When delicious chapati lost its special place amid deep gluten concerns intolerance
Once upon a time, chapatis were a remarkable sighting on our plates. The round flatbread made its grand appearance during Christmas holidays. However, at present, this delicacy is on every corner you cast your eyes, be it on the roadsides or in restaurants. In our homes, we prepare it on a whim.
But it is on the street where the popularity of chapatis has taken off tremendously, feeding Kenyans in big numbers. The dough will be pressed down stretched out, fried, and handed to you hot and mostly soft in under 20 minutes.
“Chapatis are my quick fix. I can eat them for supper, breakfast, lunch, all the time actually,” says Tom Ominde, a university student. Ominde and his peers share an intriguing truth - all of them hold an irrational endearment for chapatis.
The university students are not the only lot eating an astonishing number of chapatis- the whole nation is, in fact, chapatis are slowly edging out ugali as a staple if all the street vendors selling the food is anything to go by.
Official data shows that Kenya produces 350,000 tonnes of wheat per year and consumes about 900,000 . The deficit is met by imports from mass-producing countries such as Russia, which remains Kenyan’s biggest supplier accounting for 31 per cent of total wheat imports in 2020/2021.
According to Dr Rose John, a nutritionist, the wheat which is consumed today is different from what our grandparents and ancestors consumed.
Einkorn wheat, which was consumed in the past, had 14 chromosomes whilst the wheat we consume today has 42 chromosomes thus genetically and chemically more complex.
“Based on what I have been seeing, plenty of patients are having a hard time tolerating gluten,” says the nutritionist.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat plants and some grains. It acts like a binder, holding food together. Some people can handle gluten well, whilst for others, consuming gluten can trigger an autoimmune response to gluten called celiac disease.
The nutrition expert offers that being gluten intolerant would cause an individual to experience levels of discomfort such as bloating, nausea, flatulence, constipation diarrhoea and acid reflux.
“The food we eat today has been greatly manipulated through selective breeding to achieve qualities of increased productivity, maturity and improved leavening,” she explains.
John says with the modifications, little attention has been given to this fundamental food class jeopardising quality.
Long-term vegetarian and mindful eater, Stephen Mbuthi shares that steering clear of white foods such as flour, corn maize meal, and sugar could preserve your health in the long run and perhaps spare you some lifestyle ailments.
“There is a reason people are not living as long as our ancestors did and it is because we are eating factory food and overprocessed food,” he says .