TRADITIONAL AFRICAN FOODS REAPPRECIATED -PART II
‘’Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’’
The above saying is attributed to Hippocrates, a Greek scholar appreciated as the father of
Western Medicine and a student of [formerly] Alkebulan medicine— now African medicine.
Hippocrates studied at Amenhotep Temple in Egypt (formerly known as Kemet). Alkebulan and
Kemet were names used about 3,000 BC until the Roman occupation.
Indeed, as our ancients knew, we are blessed to continue to derive sustenance from our foods just
as our medicine, medicinal herbs and spices which must always be our food, especially in these
days of COVID-19.
In Part I of these series of articles, we touched on the immune system, vitamin D, good
starches and traditional African cuisine combinations. In Part 2, we will elaborate further on
their importance as well as the differences between our traditional foods and foreign foods
and finally, look at how to deal with the two types of foods for our benefit; especially during
these challenging times.
The vitalness of our immune system cannot be underestimated. As our ancestors knew, so does
science now confirm the immense importance of the immune system. This has also been
corroborated by the Human Microbiome Project (ImmGen, 2008), a research initiative by the
American National Institutes of Health. Findings of the research further revealed the crucial role
of such vital organs as the gut and the colon in the maintenance of human health. Hence the
saying; ‘Listening to one’s Gut feeling is deemed as important as one’s instinct or the voice of
God.’ Some of my favourite voices in the world of modern Wellbeing and Health, stress on this
fact. A voice such as Dr. David Perlmutter – in one of his books (Brain Maker)— makes a case
for the critical connection between the immune system and the brain especially. He also
highlights the importance of the immune system and its link with longevity. A finding by the
Russian born Nobel Prize Winner, Elie Mehnikov, proves that “We really are what we eat.” This
statement is also supported by a research conducted by Dr Alesslo Fasano– another leading
Expert in Microbiome research and a visiting Professor of Havard University, Boston, USA.
Un-be-known to most people, Vitamin D, especially from sunshine (or tablet format if sunshine
is not available) equally plays an important role as an essential element for overall health by
helping to balance the immune system, regulating calcium and phosphorus and managing blood
levels; among many other intricate functions. This fact has been further proven most recently in
the battle to find a cure for coronavirus.
A September 2020 peer-reviewed Spanish Clinical Research showed that, artificially processed
weekly dose of Vitamin D absorption in the body which was strictly and clinically induced to
selected coronavirus patients in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) had recorded recoveries and positive
results – (https://covid.us.org/2020/09/03/new-study-vitamin-d-reduces-risk-of-icu-admission-
Contrary to the propagandist view that starch is not good for our health and the often bandied
local myths that our tropical starches make us fat, modern research has now clearly shown
otherwise! According to Dr. John McDougall – one of my favourite Wellbeing experts— in his
book, ‘The Starch Solution’, there is reason to believe that the fittest and healthiest ancient
cultures on the planet lived mainly on starch diets. As far as he is concerned, “Starch is the key
Ingredient” for a balanced diet and he would go further to confidently stress that “Our DNA
proves we are starch eaters.”
In my view, although some starches are better than others, I do not believe in the idea of a bad
starch. Whiles we have our own starch misconceptions against foods like cassava – in Africa as a
whole or just within Ghana, the Western world have also recently developed their own style of
‘starch/ gluten’ problem, where cassava is being discovered to be the better starch (a Resistant
Starch), as seen later in the article.
Our modern attitude towards starch is artificial and firmly based upon our changing world with
its accompanying distortions. The recent gluten problem in the West is a case in point. In my
observation, the problem is not the starch/ gluten but the modern sedentary lifestyle choices and processed food phenomenon. Thus, demonising wheat and its family of simple sugars/ hard
grains (wheat rye, barley) in the Western world as toxic foods due to their high gluten content is
not the problem, but how they are consumed or utilized is the problem. Even the toughest
starches from grains like wheat (simple sugar starches) naturally have a positive role to play for
wellbeing in its natural cultivation zone/ habitat.
With the combination of natural arrangement and human wisdom, the global distribution of
starchy crops seems to have distinct purposes depending on the demands/ harshness of its natural
environment to provide the energy needed for the survival of its indigenous inhabitants. This
implies the harder the starch component (simple sugar starches like wheat), the harsher the
natural climate (arid or icy). Therefore, harder/ less resistant grains like wheat flourish in cold,
temperate and hot arid climates; as resistant starches like cassava, yam, small grains like millet
and many more grow in tropical type climates. Accordingly, inhabitants of extreme or harsher
environments need harder starches for energy to survive, while crops in the tropics do not require
so much density of starch to provide energy needed for its inhabitants to survive.
In the next segment we will touch on the views of renowned scientists on the benefits of starch, especially cassava and many more helpful health tips and secrets.
Source: Amba Kabore-Sharkey