Lusaka (Tuesday, 1st March, 2022), Poor dietary habits and all forms of malnutrition are endemic in many parts of Zambia and pose a real threat to the well-being of the local population. Most recently, the country has seen a steady increase in obesity and nutrition related non-communicable diseases such as; type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and some forms of cancer. There is a strong relationship between these emerging challenges and poor dietary habits. In a typical Zambian household, the classic staple diet is predominantly refined maize meal (especially in the form of nshima) which is consumed with very little else; therefore limited dietary diversity.

At the same time, the country is undergoing a nutritional transition with a shift from predominantly unprocessed traditional foods such as wild and locally produced fruit and vegetables, roots and tubers, nuts and seeds to a diet consisting mainly of ultra-processed food and drinks; especially in the urban and peri-urban areas. Foods made from ultra-processed ingredients such meat pies, pizza, fried potato chips, shawarma, burgers to mention a few are high in sugar, salt and fats/oils and very low in dietary fibre thus increases the risk of nutrition related diseases.

The Commission cautions the public to limit the intake of such foods and instead regularly consume minimally processed foods. For example, while edible traditional seasonal foods are still available, it is time to preserve and store these foods in order to access them in the period of the year when they will not be available. The potential of traditional Zambian foods to alleviate all forms of malnutrition has been neglected. Foods such as edible mushrooms, edible insects (inswa, crickets, nshonkonono, caterpillars) and different indigenous vegetables are not only more affordable but have a high nutrient value and can protect against a number of diseases.

For instance, it’s been proven that edible insects are rich in proteins and oils that are essential for the growth and development of infants, young children, women and adults. Apart from that, they also contain minerals such as iron which prevents anemia in children and women of reproductive age, Zinc for a healthy immune and reproductive system, and vitamins B1 and B2 for efficient functioning of bodily processes as well as dietary fibre which is significant for a healthy digestive system. Equally, mushrooms are rich in vitamins B and D, have cancer fighting properties, are immune boosters and help to lower cholesterol in the body. Caterpillars too are highly pronounced to be rich in proteins.

These foods must be preserved and stored correctly if they are to provide the above mentioned nutritional benefits and avoid the negative effects of contaminations by mycotoxins such as aflatoxins when poorly grown, preserved and stored.


Nutrition Education and Communication Unit

National Food and Nutrition Commission

P.O. Box 32669, Lusaka

Tel: +260 211 227 803