“All the pounded yam that I am eating makes me fat. Please can you provide more varieties of food apart from swallows because I am getting fat.”
“Are you sure you are eating Nigerian food over there? You are so skinny please share the recipes for all those Spanish foods with us.”
“I ate too much yam pepper soup while I was nursing my baby, now my stomach is so big I need to be eating only vegetables. Nigerian food is not helping my case.”
“The doctor said that we should not eat Nigerian food anymore because it makes us sick. It’s filled with oils and fufu.”
These are a few comments and questions that come through my inbox. You can see that one thing is common in all these statements and questions: Nigerian food is the culprit when people find themselves packing on extra weight.
The information online does not help matters either. All these wrong information about Nigerian food and African food in general that are online come from people that know absolutely nothing about African food.
To clear something up first … LOL
I am on a 100% Nigerian food diet. Save for the odd pizza, burger and Chinese food here and there, I always eat Nigerian food (save for the periods I go offshore). In fact take out that Chinese food because I have not had Chinese food this year at all so that does not count.
That said, I will try to answer the question “Does Nigerian food make you fat?” using my own story.
Nigerian food does not make me fat. If it did, I will be filled up in the relevant places 😉 for those fish tail skirts and double wrappers. 😀
So why does Nigerian food NOT make me fat?
Growing up, I was such a picky eater. I still am. My pickiness is on another level. I love Jollof Rice but sometimes I would be very hungry and if Jollof Rice is the only meal available but it is not “hungrying” me at that point, I would rather continue in my hunger than eat Jollof Rice.
My Mum would prepare Beans Porridge with lots of senreren going on, adding all sorts of ingredients to impress me to eat. Rather than draw be close to beans, all that would make me run even farther. The foods that I do not eat at all made a very loooooong list. And the meals I did like, I would eat such an unbelievably small quantity for my age. So you see, from an early age, I was already unintentionally practicing portion control.
Then we need to consider my body type. Genetically, I inherited my Dad’s lean nature. He is tall, slim and very fit. He can eat whatever he likes and remain the same. This is also referred to as having a fast metabolism. You need to eat triple the quantity of food those with slow metabolic rates eat to gain the same amount of weight.
We have different shapes and sizes in my family in those days yet we were all eating the same foods.
And then I gained some weight!
So what made me gain weight?
While pregnant with my first baby, I would eat one loaf of bread at a sitting and wash it down with a who-send-you cup of chocolate drink (a.k.a Milo). I went from 55kg (120 lbs) to 84kg (185 lbs) during my first pregnancy and my Obstetrician was screaming that I should stop eating!
Is bread specifically Nigerian food?
If you can successfully tag bread as food that is uniquely Nigerian then yes Nigerian food makes me fat. If you cannot, that means that any food can make me fat when I eat lots of it.
And then I met a specialist in this Nigerian food making us fat business!
When it comes to the technicalities of nutrition and dieting, I know next to nothing, nada, zilch. I have said this often enough. But I do know some specialists.
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Director of a Bionutrition Research Centre contacted me from the USA after purchasing my cookbook. She was married to a Nigerian for more than 25 years so she knows a lot about our food, not just preparing and enjoying it but carrying out studies on West African food.
In her own words:
“I would like to analyze your recipes so that readers can see the nutrient content and health benefits of Okra Soup, Moi Moi, etc. I would do this for you for free … For Nigerians abroad who are transitioning to Western diets, this can be an incentive for them to stick with a traditional diet by knowing the health benefits.
“Obesity, diabetes and cancer are on the rise in Nigeria because people are getting away from cooking traditional foods and substituting processed foods and convenience foods, especially in the urban areas. We have a lot of tropical food markets here in the US that are now selling Fufu in the box which has a lot of additives and preservatives. A lot of Nigerians living in America are purchasing these products. They are also eating fast food like hamburgers and French fries and their children are getting the same western foods served for lunch in the schools. Many are becoming overweight and obese and getting hypertension and diabetes.
“If you look at the health disparities that exist in African Americans today, you can see that we have been a 400+ year model of nutrition transition from our healthy West African diet (before slavery) which was rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fermented foods and little meat TO a high meat, high fat diet, devoid of adequate fruit, vegetable and fibre intake.”
You can see from this excerpt that she is very pro Nigerian food as a diet that promotes a healthy life. She has carried out studies to prove that our traditional diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, that Okra Soup is rich in key minerals and fibre that can help prevent hypertension.
So my dears, Nigeria food does not make me fat. If you find yourself gaining weight, it is either due to your body type, eating habits, or both. And you have to consider other underlying factors. I’m certain that all things being equal, if you change from a Nigerian diet to another country’s diet, you will experience the same changes in your body and going by the excerpt above, it may be worse.
I blame all these misconceptions on the lack of information on Nigerian food. Little is known about Nigerian food and unfortunately the saying that what you do not know does not kill you does not hold true in this case. Rather what we get is, what you do not know is definitely what is killing you. Not!
In summary, the following are the things I do to maintain a healthy weight while eating Nigerian food:
- I eat everything but in moderation. Moderation is the number one trick that works for me, maybe due to my body type.
- I grill rather than deep-fry chicken and meat. I can’t remember the last time I ate fried chicken.
- I still deep-fry plantains because grilled plantains do not taste the same. Click here to read about the best practices to apply so that your fried plantains do not soak up lots of oil.
- I use less oil when cooking Nigerian soups. I still have not gotten to the point of cooking Nigerian soups without palm oil.
- With some rice dishes example Turmeric Rice, I do not add more oil because the oil in the chicken stock is enough for the meal.
- I do not have a sweet tooth, this means that all the cakes and sweet stuff go into my body once in a great while.
Please go and check out the following posts from my sisters in the Nigerian food blogging community, I promise you will learn a lot from their personal stories and expert knowledge about how you can prepare healthy Nigerian meals.
In alphabetical order:
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by 1qfoodplatter (Mrs Iquo Ukoh)
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by 9jafoodie (Ronke)
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by Afrolems (Atim)
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by Dobby’s Signature (Adaobi)
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by Mummy’s Yum (Chioma)
- Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat? by Nigerian Lazy Chef (Nma)
Help spread the word!
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