Let me shout it from the rooftop , NIGERIAN DIET IS ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST IN THE WORLD.
Western mainstream media is finally catching on to things we have done for hundreds of years, things like “meal prep” and “food fermentation”. Meal prep isn’t a new idea and it’s definitely not new to the Nigerian kitchen, I haven’t met a Nigerian who grew up in a household that didn’t “meal prep”. You see when mummy cooked pot of stew, soup etc on Saturday to store in the fridge, that is meal prepping. Planning meals ahead is the foundation of meal prep, It doesn’t have to be individually portioned into bowls. Meal prepping is the foundation of a healthy diet, when you plan your meals ahead, you are less likely to eat junk. Also our traditional diet are founded in healthy whole foods; think rich stews and soups, fermented whole grains and lots of herbal drinks for proper gut health.
One might be curious as to why obesity and conditions like diabetes are on the rise in Africa then. The problem lies in the rise of modern middle class luxuries coupled with improper nutrition education on non traditional imports. With modern lifestyle come modern problems. If we want to enjoy the luxuries of food processor peeled beans, machine pounded yam, mass farmed agric products and modern transportation, we cannot eat the same quantity our forefathers did but. We need to modify our traditional recipes to properly account for other luxuries we enjoy or we drastically reduce our portions.
How To Modify For Better Health
The modern modifications required to balance traditional recipes and modern lifestyle is one of the main reasons I wrote my healthy eating and weightloss cookbook Lose It Nigerian, the book showcases simple ways to modify traditional Nigerian recipes at a much lower caloric point while retaining the ability to consume portion required to actual feel and remain full.
There are some traditional cooking techniques that served a purpose years ago. Deep frying was a method of quick food preservation without refrigeration. A well fried stew will last for weeks at room temperature. This is also true for meat, our grandparents fried meat because it made it last longer. With refrigeration and increased access to fresh raw ingredients, there is no reason why we should continue to deep fry as much as they did.
Swallow is a generic name for carbohydrate that often accompanies most Nigerian soups. Typical examples are fufu, garri and amala.
If you are trying to eat clean or lose weight on a Nigerian diet, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy swallows. These foods are often very nutritious and serve great purpose in overall cardiovascular and gut health. The best options are often fermented in whole form. Think fufu, amala, garri, lafun etc.
I was shocked when I was asked where to buy “Wheat Swallow” recently, wheat? apparently it’s being marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional swallows. This unfortunately is false. The problem isn’t with the grain itself but with the process. traditional african swallows are great sources of carbohydrate, through process of fermentation additional protein and gut healthy microbes are introduced. By simply milling whole wheat into powder, an obscene amount of carb is cramped together and the direct consumption will spike blood sugar levels. Continuous exposure will eventually lead to ailments like diabetes. Wheat has its place in making pastry, not alongside okra soup as swallow. I think it’s also important to note that wheat and oat are not same. Plain oat like quaker can be made into high-fiber swallow which is healthy.
The critical point to be mindful of on traditional swallow is the serving size. Because most swallow are carbohydrate dense, always aim for a fist size serving or about 1/3 cup if using dried ingredient like garri and elubo. 1/3 cup will typically yield 2-3 servings of carbohydrate, the average healthy adult is supposed to consume around 7-10 servings of total carbohydrate per day.
5 Healthy Swallow Choices
A byproduct of fermented cassava. By itself, cassava is a great source of carbohydrate yielding about 159 calories and 38g of carbohydrate in 100g. By fermenting and processing cassava into garri, some of the carbohydrate is converted to protein. Also, the water absorbability of cassava is drastically increased through processing which makes it a high satiety choice. The average healthy adult should aim for 1/3 cup per meal.
Now I am calling this elubo and not yam powder because I don’t want anyone to get confused. Yam powder/flour is one of the worst things you can eat whether you are trying to lose weight or not. It’s often filled with other fillers like potato powder and chemicals; it also has high calories and carbohydrate per portion . Because the yam hasn’t gone through any nutrition enhancing process, water absorbability is very low. Because such large amount of carbohydrate is packed into very small volume, the impact on your blood sugar is high. This is why you might feel very lethargic shorty after eating yam flour.
Elubo on the other hand even though a byproduct of yam goes through extended fermentation. This process again introduces amazing microbes, increases water absorbability when reconstituted and protein content is also increased
Fufu, Pupuru and Amala Lafun
These are is all byproducts of fermented cassava and excellent choices due to the added health benefits of fermentation as stated previously for garri and elubo.
Whole Grain Swallow
Pick any whole grain product that you like – brown rice, whole millet, guinea corn (oka-baba), fonio (acha) etc. You can turn all these options into swallow, all you need to do is ferment then in water for about 4 days and then blend into a thick paste. Cook the paste as you would semolina (mix a little with water, bring a pot of water to a boil and stir in the mix. continue to stir until thickened). Whole grains come with amazing health benefits and are often high satiety due to high fiber content
Fresh Plantain Fufu
Plantains are good healthy food, but you do have to keep in mind that they are high in calories. The average medium size plantain (200g peeled) has about 244 calories and 58grams of carbohydrate. Here is how to turn fresh plantain into Fufu.
Eat traditional swallows in prescribed portions and AVOID wheat and poundo powder at all cost. Trying to lose weight or simply cook healthier meals for your family, download a copy of my health Nigerian recipes cookbook Lose It Nigerian. it has over 50 healthy Nigerian recipes.