By Doris Obinna
Experts in the food and nutrition industry have urged 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 was said at a recent webinar themed: “Nigeria’s Protein Deficiency Challenge: Soybeans To The Rescue.”
Professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, Professor Ibiyemi Olayiwola, while stating the benefits of consuming soybeans as one of the protein-rich foods in Nigeria, 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 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 are diseases that 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.”
On her part, nutritionist and an entrepreneur Mrs Josephine Chukwunweike, stressed that children under five should be given protein-rich foods to help build a healthy nation. “The country’s workforce could only be productive when a substantial number of her populations are healthy and productive.
“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.”
Also, a community nutritionist, Mr Charles Nkwoala, stated 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.
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.