Healthy Nigeria

Healthy Nigerian Eating

Diet is all the rave this year and since we published this post on weight loss, there have been several questions on Healthy Eating in Nigeria and ways to make Nigerian Recipes healthier.  If we follow the general rule of thumb for a well rounded healthy diet, most recipes can be modified to become “Healthier”. Here are some useful tips

Stews: The way stew is prepared can easily make it one of the worst offenders; the presence of Palm oil and fried meat in most stews is enough to drive calories and fat content overboard.   Simple modification on stews will be:

  • Eliminate the use of Palm oil and replace that with Groundnut oil
  • Replace fried meat with roasted  meat
  • Make use of fresh fish, goat and chicken
  • Add some Ponmon to enhance the “meatyness”

Rice: Rice being a grain is fundamentally healthy, where rice offends on the diet scale is in the use of “white Rice”. White rice can simply be described as “Empty food” as it is nutritionally void; high in carbohydrate and low on essential vitamins.

The simplest modification on rice would be:

  • Replace white rice with Brown rice. Brown rice has 2x the manganese and Phosphorus, 2 -1/2X the iron, 3x the vitamin B3, 4x the vitamin B1, 10x the vitamin B6 and 4X the Fibre (which is essential for keeping you fuller longer)

Soups & Sauces: The basic composition of most soups are similar (earthy broth with meat and fish plus vegetable), again this should be fundamentally healthy but two main factors affect the health composition of most stews and sauces; 1) the use of excessive Oil  2) the presence of excessive high fat proteins. Although most of the calories from protein are healthy; excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and other health risks.

Some modifications for soups will include:

  • Reduce the amount of oil used ( a good trick is to add oil after cooking not prior)
  • Be cautious of the amount of fatty proteins added (cow/ pig meat are huge culprits)
  • Use more goat meat and chicken
  • Use a variety of vegetables for greater health benefits
  • Replace frozen/ dried vegetables with fresh once that are in season

Solids:. Solids are a great source of carbohydrate , the problem with solid consumption comes in the type/amount consumed.  Excessive carbohydrate intake eventually leads to weight gain and other ailments. It is important to note that Carbohydrate is essential; the problem isn’t with carbohydrate itself but the types of carbohydrate. Highly processed sources like white grains are vitamin deficient and encourage excessive eating.

Instead of the popular three solid sources (Garri, pounded yam and corn fufu) , here are excellent alternatives that you can make in your own home with better nutrition:

  • Millet: Millet is high in protein—1/2 cup of cooked millet provides 4.2 grams. It is also rich in niacin, B6, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

-Millet is sold on the market in whole form. Simply mill the grains in a dry mill and prepare it in the same way as semolina

  • Sorghum (Guinea corn): although high in calories, there are good reasons.  One cup of sorghum contains 12.1 g of dietary fiber, 21.7 g of protein, 551 mg of phosphorus, 672 mg of potassium, 53.8 mg of calcium and 8.4 mg of iron.

– sorghum grains is  widely sold on the market as guinea corn; simply mill the grains in a dry mill and prepare it in the same way you will prepare semolina . Go for the darker variety (black or red) for better health benefits

  • Oat Fufu: Oat is high in fiber and has the magical power to remove bad cholesterol from the body. Oat is also a good source of manganese, selenium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium and zinc

-Buy unflavored whole oat, mill and run it through a sieve. Prepare the same way as semolina or Tuo

  • Unripe Plantain Flour: Plantains are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, b-complex vitamins (particularly – B6) and other minerals including potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.

-To make Plantain flour, simply dehydrate (or sun dry) raw unripe plantains, mill and sieve into a powder.  Prepare the same way as semolina(use less water)

  • Milled brown rice: This is another great solid alternative that you can make in your own home;  make use of local ofada rice or brown rice. Brown rice is simply unrefined white rice; it is rich in Selenium, Manganese, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

-simply mill the rice grains  and prepare it in the same way you will prepare semolina or tuo

  • Sweet potato flour: sweet potatoes are low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. They are also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese.

– To make sweet potato flour, Simply dehydrate (or sun dry) raw unpeeled sweet potatoes, mill and sieve into a powder.  Prepare the same way as semolina or amala

Protein: Culturally when we think of protein, we think of meat and fish; we tend to ignore other sources of proteins like soy,  nuts, beans and other legumes. The problem with animal based protein source is the  high fat/cholesterol content which can lead to disease when consumed in large amount.  On the other hand, plant based protein sources are  deficient in one or more essential amino acid. The best option is to combine a variety of plant and animal based protein.

Sample modifications include:

  • Include plant based proteins like soy beans (Tofu especially) and legumes in your diet
  • Always choose lean cuts of meat and poultry

 Other tips

  • Use oil sparingly; the fact that you are using healthy oil doesn’t give you free reign
  • Cook with less salt, the average adult is supposed to consume only half of a teaspoon of salt per day
  • Incorporate side dishes like salads into your diet
  • Have snack time between meals (Eat  a variety of nuts )
  • Always choose less processed foods

The Nigerian Food guide (Adult 19+)*

Here is a helpful breakdown of how much food to eat in each category per day:

Nigerian food guide

Carbohydrate (6-11 servings) = 40%

Sample serving size: 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked rice, ¾ cup of cereal, ½ cup pasta, ½ cup pounded yam

Vegetables and fruits (8-10 servings) = 32%

Sample serving size: ½ cup of peas, ½ cup cooked spinach (efo) or 1 cup raw, 1 medium banana, ½ cup fruit juice, 1 medium mango, 1 large size Guava

Milk and Alternatives (2-3 servings) = 14%

            Sample serving size: 1 cup powdered milk (reconstituted according to package instruction), ½ cup evaporated milk, 1 cup soy milk, ¾ cups yogurt, 50g wara

Protein (2-3 servings) = 14%

Sample serving size: 75g meat or fish, ¾ cup of beans, 150g of wara (Fulani or soy version), 2 eggs, ¼ cup of nut

*men should strive for the higher points on the scale and women should strive for the lower points

* remember that all carbohydrates are not created equal neither are all proteins. Go for whole grains and Lean protein

CLICK HERE FOR  A SAMPLE WEEKLY FOOD TABLE