The adage, “you are what you eat” still holds true today. Eating nutritious meals regularly, especially as you get older, will help you feel vibrant and healthy, inside and out. Here are 5 foods popular across Nigeria that are great for your health.
1. Vegetable Soup
This highly nutritious soup usually contains a mix of selected leafy green vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, waterleaf and even Lamb’s Lettuce (Canonigos in Spanish), along with meat, fish and palm oil. It is best when not overcooked (to preserve the vitamins in the vegetables) and can be eaten with healthy-sized portions of wheatmeal, rice or yam.
Why it’s great: Leafy green vegetables are rich in folate, which decreases arterial aging, lowers blood pressure and decreases cancer rates.
2. Tomato Stew/Sauce
That’s right; our good old stew, which is a staple in Nigerian homes, is doing more for our health than we may realise. According to nutritionists, the best way to get the positive effects of tomatoes is by eating “10 tablespoons of tomato sauce a week”. In other cultures where the tomato isn’t consumed in large quantities, this might pose a problem, but for Nigerians, tomato stew, which is generally eaten with rice, plantain, yam or mixed with okra or ewedu as “soup” for “swallow”, is everyday fare. Instead of using palm oil or vegetable oil, try making your stew extra healthy with olive oil!
Why it’s great: As well as being good for the heart, tomatoes decrease the risk of arterial aging, heart disease, stroke, memory loss, impotence, and wrinkling of the skin. Furthermore, tomatoes and tomato-based products contain lycopene, which has been shown to fight cancer.
3. Groundnut Soup
Generally speaking, nuts are excellent for health, and groundnuts are no exception. Groundnut soup is made by combining copious amounts of groundnut paste with some tomatoes and meat stock, along with other spicy ingredients. Make this delicious soup part of your diet, and your body will thank you.
Why it’s great: Groundnuts (like other legumes) contain Phytosterols. Phytosterols not only protect against cardiovascular disease by interfering with the absorption of cholesterol, they also protect against cancer by inhibiting tumour growth. Groundnuts are also rich in Vitamin B2, which protects against age-related cognitive decline (think Alzheimer’s Disease). Furthermore, groundnuts are rich in heart-friendly monounsaturated fats and antioxidants such as oleic acid.
Instant oatmeal is available in several brands, the most popular in Nigeria being Quaker Oats. The oatmeal is prepared by mixing with boiling water and a tiny pinch of salt, then stirring, hence being referred to as “instant”; once mixed, the oatmeal is ready within a minute. Many Nigerians also add milk for extra creaminess.
Why it’s great: Low in calories, high in fibre, high in protein and low in fat, this simple meal is a winner any day. Using milk (low fat or skimmed milk preferably) adds calcium to the meal. Oatmeal helps dissolve fats and unhealthy cholesterol and this in turn prevents diabetes and stroke. It is also perfect for breakfast in a weight loss diet, because it fills you up, leading to fewer cravings.
5. Fruit Salad
Every healthy person ought to include fruits as part of their diet. With the abundance of orange, lime, watermelon, grapefruit, guava, pawpaw, banana, apple and pineapple fruits in Nigeria, not to mention mango and star apple (Udala/Agbalumo), this should be easy. However, if you’re still having a hard time eating fruits, try having a fruit salad. Basically a mix of 3 or more fruits (pawpaw+pineapple+watermelon is a popular mix), this meal requires no cooking; just cut up and serve. Slices of mango and banana, with an orange or two squeezed over them can be heavenly for your taste buds!
Why it’s great: It’s near impossible to list all the benefits of fruits. Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lime, etc) are a great natural source of Vitamin C. The banana is high in potassium. Mangoes are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect vision and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in adults). Apples contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help lower the chances of developing diabetes and asthma. Apples are also a natural mouth freshener and clean your teeth with each crunchy bite. Talk about all-round health. Need we say more?
There you are. Eat well, sharpen your mind, and feel better, live longer and stronger. Enjoy!