Comfort and joy

With Nigerian cuisine made healthy, you can have your fufu and eat it, too.

With dishes such as egusi soup and moimoi (bean pudding), Nigerian cuisine is the epitome of healthy comfort food. Just ask Ronke Edoho, a CPA who is also a certified nutrition and clinical weight-loss specialist. Edoho is the founder of 9jafoodie.com, a popular food blog. Below, Edoho extols the wholesome and weight-shedding virtues of Nigerian dishes.

How would you describe Nigerian cuisine?

Most traditional dishes have two components: a rich stew made from anything from okra to palm fruit, and a fermented starch like fufu (with a cassava base) or amala (with a yam base).

Why focus on healthy Nigerian recipes?

[Following] high school, I gained about 30 pounds in two years. [After leaving Nigeria in 2004,] I landed in Canada and the weight continued to pile on. I thought the only way to lose weight was to cut out African food because I was told you can’t eat carbs and lose weight.

So I started researching African food nutrition, what types of carbs would make sense to eat and why people back home didn’t gain too much weight. I learned what it meant for carbs to be complex or simple, how eating complex carbs was better because I would feel [satisfied] and wouldn’t have to snack all the time. I could eat garri and fufu; it was just about controlling my portions, making sure that I balanced everything that I ate. I saw the weight come off within a few months and my success encouraged me to teach other people about [wholesome] eating on a Nigerian diet.

Nigerian food is one of the highest-satiety diets in the world. High-satiety meals have a lot of complex carbohydrates, not refined carbohydrates — [with the latter] in about an hour, you’re hungry because you haven’t had a lot of fibre. The average Nigerian food hasn’t gone through a lot of processing, so you’re getting all the fibre, which keeps you full for a longer period of time. This makes it perfect for those looking to lose weight.

Besides curbing serving size, how else can one achieve a healthy Nigerian diet?

Traditional African society used frying as a method of food preservation in the absence of refrigeration. Because tradition is hard to break, most people still deep fry and cook stews with generous amounts of oil, even though this is no longer necessary. By replacing deep frying with shallow frying and reducing the amount of oil used, most recipes can be made healthy.

About the Author

Katia Jean Paul


Katia Jean Paul is a freelance writer based in Montreal.

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