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Local 108-year-old swears by traditional food

Modern food is not friendly to black people who are now facing a great health threat because they have moved away from more traditional nutrition, according to Flagstaff’s ‘oldest’ resident.

This is the opinion of 108-year-old Mngwevu Sohadi, who still favours the vegetables and foods he grew up with.

It’s a chilly Monday morning, with fine drizzle falling. And like on most other days the old man is seated on his couch, waiting to be served his first meal of the day – a yellow mealie meal porridge prepared using a traditional maize grinder.

As Mngwevu accepts the steamy bowl from his daughter he commented “This is what I prefer. I always ask my daughter to buy this kind of mealie meal. If I was still younger I would have used my own maize grinder, but at least this one is not soft like the mealie meal we buy from the supermarkets.  The food that is available for consumption nowadays is too soft. And it makes us soft.”

Sohadi is the oldest resident of Mketengeni Village in Flagstaff. He spent most of his youth working in sugar cane fields in Kwa-Zulu Natal before getting married. His wife passed on in 2005 leaving him with his five children – whom four of them now work in other provinces. His youngest daughter Nokuvela prepares all his favourite traditional dishes for him.

Traditional food

Mngwevu firmly believes that what people eat has an impact on their health, with most people suffering from chronic illnesses that are a direct result of poor nutrition.

“Growing up eating traditional food and then changing over to these soft processed foods has confused our bodies and they are reacting in a bad way.  Back then our meals comprised of starch and vegetables like weed (unomdlomboyi), blackjack (umhlabangubo), wild spinach (irhwabe), certain kinds of pumpkins (usolontsi, Umxoxozi), mushrooms (ikhowa) and wild fruit. Meat was eaten occasionally when we caught wild animals while grazing, and sometimes pork. Most meals were prepared using a traditional grinding stone and maize grinder such as a mixture of ground up mielies and weed (isigwampa) and mielie bread during the harvest season.  Babies were often breastfed after six months the mother would grind mielies, boil them and grind them down to be soft and then serve it with goat or cow’s milk.”

Mngwevu farms his own chickens for food, as he does not like the soft chicken sold in supermarkets. His favourite meal is samp and beans (umngqusho) with melted pork fat.

Mpho Tshukudu, a nutritionist, did a comparison of the that was eaten more than a hundred years ago and compared it with the food commonly eaten now.

“People in the olden days were small-scale farmers and they produced their own food. They ate in season, the food was not processed and as there were no manufacturers and so they controlled and knew what they ate.  Their fruit and vegetables ripened naturally,” she said.

She said nowadays fruit is often ripened in storage, and fruit that has not ripened properly may affect digestion and lead to other medical conditions. She said people did not generally overeat because planting and growing food was hard work and not as easy as walking through a supermarket and piling up a trolley.

“Food used to be high in fibre and nutrients and was wholesome. Now, processed foods are low in fibre and high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, calories and preservatives.  Food is often fried in vegetable oils and is high in trans-fats,” Tshukudu explained. – Health-e News.

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