Food in Nigeria are diverse and exciting. They are often unrefined natural foods, rich in dietary fibers, low GI carbohydrates and a wide range of highly nutritious and vitamin rich combination.
When people talk about foods eaten in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, they tend to forget that items highly sought after in Western countries like cassava, yams, plantain, palm oil, coconut and coconut oils, Nigerian brown beans, and rice do not grow in the West.
Most of these items come in from Africa, Asia and South America, yet they make up the bulk of Nigerian and African foods.
What about those tropical fruits like oranges, tangerines, mangoes, pawpaw, African bread fruit, banana, African bush mango, carrots, to name but a few, these are everyday food items that make up the Nigerian food dish.
Nigeria is mainly a English speaking population. However, there is a simplified form of Nigerian coined English known as pidgin English (primary English lexicon).
Nigeria has over 500 languages, 200 dialects and ethnic groups. The ethnic groups have foods that is Indigenous to them and that’s what makes them unique.
The major food eaten in Nigeria is Jollof rice. Its quite tasty and popular.
Most tourists or guests who come into the country usually have a taste of this delicacy, its a delicious meal prepared with rice.
The major languages/ethnic groups we have in Nigeria are:
- The Yoruba
- The Hausa and Fulani
- The Igbo
- The Edo
- The Ibibios/Annag/Efik
- The Ijaws.
The Hausas or Fulanis usually eat Tuwo which is made up of two types: Tuwo masara made from cornflour and Tuwo shinkafa made from rice flour. It can be eaten with any soup but it’s mostly eaten with Okro.
The Igbos usually eat Akpu, which is made out of cassava and eaten with different soups. They include Onugbu soup also known as bitter leaf soup, Oha soup and Egusi soup.
The Edos eat pounded yam. This type of yam is cooked and pounded until it becomes smooth.
It is usually eaten with different soups but mainly Ogbono soup or Black soup.
The Ibibios/Annang/Effik eat pounded yam, Eba or Fufu with soups like Afang and Edikainkong.
The ijaws eat pounded yam, starch with Banga and Achii soups.
Why Nigerian Foods
For Nigerians in Nigeria, it is obvious that we will continue to enjoy the delicacies of our inheritance, with it’s attendant health benefits.
We need to be confident that well prepared African food, be it Nigerian or Ghanaian, or Zimbabwean, is rich in nutrients and constitutes a very balanced source of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, minerals, and essential vitamins.
For the Nigerian in diaspora, and even more so for their offspring born abroad and living in the West, it is important that they do not relegate their Nigerian food dishes to the background, in favour of Western diets.
This is strictly for health and nutritional reasons. Medical evidence abounds that the unrefined African food is superior in helping to maintain good health.
Below are evidence based scientific reasons why you should regularly include Nigerian food items in your menu if you can.
We shall discuss a few of the African food items that make up a typical Nigerian food dish.
Plantain is a component of many Nigerian food recipe, like plantain porridge, dodo and rice, plantain fufu, epuoruo, boiled plantain and pepper soup serving, and more.
This is eaten regularly across Southern, Eastern and Western Nigeria.
It has been shown to be rich in low GI carbohydrate (good for weight loss diet, and for diabetic patients) that helps in ensuring a slow release of energy over extended period of time.
More recently, it has been demonstrated in many studies to be rich in soluble plant fibres that helps protects the gut against many infections, and even against Crohn’s disease (Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal, 2010 – nature.com).
If you suffer with Crohns disease, try plantain in your diet for six months and see how it will help.
Cassava is almost “ominipresent” in Africa and certainly in Nigeria.
From it comes a vast range of Nigerian food recipes like gari, eba, lafun, tapioca, cassava dough, cassava fufu, boiled cassava meal, starch served with banga soup, cassava chips, cassava based bread, …Cassava is world acclaimed to be gluten free.
It is a good substitution for bread, and wheat products, in the diet of those who suffer with coeliac disease, and other related gluten “enteropathies”.
It is also very rich in dietary fibre, and it is again a low GI carbohydrate. It is superior to potatoes, wheat, and rice in this regard.
3. Bitter leaf
Bitter leaf is simply the leaf of the plant called Vernonia amygdaline.
It is proven to be very rich in phytochemicals that protects the body against various cancers and help in the treatment of liver cancer in particular.
A few years ago, a UK journal carried the following heading, “A diet Rich In Phytochemicals Offers Best Anticancer Effects”, showing that this often ignored Nigerian vegetable has yet untapped potentials (Journal – Oncology Times: 25 September 2005 – Volume 27 – Issue 18 – p 36-37).
Time and space will fail us if we were to list other components of Nigerian food items like Ogbono that is shown to be very good weight loss agent, as well as a good aphrodisiac (sexual enhancing agent).
Palm oil, that is now recognized to offer protect from heart attacks, Nigerian honey beans, yam, cocoyam that are now finding place in many western diets.
Nigerian honey beans for example is a uniquely sweet beans, that if you taste it once, you will never touch baked beans again or any type of beans.