Top 10 Most Nutritious African Foods
Indigenous food crops are known to be hardy and versatile with many of the native African food crops being drought resistant. The most important attribute of the native health foods however, is it that they are nutritiously punched. These long-overlooked vegetables and grains are gaining attention world over for their dietary benefits. There is a growing shift from processed, high-sugar foods to ancient healthy grains, vegetables and fruit. Here are some incredible African healthy foods you should be eating or drinking now.
Amaranth is a crop that grows vastly all over Africa whose both leaves and grain are edible. On a nutritious level, amaranth can be compared with grains such as oats and wheat germ. The grain contains much more protein than the regular rice, rye or even sorghum. It is additionally rich in essential amino acids.
Coconuts are indigenous to tropical coastlines everywhere hence indigenous to Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline. Its health benefits are numerous. Coconut water, for instance, is a great electrolytic drink, rehydrating the body at a cellular level. Coconut oil, a superfood, contains fatty acids with medicinal properties like creating therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Coconut oil can be used to fight obesity as it has been proven to aid in burning fat. Coconut oil can help in protection against heart disease as its saturated fats are shown to eliminate ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body.
8. Spider Plant
Also known as African Cabbage, the spider plant is adapted to many African ecosystems although it is thought to be native to East Africa. This wild green leafy vegetable was not formally cultivated and grew as a weed among maize and bean crops. It is known to have high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C. Often vitamin C is lost after cooking, but spider plant retains the vitamin better than many other vegetables. It is also high in proteins and amino acids whose content is greater than in groundnuts. It is used for medicinal properties such as relieving labor pain.
Known as ‘ukwaju’ in Swahili, tamarind is native to tropical Africa. It has a rich sweet-and-sour flavor and it is used in juices, chutneys and stews. Besides being rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, tamarind has a sticky pulp that is full of dietary fibre. Similar to coconuts, tamarind is essential in restoring electrolyte imbalance in the body and is thus used to treat dehydration and hangovers. It is common among East African coastal communities to serve a glass of tamarind juice to guests during a hot day.
Hibiscus tea, made from dried flowers steeped in water, is popular to Egypt and Sudan. Wedding celebrations in this North African regions are toasted to with hibiscus tea. The tea is also popular in West Africa, particularly in Senegal where it is referred to as ‘bissap’- the national drink of Senegal. Hibiscus tea can be served hot or chilled and has a characteristic sour taste which is more prominent if the drink is cold. The tea is used as a cure for fever, colds and constipation. It is also beneficial in lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
5. Pumpkin Leaves
Pumpkin leaves are eaten all over Africa either fresh or dried. In Nigeria, where they are known as ‘ugwu’ they can be steamed like spinach, sauteed in some olive oil with garlic and salt, or used in stir frys and stews. In East Africa the leaves are used to make a popular mash of potatoes and green maize that is eaten with a meaty stew. They are notably nutritious for their high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron, as well as folate, potassium, and some of the B-vitamins.
Predominantly grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff, also known as William’s lovegrass is a fine grain argued to be the new super grain. It is highly nutritious for it is high in dietary fibre, carbohydrates and iron and at the same time it provides protein and calcium. Unlike other grains, teff is rich in Vitamin C. Teff is ground into flour that is used as the main ingredient for preparing injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread. Injera is served with most Ethiopian meaty dishes.
Moringa olifera is a tree native to Africa unique in the sense that it is wholly edible; bark, pods, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots, and flowers. Its leaves are used fresh or dried and ground into powder, and are high in protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. This leaf powder supplement can be drunk as tea Scientifically backed health benefits of moringa include its richness in amino acids, vitamins and minerals, its antioxidant properties and its ability to suppress inflammation which can help control diabetes, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and obesity.
2. Baobab Fruit
The baobab tree is prominent in Eastern and Southern Africa’s savannah. Its fruit is rich in antioxidants, fibre, potassium and magnesium and iron. The dry fruit is used to extract a powder from which juice can be made. It is common practice in West Africa to use its leaves in juices and smoothies. In East Africa the fruit is flavoured and eaten as candy.
Found in the West African Sahel,’ fonio’ is a drought-resistant grain similar to millet. Fonio, a Southern Senegal grain, is high in amino acids and is especially used in salads, stews and porridges. Not unlike teff, fonio matures quickly, producing grain in just six to eight weeks, and so can be relied upon in semi-arid areas with poor soil and unreliable rainfall. Fonio is gaining much popularity among foodie communities in Western cities such as Newyork. Fonio bread, highly nutritious, is a great substitute to wheat bread.