Nigerian cuisine is famous for its spicy flavors and intense aromas. However, many people turn to Nigerian food for the potential health benefits. Because Nigerian cuisine tends to contain large amounts of vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, it's a healthful way to mix up a bland diet.
Edikang Ikong is a traditional Nigerian soup that is full of fresh vegetables. A typical Edikang Ikong recipe includes pumpkin, tomatoes and onions. According to Harvard School of Public Health, regularly consuming fresh vegetables such as those found in Edikang Ikong can reduce the risk of stroke, certain cancers and digestive system problems.
Inyan is a flavor-rich Nigerian side dish made with fresh yams. Making Inyan is as easy as boiling yams, mixing them with water and mashing the mixture together in a mortar and pestle. Yams are a nutritious starchy vegetable rich in iron, vitamin A and selenium. Additionally, yams are lower in the glycemic index than many other starchy vegetables like carrots and peas. Consuming a diet rich in low-glycemic index foods can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Opt to keep the skin on your yams when preparing Inyan, as this is where many of the vitamins and fiber are found.
Egusi is a spicy stew that contains bitter melon, red peppers and an abundance of crayfish. Like most seafoods, crayfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats offer important heart-health benefits such as increasing "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and reducing triglycerides. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a diet rich in omega-3 fats may also reduce your risk of osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 2 diabetes.
Bitter leaf is a staple Nigerian food that finds its way into a number of traditional dishes. The bitter leaf -- also known as Vernonia amygdalina -- is abundant in antioxidants, according to the November 1994 "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." Antioxidants are compounds in plant foods that combat a harmful process known as oxidation.
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- Harvard School of Public Health: Vegetables and Fruits
- Harvard Health Publications: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Steven D. Ehrlich; June 2009
- "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry"; Flavonoids from Vernonia Amygdalina and Their Antioxidant Activities; Godwin O. Igile, et al.; November 1994
Ryan Devon is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in nutrition and health promotion from Simmons College. He starting writing in 2010, specializing in weight management and eating-disorder science.