rates.
In contrast, a research group from Spain studied the dietary patterns associated with a high intake of fruits and vegetables in Mediterranean populations, and concluded that it reduces long term risk of weight gain and subsequent obesity.
To be in good health and remain functional till the end, therefore, scientists advise daily intake of fruits and vegetables, which have been tested and proved over the years.