Nowadays, Venezuelans not only have a variety of foods at a low cost compared to what their salaries could afford 12 years ago, but they now are accessing more nutritious foods which allows them to consume the minimum amount of calories for a person in a healthy way.
In order to compare the nutrition conditions that existed twelve years ago, we source a study carried out by specialist Elisa Quintana from the Institute of Nutrition and Dietetics of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and published in 2001 in a specialized magazine. In this study, Mrs. Quintana evaluated the consumption of legumes over a five decade period (from 1945 to 1997).
The research concludes that Venezuelans consumed 42 % less legumes during that period, with a significant decline from 1966 on. Legumes in Venezuela include different kinds of beans and peas. The minimum consumption touched a rock bottom of 31 grams a day during the 90’s. At that time, 55 % of Venezuelans consumed legumes.
Rise of Legumes Consumption
The status of legumes consumption, among other foods, had a drastic change in the last twelve years.
Until 1992, the consumption peak was below 35%. After the establishment of the Bolivarian Government and its first measures taken in the agricultural area, it was possible to keep that status. According to figures provided by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), daily legumes consumption started increasing progressively and reached a total of 42.34 grams per capita in the second semester of 2010.
This represents an increase of 8.34 grams per person per day (24.52 %). Additionally, the consumption of black beans has been progressively replaced with other types of legumes, balancing the nutritional value given by other products such as lentils. They have become the new main element in Venezuelans’ diet and reached the status of black beans with a 53 % increase from 2008 to 2010.
Keeping a Healthy and Balanced Diet
Although it is a temptation for some, the consumption of flours and fats predominate in Venezuelan’s meals, though they are the least healthy of foods. Thanks to the policies of the National Institute of Nutrition (INN) over the last 12 years, it has been possible to eliminate the so-called food guide clover which was valid until 1993 and did not contribute positively to the Venezuelan’s diet.
With the design of the “Trompo de los Alimentos” (Spinning Top of the Foods) [See Image at RIGHT], a new way to classify basic food groups was implemented, using this traditional Venezuelan toy. In this new distribution, legumes are given a more important position along with other products.
The Spinning Top is easy to understand and families, schools, people’s cafeterias and all organizations involved in nutrition use it as reference. This system combines each of the food groups and the result is an assorted and balanced food guide. Water consumption and physical activity are included in the spinning top guide as key aspects of achieving excellent health.
In order to have a healthy nutrition that suits the nutritional recommendations for the Venezuelan population, the INN classified foods into groups according to their nutritional value and each of them was given a distinctive color.
Grains, cereals, tubers and legumes are identified in yellow; vegetables and fruits in green; milk, meat and eggs in blue; sugars in gray; fats and vegetable oils in orange and as a complement, the rope of the spinning top represents water and the physical activity which ensures a better quality of life.
The way in which foods are organized in the spinning top is intended to guide the population with respect to a proper and balanced intake of foods. That is to say, is provides a guide for the body to achieve all the nutritional components to improve growth, development and health.
Research shows that Venezuelan families now have more access to products such as chicken, bologna, ham, eggs, beef liver, pork, aside from the usual consumption of beef.
Regarding fish, the consumption of sardines increased (both fresh and canned), as did the consumption of tuna. Milk and dairy products are also more frequent in Venezuelan’s diet, while visible fats (butter and mayonnaise) decreasing. Butter, in particular, had a 4% reduction in its consumption in Venezuelan homes.
Wholesale markets were the main source to buy non-processed foods 12 years ago, followed by the sporadic municipal and people’s markets, and the famous vegetable trucks which offer their products as they drive around the streets.
The big private chains strategically offered processed products as the first option to consumers, leaving unsanitary spaces for the food groups that are considered important nowadays.
Thanks to the creation of the PDVAL and Mercal Network the conditions to acquire foods has changed. Despite the problems caused by a few corrupt administrators and the usual attacks against government-backed social programs, the Bolivarian Revolution is at the vanguard of national efforts to achieve food security and sovereignty by dedicating an exclusive program for sovereign production and sale of the necessary foods.
The network has allowed Venezuelans to acquire the necessary foods for a balanced diet in a cheaper and easier way. The figures provided by the INE regarding the first trimester of 2010 have shown that more than 6,200,000 people buy in the Mercal Network and only around 2,700,000 still endure the old torture of buying in private chains.
Edited by Venezuelanalysis.com