Zimbabweans' love for braai costly

HARARE - Fun-loving Zimbabweans’ insatiable appetite for braai with lots of salt is legendary. But health officials are raising the red flag, warning gochi gochi or chisa nyama as some call it is coming at a heavy cost.

The ministry of Health and Child Welfare says one in every four Zimbabweans suffers from high blood pressure and heart disease largely caused by excessive salt intake.

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials who have come up with new guidelines on salt intake to help address non-communicable diseases say Zimbabweans are taking too much salt but not enough potassium.

Under new guidelines to help address non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, WHO says adults should consume less than 2 000 milligrams of sodium (or five grams of salt) and close to three grams of potassium per day.

“Elevated blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke — the number one cause of death and disability globally.

“These guidelines also make recommendations for children over the age of two. This is critical because children with elevated blood pressure often become adults with elevated blood pressure,” said Francesco Branca, director of the department of nutrition for health and development at WHO.

Health experts say sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods including milk, cream and eggs but it is found in much higher amounts in processed foods such as bread, bacon and snacks such as chips as well as in condiments such as soy sauce.

Potassium-rich foods include beans and peas, nuts, vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley and fruits such as bananas, according to local nutritionist Veronica Chikowore.

“Processing reduces the amount of potassium in many food products,” said Chikowore.

WHO is recommending that countries such as Zimbabwe adhere to public health measures such as food and product labelling, awareness campaigns on nutrition and negotiating with food manufacturers to cut the amount of salt in processed foods to reduce sodium consumption while increasing intake of potassium.

The UN agency is also updating guidelines on the intake of fats and sugars associated with obesity and other non-communicable diseases.

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