The importance of a healthy diet for good health was one of the key messages presented to villagers from Satalo last week at a special seminar and cooking demonstration conducted by Dr. Mona Bayly.
“A poor diet can make you unhealthy,” says Dr. Bayly, “but a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can not only maintain good health but can also prevent people from becoming sick from many common diseases.”
This is especially true of non-communicable or lifestyle diseases such as diabetes (ma‘i suka), hypertension (toto maualuga), heart disease (ma‘i fatu), and some forms of cancer (kanesa).
Dr. Bayly was in Samoa two years ago and when visiting the hospital with an injured friend, was shocked to see the high number of diabetic foot amputees there, some quite young.
When later offered a position at the hospital, her response was to say she would rather work towards stopping people from becoming sick so they don’t need to come to the hospital. “To stop the making of artificial limbs,” she adds.
That non-communicable diseases are preventable is the rationale behind a health promotion campaign currently being implemented by the Tiapapata Art Centre Inc., with support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.
According to the World Health Organisation, of the 56.4 million deaths in 2015, 39.5 million were due to non-communicable diseases. In the Western Pacific, N.C.D.s are responsible for 80 percent of all deaths.
Dr. Mona Bayly was invited to Samoa to share her knowledge not only about the highly nutritious wild and semi-wild foods that are growing in Samoa and not commonly eaten, but more importantly, how these foods can be prepared and cooked into healthy and delicious dishes that can strengthen the immune system and prevent people from getting sick from many diseases.
Moringa oleifera is known in Samoan as tamaligi fua pa‘epa‘e. It is also commonly referred to as the drumstick tree, a name derived from the long tapered seedpods that hang abundantly on a mature tree. While the entire tree is used in many countries, it is the leaves that offer the greatest health benefits. The bright green leaves are rich in many important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin and iron. Compared to the leaves, the pods are generally lower in vitamins and minerals, however, they are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. Moringa is also known as a superfood.
Jackfruit is another superfood although it is the young, immature jack that has the highest nutritional value. Jackfruit is known in Samoa as ulu-initia or Indian breadfruit and while it may resemble a very large breadfruit, it is a much healthier food, packed with protein and loads of other nutrients like Vitamin B and Potassium.
Jackfruit seeds also offer many health benefits. They are rich in thiamin and riboflavin, which help to convert the food you eat into energy and keep eyes, skin and hair healthy. Preparing healthy meals from moringa and jackfruit featured prominently in a workshop held at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa, Nafanua, on Thursday 17 August 2017, and conducted by Dr. Mona Bayly. “Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean and has a similar ecosystem to Samoa, an island in the Pacific Ocean,” Dr. Bayly explained to Dr. Seuseu.
“Many of the trees growing here also grow in Sri Lanka where we use them in cooking.” Some of the wild and semi-wild foods have also been scientifically proven to help with diabetes and cancer. One of the items not commonly consumed is the misiluki banana blossom and the white core found in the lower trunk of the misiluki. “What is interesting is that Samoans know the medicinal value of many of these plants and trees,” stated Galumalemana.
“Vi leaves are known by Samoans to help counter the effects of poisoning, lau togotogo is commonly prepared as a medicinal concoction for children and there are many, many more plants and trees used this way. What Samoans seem to not know is that these plants and trees can be included in recipes to make delicious meals that are packed with nutrients and antioxidants and are also rich in dietary fibre.”
O le Amoga Mamafa -- The Heavy Burden (of non-communicable diseases), is the name of the project currently being implemented in Samoa by the Tiapapata Art Centre Inc.
The project aims to increase awareness of non-communicable diseases, their risk factors and strategies to prevent them among the population of Samoa through the development and distribution of a documentary film, the setting up of two pilot primary school kitchen gardens, and a short television cooking show series featuring Dr. Mona Bayly at work with various community groups.
The cooking show will be co-hosted by Soi Lalovi whose use of humour is well known on Samoan television.