I have written this book, more like booklet and having a hard time finding a suitable publisher in Papua New Guinea. And it has been 3 years now. So I thought, what the heck! I will just publish it on my blog and people can have the information at their finger tips. And with the boom in IT in PNG, people can just download or copy some of the tables and tips that will be provided and use them as their guide while shopping in the supermarkets of Port Moresby or Lae or where ever in PNG. So I will publish one chapter a week on my blog until all the chapters are published. But first the introduction. The rest of the chapters are written in the form of a question, just like how patient would ask me in the consultation room.
So here it is:
How to read food labels: A practical guide for Papua New Guineans.
As Papua New Guinea (PNG) becomes more developed and adopt a more western life-style and diet, diseases that are more prevalent in developed countries are becoming more common in our public and private hospitals and clinics. Diseases that are associated with a western diet and life-style include stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack and diabetes.
These conditions are increasingly becoming more common in our country. We can expect to continue to see more of these conditions as we move from our traditional diet to eating more processed food.
Traditional PNG diet consists of taro, banana, fish, sweet potato, sago and vegetables and
fruits although it varies somewhat from coastal villages to the highlands areas. And food was usually prepared by cooking over an open fire or using clay pots. Occasionally earth ovens were and are still used. Studies done in PNG have shown that this diet is associated with less risk of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In fact, it has been shown in studies that the blood pressure of people on a traditional diet in PNG actually drops as they grow older, compared to a western diet where the blood pressure has been
found to increase with age. In urban areas in PNG however, we buy all our food from the supermarkets and the local markets. As a result, consciously or unconsciously we assume a western type of diet. It is easy to choose from the local market what to buy but choosing to buy healthy food in a supermarket is difficult. Although all processed foods have nutritional information as part of labeling, many people have difficulty understanding the numbers and what they mean.
While counseling my patients, especially diabetic patients, I have found out that there is no resource or information available to my patients to help them read the food labels in the supermarkets to help them make that important decision to buy the right food with the recommended nutritional values. I therefore decided to do my own research and compile data from various sources to provide a simple and practical guide to make healthy food choices in urban PNG. This small booklet is a result of my own frustration in trying to give the correct information to my patients.
We can not change or halt the development progress in PNG but we can choose what we eat. Keeping healthy starts with making healthy food choices. I hope this booklet with help you make that healthy food choice.
Next post: Chapter One. Doc, what information is on a food lable?