The merry-making season is here and most people are ready to explore more types of food as they celebrate.
It is an open secret that Kenya's middle class is increasingly abandoning traditional and what's perceived to be healthy foods in favour of more Western tastes that have been, over a time, linked to an increase in lifestyle diseases.
Here are some of the foods to avoid this festive season:
These include bacon, sausages, salami, sandwich browns, and hot dogs which have been chemically treated to extend their shelf life. Numerous studies have linked processed meats to diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
In 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat as a carcinogen. The foods have been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer and possibly other types of cancer. In addition, studies have linked processed meats to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
"The current evidence suggests that the more processed meat consumed, the greater the risk of chronic diseases and mortality," Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says.
Even low-fat options are often high in sodium. According to the American Heart Association, six thin slices of deli meat can contain half of the daily recommended level of sodium.
"The majority of people should follow a salt-restricted diet due to the link between sodium and high blood pressure," Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of the Woman's Cardiovascular Health Program at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says.
Experts warn against consuming excess fast-food burgers since they contain saturated fats which are linked to heart diseases.
Dr. Regina Druz, an associate professor of cardiology at Hofstra University and chief of cardiology at St. John Episcopal Hospital in New York City states that saturated fats from animals, especially when combined with carbohydrates, appear to have a deleterious effect on heart health.
According to Dr. Druz, avoiding fast-food restaurants, which tend to use lower quality ingredients and unhealthy cooking methods, is always a smart way to cut back.
Deep fried foods
Several studies have linked fried foods, such as French fries and fried chicken to a higher risk of heart diseases.
Traditional frying methods produce trans fats, a type of fat which raises the risk of developing high cholesterol and heart diseases.
Deep-fried chicken and French fries also raise the risk of obesity and certain types of cancer.
However, French fries are not entirely unhealthy if prepared and consumed correctly, especially when you deep-fry them, bake them in the oven and serve a few with a large salad of vegetables.
"If you're making a veggie stir-fry at home and using olive oil and coconut oil, there's nothing wrong with that," Druz says, adding; "However, what most people think of as typical fried food, the kinds you don't make at home, should definitely be avoided."
Experts now believe that high-sugar diets are just as dangerous, contributing to obesity, inflammation, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart diseases.
"In cardiology, the debate has shifted from saturated fat and cholesterol to sugar," Dr. Druz says, adding; "If there is one ingredient that anyone with heart disease or at risk of heart disease should avoid, it is added sugar in any form."