Nigerian foods are known for their highly intense aromas and spicy flavors. As you probably know, lots of Nigerian cuisines tend to contain a large proportion of lean meats, vegetables, and whole meats, and these ingredients contain some healthy nutrients for the human body. Little wonder why even non-Nigerians are becoming obsessed with Nigerian dishes. Of course, they are tasty and also offer ample health benefits.
Which Nigerian foods are safe for consumption? Here are some healthy Nigerian dishes to consider:
- Egusi Soup
- Okro Soup
- Plantain Pottage
- Oha Soup
- Moin Moin, etc.
However, based on one’s medical history, certain foods may not be safe to consume. So for your needs, we have highlighted ten popular Nigerian foods that impact your health positively.
10 Popular Nigerian Foods and their Health Benefits
Edikang Ikong, alternatively referred to as vegetable soup, is a traditional Nigerian soup that is full of fresh vegetables. This soup is native to the Efiks who can be found in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states of the country. The soup is made primarily of pumpkin, tomatoes, and onions.
Regularly consuming fresh vegetables such as those found in Edikang Ikong, according to Harvard School of Public Health, can reduce the risk of stroke, certain cancers, and digestive system problems.
ALSO READ: Is Oha Soup Good for a Pregnant Woman?
Egusi is a popular West African dish that takes its name from the seeds of plants like melons, gourds, and squash. After these seeds are dried and grounded, they become a major ingredient for making Egusi soup. The soup is usually eaten with pounded yam though it can be eaten with other swallows.
A bowl of regular Nigerian Egusi soup is prepared with grounded melon seeds, vegetables of different kinds as well as goat, beef, fish, or shellfish.
Some of the health benefits of Egusi soup include:
- Skin Improvement as it contains antioxidant properties that help to fight aging and slows down the aging process.
- Appetite improvement.
- Aids digestion—bowel movement is made more comfortable after eating a sumptuous meal of Egusi soup.
- Prevention of malnutrition as Egusi soup keeps you nourished due to the different ingredients used in preparing it.
- Maintaining good heart condition—Egusi contains unsaturated fat that is good for the heart. This helps significantly in reducing the risk of heart diseases by ensuring blood cholesterol levels are balanced.
An easy-to-make meal, plantain pottage is very healthy and delicious. It contains essential nutrients like carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A and B6, very rich in fiber amongst others.
Some of the health benefits of plantain Pottage include:
- Provides the body with adequate energy
- Controls blood sugar and prevents anemia.
- Aids digestion.
- Boosts the immune system.
Ofada Rice, also called unpolished rice, is a major staple food in Nigeria, particularly in the southern part of the country. It’s sometimes also called brown rice as it retains the natural state of rice without any genetic modification.
Nutrition experts have tipped Ofada rice as a perfect alternative to white rice. More so, this rice retains the majority of its nutrients, unlike the white rice, which loses it as a result of it being polished. The rice can be used to prepare dishes such as rice and stew, Jollof, and rice with pepper soup.
ALSO READ: How is Afang Soup Prepared?
Moin moin is a popular Nigerian cuisine—usually prepared by mixing grounded beans with onions, oil, peppers, and other spices. It is rich in protein and other nutrients.
In some instances, sardine, fish, egg, and beef are usually added to make moin moin more appetizing. It is wrapped in a leaf called Ewe eran leaves or sometimes in cups. Many Nigerians love eating moin moin as it is very delicious, filling, and a very healthy Nigerian food.
On health benefits, moin moin is an excellent source of folate. According to studies, folate is one of the B-vitamins the body strongly relies on to produce white and red blood cells in the bone marrow. More so, folic acid is very important in the body as it greatly helps in stimulating the production of RNA and DNA as well as converting carbohydrates into energy.
When the body is undergoing rapid growth such as infancy, pregnancy, adolescence, etc. folate is found to be essential during these critical periods. It also shields pregnant women against miscarriage and reduces the risk of congenital disabilities as well as congenital deformities.
This soup is a delicious food in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. It is prepared with okra—palm oil, goat meat, fish, shrimps, and African spices all simmered to mouthwatering perfection.
Okro has many health benefits such as: supporting improvement in coronary and cardiovascular heart diseases and even some types of cancer. Okro also helps in improving eyesight and is a highly nutritious source of protein. It also contains several minerals and vitamins as well as dietary fiber.
Also known as African breadfruit, ukwa is a very nutritious meal that could help in building one’s immune system. It can be consumed in baked, cooked, or fried form. Its leaves, latex, and root are used to make medicine for back pain, fever, high blood pressure, gout, asthma, liver disease, arthritis, and toothaches.
Ogbono, which is the Igbo name for bush mango seeds, is also called apon in Yoruba (South-West Nigeria). It is known to be a very rich source of iron, protein, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, amino acids, sodium, and phosphorus.
Ogbono soup is known to help lower cholesterol and increase gastrointestinal activities.
ALSO READ: 10 African Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
Utazi belongs to the class of medicinal plants that are highly beneficial in preventing as well as treating specific ailments and diseases that are detrimental to human health. It is majorly used as a spice or vegetable to garnish local delicacies—such as abacha (African Salad), Nkwobi, Isiewu, Ofe nsala (white soup), etc., due to its very sharp bitter and sweet taste.
Utazi helps in the treatment of loss of appetite, stomach-ache, constipation, and intestinal worms. It also helps reduce high blood pressure and blood sugar levels in hypertensive and diabetic patients. More so, the medicinal plant is said to be effective in the treatment abdominal pain and the womb after childbirth. It is also used to treat malaria, wheezing, asthmatic attacks as well as to relieve cough.
Popularly known as gbure in Yoruba, mgbolodi in Igbo, and alenyruwa in Hausa, waterleaf is eaten as a vegetable in Nigeria. It is used in preparing different dishes such as vegetable soup, afang soup, ofe mgbolodi, etc. Waterleaf is specially recommended for pregnant women as it helps to boost the blood level and also prevent anemia. It also helps to strengthen bones and teeth.
Another health benefit of waterleaf is that it helps to lower cholesterol and clear bilirubin from the blood, thus improving the red blood cells to function more effectively.
So, here are some of the popular Nigerian dishes that can impact your health positively. While these foods can be good for your health, ensure you check with your doctor to know if your medical history permits you to consume these foods. Also, you want to be careful with the ingredients you use to prepare them as some may not be good for you based on your condition, say diabetic, asthmatic, pregnancy, etc. Always seek advice from a certified nutritionist.