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‘Tackle malnutrition by adding soybeans to staples,’ say Nutrition experts

Increasing consumption, insurgency fuel N225bn soybean supply shortfall

Nutrition experts have called for the inclusion of soybean to wheat flour in the production of staples such as bread, pasta and noodles to tackle malnutrition, noting that the intake of Soybean in Nigerian diets is inadequate, noting that Nigeria is the largest Soybean producing country in sub-Sahara Africa.

Nutrition experts stated this while speaking at the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 7 which held on Thursday, December 10, 2020. The webinar was themed: “Nigeria’s Protein Deficiency Challenge: Soybeans To Rescue”.

Josephine Chukwunweike, a nutritionist and a member of the Nutrition Association of Nigeria, stated that children’s(usually between the ages 0 to 5 years) growth is usually dependent on diet and way of life, not solely on genetics; adding that protein is a vital nutrient needed for development, upkeep and repair of all the cells in the human body.

She explained that soybean is a very healthy and cheap source of proteins which should be added in the production of staples. She also urged the government to educate farmers on the appropriate methods in farming to increase production of soybean in the country.

“It consists of more than 36 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates, and excellent amounts of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. It also consists of 20 percent oil, which makes it the most important crop for producing edible oil. A by-product from the oil production (soybean cake) is used as a high-protein animal feed in many countries,” she said.

She explained that soybean is commonly known as large bean, and is from Leguminosae Family, noting that soybean can be used in the production of soymilk, soy cake, tofu and soybean oil. More than 216 million tons of soybean were produced worldwide in 2007, of which 1.5 million were in Africa. Africa imports nearly as much soybean as it produces and exports about 20,000 tons annually. Nigeria is the largest producer of soybean in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), followed by South Africa.

Read also: ‘Nigeria’s food supply not yet at risk over coronavirus’

Another panelist, Charles Nkwoala, a community nutritionist with a specialty in Nutrition Education, said that people cannot go to a shop to buy protein, minerals or vitamins, but food. Soybean is food and very rich in protein, hence whenpeople eat soybean, then a high amount of protein has been consumed.

According to him, soybean should be diversified by creating more products with it. He cited noodles as an example as it is the favourite of most children. He noted that there should be Community Nutrition Education on the benefits of soybean consumption.

The keynote speaker, Ibiyemi Olayiwola, a Professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Bowen University, Iwo Osun State stated that protein deficiency has led to a number of diseases among vulnerable groups such as wasting, stunting and underweight.

Olayiwola noted that protein is needed at the very beginning of life stressing that protein is essential for fetal growth and development, placenta development and production of the amniotic fluid.

She said that, protein is needed at different stages of the life for growth, boost immune system and for energy. The biological value of soybean cannot be overlooked and should be integrated in most of our meals. Protein is the reason that soybeans have historically been called “meat of the field” or “meat without bones. “

She added: “Nutrition experts agreed on RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of at least 0.8g/kg body weight/day that safely and adequately meets the protein need of most healthy persons.”

She encouraged people to be soy-centered by keeping Soybean in the kitchen and consume soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, soy meal, soy flour, and soybean oil daily. She explained that it has 86% net protein utilization.