You’ve heard of the vegetarian diet, the paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Atkins diet, the Cambridge diet, the blood group, honestly I could go on. There are so many diets that exists. But what about the Nigerian diet? What is it really good for? And can you live healthy and lose weight on it?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, people don’t easily change. Sometimes it may take a drastic life event or a willingly adventurous person to try new things, but change is difficult. We are programmed as we grow up, with habits, beliefs, values, and we have our own unique personalities. So, it’ll be easier to live healthy if it did not require a lot of change. There are people dying slowly of hypertension who will still not exercise or eat one healthy food, or reduce their salt intake. It’s ridiculous, because their life literally depends on them making changes and they still cannot change.
People make changes when it is easy and convenient
So, naturally it’ll be easier for us to eat healthy if eating healthy means eating what we already eat. This got me inspecting our Nigerian diet, is it possible to be healthy and lose weight on it?
What do we normally eat? Rice (white, jollof, fried), beans (porridge, plain with stew, akara, moi moi), soups (egusi, ogbono, onugbu, oha, white etc), swallows (eba, wheat, pounded yam, amala, semovita etc.), yam (fried, boiled, roasted), plantain (fried, boiled, roasted), egg (fried, boiled), Irish potatoes (fried, boiled, grilled), sweet potatoes (Fried, boiled, grilled), ukwa, remind me of what I’ve left out. A lot of people complain that our foods are repetition, we eat the same things all the time. But lets examine what we have, most Nigerian foods have less processing than junk foods (burgers etc). The most unhealthy things in our diet are the borrowed ones, bread, pasta, white rice (I say white rice, because I believe our local rice is originally ours). Our foods are rich in vegetables, just look at our soups. I know that you can lose weight on a Nigerian diet, I’ve helped people do it before. So where do we get it wrong, why are we not a nation of slim, fit, people?
1: We borrow too much: We’ve borrowed fancy stuff like bread, pastries, pasta, white rice, calorie dense beverages, drinks, noodles etc. and added them to our diet. And now we’ve adopted them and they are not helping us. Even our indigenous red palm oil is better than the canola oil we use to cook.
2: We cook wrongly: We fry more these days. You’ll eat jollof rice, with fried chicken and fried plantain. That meal would be better if it were ofada rice with sauce. When we make our soups we add the vegetables and then leave it cooking for 10 mins, don’t do this, heat destroys a lot of the nutrients in vegetables. Just put your vegetables and let is simmer on low heat for 30 secs.
3: We preserve wrongly: Raise your hand if you are guilty of this, you make a pot of soup and put it in the freezer, you bring it our three days latter, warm it, collect the portion you want and stick it back in the freezer. You’ve just taken a nice healthy rich meal and killed it. I’ll advice that you make the base for your soup and freeze that in small single use portions. When you want to eat bring it out, warm it, add your vegetables and eat. Don’t freeze and thaw and freeze again.
4: We were trained wrong: When you were little, you mom frowned at you when you ate small portions, and God help you if she dishes out your food and you did not eat every last bite. What this has done is train you to eat more, and to not stop until your plate is cleaned. This makes us eat bigger portions, and we don’t even know how to reorient and re-teach ourselves to listen to our bodies instead of the voices in our head saying “you had better finish your food”.
5: Food is our guest of honor: Have you ever gone to visit a friend and he/she offers you food? When you say no thanks, it almost feels like you have rejected the person. Someone even once asked me if I thought she was trying to poison me. It made me laugh. Eating is very social for us. You go to a wedding, they’ll give you food, go for a child’s dedication, they’ll give you food. Food is a way we express ourselves and our friendship. I know people who had to break their fast just because of the pressure from being at these events. Believe it or not, unless you plan ahead, these event will make you eat more.
Our foods are really healthy. I’ll probably do a post highlighting the benefits and nutritious goodness of our foods someday. But for now you need to do an assessment of yourself and see which of these things you are guilty of. I hope just knowing that you can live healthy with our Nigerian diet will help open your mind to start making progress in your health.
Live healthy. Live happy.
Image culled from foodace