USSEC Demands Nigerians to Eat More Protein
By Elegbede Abiodun
Worried about the rate of nutrition deficiency propelled by the inadequate consumption of proteins among Nigerians, especially children under-five, experts have seen the need to nip this trend in the bud.
Thus, the United States Soybean Export Council, USSEC, through its one-year nationwide advocacy campaign, Right to Protein, is encouraging Nigerians to include proteinous foods in their daily diets while promoting access to protein-rich food sources for Nigerians.
The campaign further aims to enlighten Nigerians on the fringe benefits of protein-rich foods and the right amount for well-being, healthy growth and development, especially children and pregnant women.
The Country Representative of the USSEC in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Michael David, told journalists in Lagos that the Right to Protein campaign will create awareness to foster behavioural change among individuals.
“Right to Protein is working to bring together individuals and institutions who can help drive protein awareness, debunk myths and misconceptions about protein food sources, and establish its importance as a critical macro-nutrient for the nutritional well-being of people,” says David.
As a stakeholder, he reaffirmed the USSEC’s passion for healthy and productive living, “Hence, our desire to be part of this awareness drive about the importance of protein to sound health and productive living while also promoting access to quality protein sources for Nigerians”.
According to David, the Right to Protein initiative is a response to the growing concern over the lack of protein in the diets of many Nigerians, particularly those in rural areas and underserved communities across the country.
He emphasised: “Protein remains an essential nutrient required in the human body to build and repair tissues, support immune function, and maintain overall health.
“It is expected that the Right to Protein initiative will help to address this issue by providing education about the benefits of protein, promoting the inclusion of protein-rich foods in public feeding programs, and advocating for policies that support increased access to protein sources for all.”
The campaign, the country representative added, will explore ways to bridge the knowledge gap through various engagement activities, resources and partnerships with Nigeria’s top professionals and stakeholders, including nutritionists, chefs, food enthusiasts, influencers, and policymakers to help drive conversations about protein and its importance.
He, however, encouraged everyone to remain committed to working towards a future where protein is accessible to all for a well-rounded development.
The Right to Protein initiative was born following the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020, which estimates that 92.7 million Nigerians do not eat any protein daily.
The survey showed that about half of the country’s population, or 45 per cent are protein deficient as they lack access to sufficient protein and thus do not consume the daily recommended grammage.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO, recommended a minimum per capita daily protein intake of 53.8g, with a global daily intake of 64g. However, in Nigeria, the daily protein intake is 45.4g, the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020 showed.
The survey further points out that Nigeria ranks below the bar in the global food security index with a protein per capita – daily intake lower than the worldwide standard. This is a major burden that requires continuous interventions to combat and reduce the nutrition crisis in Nigeria.
It shows that “Despite its availability, only 47 per cent of the population prefers beans, 24 per cent prefers soya beans, 11 per cent prefers meat, 10 per cent prefers fish, and only five per cent prefers eggs as their source of protein”.
With the survey, the Chief Operating Officer of Mediacraft Associates, Laura Oloyede, cautioned that protein deficiency is more prevalent in the Northeast and lower socio-economic status.
She outlined: “That’s a situation where we have to educate people about the adequate consumption of better nutrition.”
The COO insisted that the Right to Protein campaign will bring people up to date with the types of available protein sources, especially plant protein, which is considerably more pocket-friendly than animal foods.
Hinting at some age-long practices in most Nigerian homes, the Associate Director of Mediacraft Associates, Melvin Awolowo, bemoaned that it is mostly the adults that get the big chunk of protein like fish and meat when food is served while children get the small pieces.
“The advocacy is to change this narrative and consume protein according to our body needs,” he notes.