October 27, 2010

Guest Blog: Cola Country

Typical Honduran restaurant plateTypical BBQ restaurant plate

The following is a guest blog from a reader concerned about typical eating habits in Honduras:

Cola Country
by Rudi Kerkmann

The state of health of people is in great part dependent on what they eat or if they exercise. What they eat and drink also to a great extent is dependent on their knowledge of nutrition, their customs, buying power, and will power. Meals need to be balanced with the proper amount of proteins 30%, carbohydrates 40%' and healthy fats 30%. Carbohydrates should be mostly low density vegetables and fruits and some whole grain products. The proteins should be, low fat meat and dairy products, and fish.

How unfortunate it is that in Honduras, often people do not have enough money to buy healthy food and are enticed by relentless advertising to buy food which is unhealthy, processed, and has a great amount of sodium, chemicals, and sugar to prolong their shelf life and make them taste good. This food is imported from many countries in the world. These food chains do not care about customer's health; it is all about increasing their sales and it is all about money.

Hondurans are not used to eating vegetables. I notice that people like to eat fried food and also barbecued meat; both are unhealthy. It is much better to buy healthy fresh food which should include a great deal of vegetables and fruits, instead of processed food.

One time I had to wait near a 'pulperia' in the morning and it was sad to see what people buy for breakfast: a bottle of cola and a bag of sweet bread or chips. Some even bought a carton of orange juice which is also not healthy, as it contains many chemicals and sugar. These people do not know the damage they are doing to themselves or perhaps they do not care about it. It is possible to buy 15 to 20 oranges or more for the price of one litter of cola. Chips have a high content of bad fat and other unhealthy ingredients. I see a lot of chips being eaten in Honduras.

I know that many working Hondurans have the custom to rely for their lunch on restaurant take-out or a food stand nearby and it takes too much money out of their pay check. How much healthier would it be to prepare at home a big bowl of salad with tomatoes, green pepper, onions, etc. with a tablespoon of olive oil and apple or balsamic vinegar, accompanied with a piece of chicken or low fat cheese or fish, no more than two tortillas and perhaps a piece of corn. Always eat a piece of fruit or banana after lunch. Drink water, pure fruit juice, or green tea instead of cola or similar sugary drinks.

We all know already that almost all food served in fast food outlets is unhealthy. The upper and middle class have absolutely no excuse not to eat healthy and should eat more unprocessed vegetables and fruits. The fact that there are many people overweight is proof that they do not eat correctly and do not exercise. I think Hondurans are addicted to cola and soda drinks. It will take a great effort to live healthy so that they become less dependent on drugs and medical services.

Many healthy foods are grown in Honduras. If people insist on drinking colas and eating chips or other processed foods, they will get sick sooner or later. It makes me sad to see people lining up in drug stores to buy medicines for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In most cases, all they need to do is to change their lifestyle by eating differently and exercising. It is much faster and convenient for medical doctors to write out a prescription than to explain how to eat different foods and exercise. Unfortunately these days, medical doctors have been mostly trained to relieve the symptoms, rather than to work towards prevention of illnesses, and many people think there is pill or a surgery for all sicknesses.

Honduras is not able to provide good health care to people who cannot afford private health care. Like in many other countries, Honduras would not have to spend enormous amounts of money on health care if the emphasis would be on prevention rather than on the treatment of sicknesses. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure". Lack of prevention drains the amount of resources which would be better spent on infrastructure, school and factories.

People who eat healthy food and exercise and are very moderate with alcohol consumption, (one glass of wine or equivalent a day, for woman and two for a man is recommended) and do not smoke, will rarely ever become sick. Also, of course, exercise is important. You must walk thirty minutes or, better still, one hour everyday and do some weight lifting three times a week if you have the opportunity. It is never too late to start a healthy life style. Why spend a lot of money on medical services, drugs, etc. when all you have to do is eat healthy and exercise? The total amount of money saved in Honduras, by eliminating unnecessary expenses in health care (by changing their lifestyle) can be used for productive purposes, and would go a long way to make Honduras a better and healthier country.

This article is by no means comprehensive, but rather is meant to inspire you to get more knowledge by reading a health book and articles about health which can be found by searching the internet. If you stay healthy, you do yourself and Honduras a great favour.

About the author:
Rudi Kerkmann is a trilingual full-time pensioner married to a bilingual Honduran woman for more than 30 years. They have lived in Honduras part of each year for the past 10 years and feel that they have fully integrated into the life in Honduras. They would love to see a Honduras more educated towards healthier and simple food habits.

Rudi invites your comments on his article.
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