Healthy eating the way to solve NCD issues

Thursday December 07, 2017 Published in Letters to the Editor

Thomas Wynne spoke some weeks ago about changing our diets to increase our health.


He looked at our use of bread in all our food as a culprit towards our rating of the most obese nation in the world.

The high level of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in our nation, especially diabetes, is caused by too much sugar rather than too much bread.

Because our bakeries don’t add sugar to the bread they make, bread is the lowest contributor to our sugar intake. However, there is plenty of sugar in all those toppings we add to sandwiches, including sauces, mayonnaise and fatty meats. These are the foods that contribute to so many people having NCDs, or what I prefer to call “EGD” - Early Grave Disease.

Before the arrival of the missionaries and up to the time we became independent in free association with New Zealand, I believe we were a very healthy nation.

In 1970, for instance, studies of our peoples’ health showed no incidences of diabetes or other NCDs. This means that during our independence years we changed our eating habits from consuming fresh home-grown foods, to eating canned goods with high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives.

When the missionaries arrived our tupuna (ancestors) were eating organic produce straight off the trees, straight out of the ground, straight out of the lagoon and putting it into an umu to steam.

But we were told we had unrefined palates as our food tasted bland to the missionaries. So they introduced fats, and sugars, spices and salty foods into our cooking and with the advent of increased exposure to trading with other countries and advances towards easier lifestyle office jobs, our people embraced the easy life of easy food and are now in a continuous cycle of diabetes. Years later, the Europeans come here asking us to serve them organic and steamed healthy food!

In order to save ourselves we need to get back to how we used to live and eat. Not all of us can tend gardens everyday but our Agriculture ministry can encourage organic growing to feed the domestic market here in Cook Islands, making organic produce available so people can improve their health. Nu was the drink of choice before the arrival of the Europeans, now it is soft drink, fizzy drinks and power drinks, the consumption of which come with devastating consequences.

We have all we need in our back yard, we can save ourselves from NCDs and an early grave by going back to the basic lifestyles we lived before independence. We don’t have to stop everything all the time, because a special treat once a week or fortnight is not harmful. It is having the “treats” every day that is destroying our health and sending us to an early grave. Remember, “ Sugar Treats every day equals an Early Grave!”

People from other countries think we are lucky to be so close to an abundance of nu that is the “new” drink of choice by the rich and famous, and all the fresh fruit that grows around us. But instead, many of us eat lollies and cakes more than fresh fruit and veges.

Try swapping fizzy drinks for water or nu, try swapping cakes and lollies for paw paw and coconut. Let’s get back our health by getting back to the food of the gods, growing right here in paradise.

            Ruta Tangiiau Mave

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