Most Naija staple foods are laden with carbs but fibre rich, and very low in fat. Fibre is an essential nutrient for the body. Not only vital for weight loss/maintenance but fibre is also needed for disease prevention in our bodies. So do we avoid these fibre rich foods because they have carbs too? No! Minimal consumption is Key!
Carbohydrates are vital in our everyday diets. But for weight loss, keep your carbohydrates low and your fruits and vegetables high. The logical way to enjoy and optimize the healthy nutrients in Nigerian carb-rich staples is to have them in little quantity; don’t load up your plate. A healthy serving shouldn’t be more than a small fist size of swallow with loads of nourishing leafy soups.
Yams and sweet potatoes are healthy root tubers and good source of energy and soluble dietary fibre. Do you know that dietary fibre decreases bad cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of some cancers? Yes, yams have carbohydrates but they are complex. Complex carbohydrates are known to steadily regulate rise in blood sugar levels thereby reducing risk of diabetes. Boiled, grilled or pounded, yam can be enjoyed moderately.
Still on swallow foods you can eat even on your weight loss journey - durum wheat semolina is another common Naija staple food. Though often shunned, it’s low in fat and fortified with vitamins and minerals, and can be slightly included in your diet variety. Other healthy swallows are oat fufu (made out of oatmeal) wheat, and plantain flour.
Missing out on beans? Beans are good anti-oxidants, high in soluble fibre and proteins. The fibre in beans act like sponge in your body; soaking up cholesterol yet keeping you full for longer by slowing down digestion. You can enjoy your beans variedly – as moimoi/akara (use healthy cholesterol free oil when frying), or with plantain, rice, yam etc.
Okro, Ewedu, Ugwu, African Spinach (Shoko), Amaranth (Tete), Bitter leaves, Scent leaves, Afang/Ukazi (do I need to list more?), are locally grown leafy vegetables found everywhere in Nigeria. These leafy greens are rich in fibre, proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, and numerous other vitamins and minerals. Do you know they are highly sought after outside the shores of Nigeria because of their nutrition and tastiness? Indulge in them but save yourself unneeded calories by cooking with very little or no palm oil. And of course, take it easy with the salt/seasoning when cooking.
For meats - skinless chicken, turkey, goat meat, snails are good sources of animal protein for you. If you must eat cow meat, you can fairly cook with lean cuts of beef occasionally. You can frequently alternate meat with flavour-rich nutritious sea foods - shrimps, crayfish, periwinkles, prawns, crabs and fishes (Mackerel (popular Titus), Kote (Horse mackerel), Cod, Salmon, Herrings, Sardines and Tuna). Best weight loss cooking methods are steaming, boiling, grilling or roasting. If you must fry, use heart friendly oils.
And lastly, don’t leave out the widely available fresh fruits in the Nigerian market – tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, apples, cabbages, cucumber, bananas, grapefruits, oranges, avocado pears, coconuts, pineapples, etc are all loaded with essential nutrients that can aid your weight loss success. Ditch the carbonated drinks and processed juices - indulge lavishly in fresh fruits as snacks or smoothies. They also make good substitutes for dinner.