The Role Of Herbs In Nutrition— herb has its place in nutrition.
I am usually bemused when people: mostly women tell me with disgust how much they hate anything bitter. Usually with a smile on my face but sadness in my heart I attempt to correct the notion by educating them on the place of herbs in nutrition. I have since given up, on the one on one approach (there is no point sharing information with those who don’t need it and haven’t asked) and instead share my little knowledge on this platform: Weaning people off their conditioning is a tough call akin only to convincing people to venture out of their comfort zone– an herculean task I must say.
To understand the place of herbs in nutrition let’s start with defining what nutrition is.
Wikipedia’s definition didn’t cut it compared to this one which captures the essence of nutrition. Note the operative words; preventative and health promotion. In other words if your dietary choices aren’t nourishing and preventing your body from being ravaged by disease then you have totally missed what nutrition is.
From this definition of nutrition we read that there are 6 category of nutrients that must be derived from what we ingest as food. Carbohydrates, fats, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals & water from the dictate of my commonsense approach to nutrition these nutrients should be sourced from nature IE plants.It is quite comforting to know the Earth has the capacity to yield to mankind all that it needs to strive, thrive and survive on this beautiful blue-green planet that we call home.
Non communicable diseases
An expert consultation of WHO/FAO organized in 2002, recognised the role of diet in preventing and controlling morbidity and premature mortality resulting from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Here are some of the factors raised:
The consultation noted that factors such as industrialization, urbanization, economic development and market globalization, all have significant impact on the health and nutritional status of populations, particularly in developing countries.
While standards of living have improved, there have also been significant negative consequences in terms of inappropriate dietary patterns, decreased physical activities and increased tobacco use, and a corresponding increase in diet-related chronic diseases, especially among poor people. you can read the full report here.
Clearly expert organisations are making concerted effort to combat the ills of ncds by engaging communities through educational programs and by formulating policies to help reduce the menace that diet related diseases have become, one of such policies is the use of economic tools (taxes & subsidies) to discourage ‘bad foods’ e.g. sugar sweetened foods and encourage the consumption of healthy foods
At a personal level, onus lies on each individual to take proactive steps by examining their dietary choices and prioritising nourishment over and above ‘sweetness’. Food and beverage need not be sugar sweet to be tasty and nourishing.
Learning the basics
What we eat and do not eat contribute largely to one’s susceptibility to ncds and this is why eating from all food categories and incorporating herbs: alteratives , depuratives anticattaharl etc as part of ones dietary regimen is imperative.
Historically, many NCDs were associated with economic development and were so-called a “diseases of the rich”. Not any longer; low and middle-income nations do now have to deal with the burden of non-communicable diseases 
Poor food choice is majorly a consequence of modern agricultural practices with its heavy use of growth hormones, antibiotics and a host of other synthetic materials in both farming and animal husbandry. It is near impossible to avoid unless you are growing your own food (recommended) It doesn’t end here the harvested crops are further subjected to industrial processes leading to food and beverage devoid of nutrient little wonder people eat with almost no sense of satiety. supplementing with 100% herbal formulas is a good way to work round the problem of nutritional deficiencies
A diet high in acid forming foods exert strain on all bodily systems digestive, respiratory, reproductive, nervous, endocrine, urinary etc. persistent and continued strain on all organs will eventually create inflammation of various type. Wholesome minimally (traditional) processed foods and herbs are your safest and best option to combating the ills that modernization comes with
Now back to nutrient types and food groups
To derive the most nutrient from our food we you should opt always, for minimally processed foods as highly (industrialised) processed foods are devoid of nutrients. Consuming Denatured foods do nothing for your nutrition and harm your overall health in the long term
Bear in mind that food categorization groups overlaps EG beans is generally classified as a source of protein but it is equally rich in carbohydrates of mainly starch and fibre. My point is plant sourced foods are a rich source of more than one category of nutrient which is all the better for nourishment.
Eat local staples
Luckily Here in the tropics what forms most of our daily staples are rich in complex sugars and are categorised mainly as carbohydrates: Elubo, garri, foofoo, lafun, attieke ,yam,eko etc some of these are calorie dense but are equally rich in various nutrients.
So IMO this staples are far more nutritious than any food you may peel out of a wrap or take out of a fancy box so go on enjoy your foofoo or eba with that nourishing ofe nsala or efo riro lace that with a glass of palm-wine a fermented beverage that provides you with gut friendly bacteria The trend to want to eat foreign is pretty absurd and makes no nutritional sense.
Eat a wide range of vegetables spinach(amunututu) soko, tete, efinrin,water leaf (gbure) bitter leaf (ewuro) etc these are rich in fibre as well as minerals so be sure to eat at least a healthy potion of leafy green vegetables once a day at a minimum. You may consider growing some of your vegetables if space is available. In all truth if you grow ornamental plants you very well should/could grow your vegetables: effirin, ugwu, soko, tete etc
Legumes too are rich in fibre,minerals and vitamins. Peas lentils peanuts beans are all good sources of legumes. Beans being the most common variety of legumes can be made into several nutritious meals to provide protein akara, moinmoin (bean cake),hummus, ewa riro (beans and corn porridge) typing all of these makes me hungry, haha! The point of these examples are to show that the most nutritious meals you can have are those that have been subjected to traditional (minimal) food processing methods and not the overtly processed foods that are calorie dense and deficient in nutrient
Fruits, eat these liberally snack on it and have them has desserts they are nutrient dense and low in calorie they are a healthier option to baked foods and sugar laden beverages. Fruits are especially rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are a source of antioxidant, be sure to eat them whole IE with skin eg (mango) and pulp eg (orange).
Fibre is found abundantly in the pulp of fruits and is why you should eat your fruit whole the pulp and pith of citrus fruit are rich in flavonoids
High fibre foods are precursor to a healthy body and mind, yes what you or don’t eat does affect your mental health. The human body is whole system and its maintenance must be holistic for it to function healthily and serve you in the long haul. Locally grown foods such as brown rice (ofada), beans, sweet potato are all high fibrous foods. Citrus fruits are also rich in fibre.
Peanuts, cashew, coconut/ palm oil, wara (feta cheese) are a healthy source of good fat
To summarize this section know that:
1 Plant sourced foods are your best bet in fighting and preventing ncds.
2 Fibrous foods provide satiety, without enough of this satiating macronutrient in your diet, you’ll experience dips in energy, suffer poor digestion: increasing your risk of inflammation.
Medicinal as well as culinary herbs are an integral part of nutrition this is a fact that seems lost on modern man. Herbs has served man for as long as man has been on earth, herbs provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition the preventative properties of herbs is what makes them a necessary part of nutrition. Of all that we consume as food and beverage culinary and medicinal herbs are known to contain the most antioxidant, we all know antioxidants inhibit oxidative damage of the human body. Now a persistent trend that saddens me is how native cultures whose progenitors knew and utilized herbs as food have altogether abandoned this ancient practice of using food as medicine and medicine as food.
We have become so conditioned and our ignorance is palpable which is why I am bemused when I hear utterances such as the one in my opening paragraph. Our foolhardiness is unbounded as we get uppity and deride those who consider herbs as a nutritional factor.
In today’s world sour and bitter foods and beverages are unpopular because the receptors for those taste are lost on us and ‘sugar sweet’ is what everyone craves a sad situation.
Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compound in all plants. Plants developed phytochemicals as a defense mechanism to fight pathogens, insects & herbivores.
Phytonutrients don’t fall under any of the nutrient categories mentioned above (not essential) but they are known to have therapeutic influences on health by stimulating protective enzymes; providing significant protection against chronic diseases. And for this herbs should form an integral part of our nutrition. Below are examples of phytochemicals found in herbs which are beneficial though some are known to be poisonous
Herbs contain potent phytochemicals that provide substantial amounts of flavonoids polyphenolic which have been found to protect cells from oxidative damage and help fight against diseases.
Conventional vs unconventional
Science is not known to support unconventional methods and that is quite understandable, materialistic science has its methodologies and anything that does not fall within the scope of its framework is tagged as nonsense or ‘woohoo’
That a concept or modality cannot be replicated in a lab is not enough to ridicule it and treat it with disdain, as a staunch believer in the potency and efficacy of herbal remedies.
I would like to see medical science come off its high horse and pay attention to the ‘damned facts’ of unconventional modalities e.g. herbal medicines (if a system were truly as useless and inane as men of science would have us believe I doubt it would have hung around for as long as it has, herbs has been used by man for millennia. There has to be something of value to it) Or could it be that the current apparatus of modern medicine isn’t sophisticated enough to pick up the subtlety of medicinal herbs— one wonders!!!
The alarming statistics of ncds deaths are worrisome and science stubbornly sticks to the old narrative and every now and again we are told researches on the efficacy of herbs are inconclusive.
Herbs are effective as medicine because Humans have molecular & biochemical affinities with plants and consequently benefits from the antioxidant properties present in herbs, this high levels of antioxidants present in herbs ameliorates oxidative stress caused by environmental factors.
The intent of this article is not to convince you to use herbs that is something you have to decide for yourself. My primary goal is to share my commonsense approach to nutrition, health & well-being. So go on and do your own research. it is however imperative you keep an open mind whilst at it.
Nutrition isn’t what most think it to be and don’t take my word for it, rather investigate terms such as: fake & real foods, human-microbiome, bacteroides & firmicutes, traditional & industrialised food processing methods. Bear in mind that mainstream scientific information isn’t always factually correct so balance the scale by reading all available information, that is how to arrive at an informed decision especially at a time such as this in human history where FAKE news reigns!
Kick start your research with the links in the reference section they are mostly peer-reviewed studies.
And for those who won’t accept information without biblical reference here read this it may help you see the light (pun intended) and BTW it is ludicrous how Nigerians tend to associate herbal remedies with the devil.
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Finally for wise folks who appreciate and understand the place of herbs; as an integral part of nutrition add this to your list of why bother with herbs, ‘ohun to ba koro lore inu’ Literal translation—human guts or stomach values bitter foods.