A leading nutrition expert has urged Nigerians to explore soybeans as a good food source, to alleviate malnutrition and achieve good health.
Professor Ibiyemi Olayiwola, Professor of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), who made this assertion recently, described soybeans as an excellent source of protein, with the added advantage of being affordable. She noted that the benefits of soybeans are often understated in this country.
Speaking on the benefits of consuming soybeans, she said: Soybeans are not only a remarkable source of protein, but they are also a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Adequate proteins are a necessity for infants, children and adolescents as these life stages require high-quality protein, such as from soybeans, to have rapid growths in height and weight.
She added that in the light of the importance of protein for healthy living, there is a need for adequate consumption of soybeans at different stages of life.
The Professor of Food Science explained that proteins are made up of amino acids which are indispensable elements in the diet. She explained that proteins are essential for growth, repairs, replacement of worn-out cells and tissues.
According to Professor Olayiwola, soybeans are a complete protein source, which possess the ability to prevent non-communicable diseases such as protein deficiency, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension, which are growing health burdens in Nigeria. Soybeans have low glycemic index and low trans-fat oil, which are highly beneficial to the human circulatory system.
She posited that increasing protein in the diet is not only beneficial to the mother and child, but to society as a whole. She made reference to the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Survey, a recent survey that examined the level of protein deficiency in Nigeria and shed light on the food consumption pattern among Nigerians. The report indicated 51 per cent of Nigerians do not have adequate protein-rich foods, due to high costs.
Professor Olayiwola stated that consuming an affordable high-quality protein like soybeans, in any of its forms, will gradually mitigate protein deficiency.
She suggested that there should be strategic nutrition advocacy to boost protein consumption, through the integration of soybeans into fast-moving consumer goods lines such as snacks, seasonings, complementary foods and beverages. The promotion of soy-based foods as prophylactic and therapeutic diet is necessary for Nigeria, she insisted.
Professor Olayiwola noted that the campaign for soybeans consumption and utilization must involve stakeholders, indigenous farmers, industrialists, nutritionists and health providers. The use of the media to increase consumption of legumes such as cowpea and soybean by all age groups must showcase Beans for life.
The nutrition expert urged the government to focus on the implementation of the National Food and Nutrition Policy and revitalize other related programmes, to improve the nutritional status of the vulnerable in the country.