Your favourite native dish is being prepared. Now, watch as the intricate process unfolds before your eyes in slow motion.
Do you see the cooking oil hitting the saucepan in all its golden glory? The soft sizzle of the greasy liquid touching the hot metal warms your heart so much so that you are certain: it’s going to be another heavenly meal.
But right as the condiments start diving one after another into the pan, something strange happens.
The combination of a heart-thumping sensation and shortness of breath, sends every thought of hunger flying out the door.
This is a moment Bayo Thompson, lead engineer at a major tech start-up in Lagos, never anticipated. Seated at his workstation, he was only a few seconds into daydreaming about the birthday feast his wife promised to prepare when his chest started throbbing.
He was no stranger to panic attacks – like the one he had only a few months earlier when he accidentally disabled the company’s firewall. But this time, the situation was much worse.
Mr and Mrs Thompson’s visit to the family doctor the next morning brought with it some scary news – his cholesterol levels had gone through the roof! The physician asked what kind of cooking oil they use in preparing their meals and Bayo’s wife told her she uses a popular and powerful vegetable oil (aka Palm Olein) brand famed for its selling point that assures ultimate protection of heart health. It is noteworthy that some brands with unhealthy saturated fat levels deceptively understate it on their product labelling in a brazen attempt that undermines the health of millions of Nigerians. The irony in it is that Nigerians who think they are paying more for healthier oils might end up with unhealthy oils.
The doctor took her time to educate the couple, that even though all edible oils get lumped together as purveyors of cardiovascular diseases, the real culprit is saturated fatty acids (or “bad” fats), which have been proved to be responsible for weight gain, clogged arteries, high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease.
Therefore, it is important to use only cooking oil with the lowest possible saturated fat content.
According to experts, Palm Olein has over 50 percent unhealthy saturated fat and under 50 percent of the “good” unsaturated fats. They maintained that Soya Bean Oil contains 15 percent saturated fats and 65 percent healthy unsaturated fats.
Eugene Nwosu, a consultant cardiologist at United Heart Hospital Victoria Island, Lagos, said high blood pressure is a top trigger of heart attack and stroke, and many move about without a clue that they live with the silent killer.
On top of that woe, many Nigerians have unfettered availability of unhealthy oils in their food supply.
“The culprit is mainly oils that are rich in saturated fat. They should be minimized. People need to understand how to properly read labelling when shopping. The type of oil you eat can affect your cholesterol level, which increases build-up of clogs in the blood vessels. The oil that is good for cooking is the oil that is high in both polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat,” Eugene stated.