Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are some of the health benefits one can derive from consuming island foods?
Consuming island foods provides protection against many nutritionally-related diseases including: diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, vitamin A deficiency, and anemia. For optimum health it is important to follow healthy lifestyles with sufficient exercise; avoiding tobacco, betel nut, and alcohol; drinking sufficient water; and avoiding excesses of fat, sugar, and salt-containing foods.
What are some examples of the island foods of Pohnpei?
Banana, breadfruit, yam, giant swamp taro, other root crops, pandanus and coconut are the main staple foods of Pohnpei. These have been traditionally eaten along with fish and other seafoods and meats, with fruits and some other foods like sugar cane eaten as snacks between meals.
There are many different varieties of the local staple foods. Names for 171 yam, 133 breadfruit, 50 banana, over 40 giant swamp taro varieties and more than 21 pandanus varieties have been documented. A full list of the Pohnpei island foods presenting local, English, and scientific names is presently being prepared.
What is the best infant food?
Breastmilk for infants is also an important island food. Mothers are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months, giving nothing else…no water, coconut, or any other milk or food… and then to start complementary local foods and to continue breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.
Why do we want to promote island food?
A greater production and consumption of locally grown Pohnpei island food would lead to important CHEEF (CULTURE, HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY and FOOD SECURITY) benefits meaning preservation of Pohnpeian culture, improved health, protecting environment, income generation, savings, food security.
What are the health problems related to the present diet and lifestyles in Pohnpei?
Diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers are serious nutritionally-related health problems in Pohnpei. These problems emerged, following the shift from traditional island foods to imported foods. Over half of Pohnpei children have vitamin A deficiency, increasing risk to infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, skin infections, pneumonia, and poor eyesight. This problem emerged in the late 1980s, and is also related to the shift towards imported foods. Anemia, or weak blood, is particularly common among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women and is related to the diet and parasitic infections.
What are some of the best local foods to eat?
Yellow-fleshed banana varieties like Utin Iap, Utimwas, Karat, Mangat, Ihpali, Iemwahn,Utiak, Karat en Iap, Taiwang, Peleu, Akadahn, Akadahn Weitahta, Kudud, and Utin Kerenis, and yellow-fleshed varieties of giant swamp taro like Smihden, Mwahng Medel, Mwahng Tekatek Weitahta, yellow-fleshed Mei Kole breadfruit, and deep yellow-colored pandanus are particularly nutrient-rich in provitamin A carotenoids, the substances that are changed into vitamin A in the body. But even the white-fleshed contain more of these than rice, which contains…. NONE!!
Some of the varieties are particularly rich with vitamins and minerals. Karat contains significant levels of riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (another B vitamin), and alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E). Smihden and other giant swamp taro contain valuable amounts of the essential minerals zinc, iron, and calcium.
Special counseling sessions and food demonstrations can be arranged with: Pohnpei Department of Health and College of Micronesia-FSM, Land Grant.
What do we mean by food security?
Food security refers to having sufficient nutrient-rich food to provide good health. We need to do something to help reverse the trend towards consumption of imported food and to make use of the locally grown island foods that we have.
What are the economic benefits of island foods?
Presently large sums of money are being spent annually by Pohnpeians on imported foods, which often could be replaced by a locally grown food or food product. There is also the potential for developing niche crop products for Pohnpei island foods for the local or export market.
What is the role of island food in preserving the important parts of our culture?
Food is a basic part of our culture. When we promote our island foods, we are also promoting the traditional Pohnpei farming system, which includes mixed cropping in the agroforest production system.
Where can we get planting materials, for example for Karat?
Arrangements can be made with Pohnpei Agriculture and with the College of Micronesia-FSM Land Grant extension agents. A group of Pohnpei banana growers is now being assisted for producing planting material for Karat and other rare bananas.
Where can we get recipes for using local food?
See the recipes under Publications. Contact local food specialists at the College of Micronesia-FSM Land Grant, College of Micronesia-FSM Pohnpei Campus Hotel Restaurant Management, and Pohnpei Department of Health Nutrition Unit at the Public Health division.
How can we prepare our island foods in a healthy way?
Locally grown island foods are very rich in the nutrients that we need to stay healthy. But foods that have a lot of fat, sugar, and salt are less healthy. It is best to prepare local island food with no or a very minimum additives (fat, sugar, and salt). AVOID DEEP FRYING in shortening. Remember frying add extra fat. Virgin coconut oil is recommended.
How do we know that Pohnpei foods are healthy and rich in nutrients?
Many samples of Pohnpei foods have now been taken for analysis in overseas laboratories, including those in Fiji, Switzerland, United States, and Australia. Many of the results have also been published, see Kaselehlie Press news articles on banana, giant swamp taro, fish liver, and the scientific papers.
Foods in Pohnpei are most all grown organically, without use of fertilizer and pesticides, and therefore should be more healthy to eat.
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