Experts in the food and nutrition industry have encouraged Nigerians to regularly consume soybeans as one of the protein-rich foods to curb malnutrition and reduce the high rate of protein deficiency in the country.
This piece of advice was given at a recent webinar themed: “Nigeria’s Protein Deficiency Challenge: Soybeans To The Rescue.”
In her keynote address, Professor Ibiyemi Olayiwola, a professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, harped on the benefits of consuming soybeans as one of the protein-rich foods in Nigeria.
Professor Olayiwola pointed out that as human beings, we begin our lives with protein, stressing that when protein is not sufficient in the human body, it automatically leads to malnutrition.
According to her, “Proteins are essential for growth, bodybuilding, repairs and replacement of lost tissues. Proteins protect against infections, boost the immune system, support metabolism, as well as provide a source of energy to the human body.”
On the prevalence of protein deficiency in the country, she noted that nutritionists in Nigeria were worried because, over the past 20 years, the situation has persisted, with so many children under age five (5) still malnourished.
Listing some of the diseases associated with protein deficiency such as oedema of the hands and the legs, skin damages, roughness, scanty hair and big stomach and head, Professor Olayiwola said that these diseases can be prevented with regular intake of protein-rich foods, including soybeans. “I want all Nigerians to be soybeans-centred. In our little way, we will continue to campaign for the reduction of protein deficiency in the country.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mrs Josephine Chukwunweike, a certified nutritionist and an entrepreneur with years of experience in community nutrition and preventive health, stressed that children under five (5) should be given protein-rich foods to help build a healthy nation. Chukwunweike said the country’s workforce can only be productive when a substantial number of her population are healthy and productive.
She, however, lamented that while Nigeria is recognised as a producer of soybeans in Africa, the majority of children from the north, where the crop is produced in large quantity, still face the problem of malnutrition and protein deficiency. The government, she added, should require that soybeans flour be added in the making of staple foods.
Another panelist, Mr Charles Nkwoala, a community nutritionist, with specialty in nutrition education, stressed the need to educate Nigerians on the benefits of consuming soybeans and other protein-rich foods.
He argued that the branding and packaging of soybeans are essential to attract patronage from Nigerians and thus make it acceptable.
Mr Nkwoala called for collaboration between the private and public sectors, noting that NGOs have to be actively involved in educating Nigerians on the ills of protein deficiency because the government cannot do this alone.
The session was moderated by Mrs Louisa Olaniyi, a multiple award-winning broadcast journalist, tech enthusiast and TV host.