Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural healthy foods. These foods are rich in antioxidant properties. Eating them enhances our healthy living. In line with our vision, an attempt is being made to promote these natural healthy foods for Nigerians to start appreciating their values and thus making them part of their daily meal for their good health and longevity.
Some of the natural healthy foods in Nigeria are highlighted as follows:
1) Leaf yam:
Leaf yam is one of the natural healthy foods we have in Nigeria. It is popularly called bitter yam. The botanical name of leaf yam is D. dumentorum. First of all, the leaf yam is usually being soaked overnight in the water before cooking it to make it safe to eat. If you didn’t cook it properly, it may cause seizure and trigger off irregular heartbeats because of digoxin content in the yam.
Health benefits of Leaf yam: The yam contain active components that are capable of lowering blood sugar levels; preventing diabetics, rheumatoid arthritis, colic, and correcting menstrual disorder.
You can cook it plain and enjoy it with red oil or vegetable sauce. You may also wish to cook it and pound it to form a ball and eat with bitter leaf soup. The combination is very delicious and highly nutritional. More so, the food is very good for people with diabetics and women experiencing irregular menstrual cycle.
2) Aerial Yam or Potato Yam or Air Yam:
This is one of other healthy natural healthy foods in Nigeria. Aerial yam grows on the leaf of yam. The botanical name is D.bulbifera. Aerial yam contains rich natural ingredients. It is a very good food for treating conjunctivitis, diarrhoea, dysentery, rheumatoid arthritis, progesterone and menstrual disorder. Tip: It is recommended that you cook aerial yam to be very soft before eating it to avoid being poisonous.
3) Indian Spinach:
Indian spinach is one of the green vegetables in Nigeria. It’s a good source of dietary magnesium. The leaf contains beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin K, and high content of vitamin A. You can use it to cook garnish rice and make stew for eating rice and yam.
Health Benefits of Indian Spinach:
- Beta-carotene content in Indian spinach helps to prevent asthma.
- Potassium content in the leaf helps to control cholesterol level. This made it a very good food for people with high blood pressure.
- Vitamin K in Indian spinach helps to prevent constipation and promote metabolism; while vitamin A helps to produce oil to moisturize your skin and hair.
- The dietary magnesium helps to maintain muscle and nerve function; regularize heart rhythm, and maintain a healthy immune system.
- Eating Indian spinach helps to improve bone health and lowers the risk of getting cancer.
4) Achara (Spear Grass Vegetable).
This is another edible grass and one of the other natural healthy foods in Nigeria. The botanical name of achara is imperata cylindrical. It is mainly used for cooking soup. The people of Umuahia in Abia state love using it to cook their native delicacy called ofe Achara with akpuruakpu egusi (melon cake pellet) garnished with kpomo, stockfish and assorted meats and eat with fufu, amala, pounded yam.
Speargrass is a proven diuretic and anti-dysenteric. The achara food is very good for treating people with jaundice, digestive problems, sore throat, neuralgia, intestinal worms, fever, dropsy, asthma, cough, kidney diseases and influenza. More so, it is a good food for people that have a snake bite.
5) Ugu Leaf:
Eating the vegetable leaf is very healthy. Drinking the washed extract of the fluted pumpkin can be used to treat low blood level (anaemia). It is very healthy eating a lot of this vegetable. The good news is that the leaf is very cheap and available all year round. You can use to cook soups; make egg sauce to eat white yam or simply use to cook yam porridge. Eat a lot of this vegetable to boost your immune system and protect from contracting unnecessary diseases.
6) Scent Leaf.
Scent leaf is called nchuanwu or ashigbu in Igbo, efirin in Yoruba, daidoya in Hausa. The botanical name of scent leaf is ocimum gratissimum. It is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, carbohydrate. Scent leaf is good for treating dysentery and stomach upset. It helps in bowel evacuation and management of weight.
More so, eating scent leaf helps to cure bad breath and mouth odour. It is very good food for people living with HIV/AIDS. It helps to boost their immune system. You can pound the leaf to use it to make red oil sauce to eat white yam or use it to make a stew or cook Banga soup.
7) Water Leaf.
The botanical name of waterleaf is talinum triangulare. Waterleaf contains protein, vitamin B, omega 3 – fatty acids, calcium, iron, copper, lead, zinc and magnesium. More so, it is rich in vitamin C and riboflavin.
Eating water leaf helps in the prevention of liver, prostate, colon, breast and lung cancer. It also helps to lower cholesterol; prevents high blood pressure; improves eye visions and prevents cataracts due to improved blood flow to the eyes.
The vitamin C content in the leaf helps to boost body immunity and prevents skin dryness. Equally, it helps to improve cognitive ability and heal wounds very fast. Waterleaf soup is very good for growing children. It is popularly used to cook edikaikong – vegetable soup.
8) Bitter Leaf.
Bitter leaf is called onugbu in Igbo; in Yoruba, it is called efo ewuro; in Hausa, it is called shakwa shuwaka while in the cross-river state it is called etidot. It is popularly used to cook ofe onugbu. The bitter leaf contains flavonoids, vitamin A, B1, B2, C and E.
Health Benefits of Bitter Leaf:
1) Eating bitter leaf help to fight prostate cancer. It improves the flow of urine, regulates the spread of cell and reduces pain.
2) The leaf has the potent to help you sleep well and relax.
3) It also helps to boost women fertility.
4) Bitter leaf help to initiate tissue repair and regeneration; eliminate ovarian cyst and premature of ovarian failure.
9) Awolowo Weed or Leaf or Akintola Leaf or Independence Weed.
Awolowo weed is called kpugbum in Igbo. It is a wild vegetable used in small quantities for soups. It helps to relieve stomach pain and constipation. The botanical name is chromoleana odorata.
Awolowo weed helps to treat inflammation, anti-fungi, anti-hypertensive and anti-fungal agent (Akinmoladum et al., 2007).
10) Bush Marigold.
Bush Marigold is called Anwiliwa ani in Igbo. When you cook bush marigold like soup for eating yam, it helps to prevent worm infestation.
11) Hogweed Root.
Hogweed is called Azu igwe, agili ezi or Ikpokpo in Igbo. It is one of the other natural healthy foods in Nigeria. When you chew the root, it helps to relieve stomach upset, pain, especially after childbirth. It also prevents malaria and boosts appetite.
12) Local onions.
The Local onion is called obulumgbede or ifulonkpiri in Igbo. When you combined local onions with jute plant – Ayauoama or ukpom, you will have a good soup for pregnant and lactating women. This soup helps to relieve pain afterbirth and heal wounds.
13) Local Spices.
Here are some of the natural healthy foods species for your cooking. The local spices are highly nutritional and better than most of these artificial species and flavours in the market.
1) Black pepper:
Black pepper is popularly called Cameroon pepper. It is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium; and vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin c, k and b6. Black pepper also has a high content of dietary fibre. Using black pepper to cook help to improve digestion, weight loss, relieve the respiratory problem, fight bacteria infection, and prevent cancer. The spice enhances bio-availability which improves brain function. All these are possible because of the rich antioxidant properties in the spicy.
2) Uziza: (Guinean pepper).
Uziza is one of the other natural healthy foods. You can use fee leaves in cooking soup like egusi. It gives food a distinct flavour and unique taste. To read about the health benefits of uziza leaf, click here.
This local spice is called African nutmeg or Jamaican or calabash nutmeg. The botanical name is monodora myristica. Yoruba called it Ariwo. Hausa called it gujiya dan miya. Igba called it ehu or ehuru.
Ehuru is very good for spicing nkwobi, abacha, isi ewu, and bang soup. It is always being roasted first and thereafter ground and add in little quantity in soups, pepper soup or stew. If you add too much, it would overpower the other flavours in the food.
“Ehuru is rich in potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and vital B – complex vitamin like vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A” Guardian.ng.
Ehuru help to treat constipation/diarrhea, good for people with sickle cell anaemia, good for lactating mothers. It also helps to control passive bleeding.
Groundnut is other natural healthy foods we have in Nigeria. It can be used to cook groundnut soup or can be roasted to eat as local snacks. Groundnut is rich in niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 & E. It is also rich in protein and fibre.
Eating groundnut helps to manage weight. It also helps to fight anti-ageing and reduces cholesterol. Equally, you can ground groundnut and use it to cook groundnut soup.
15) African Bread Fruit.
This food can be roasted and be eaten with palm kernel nut or coconut as a local snack. It is highly nutritional. Learn the nutritional value of eating roasted breadfruit here.
16) Coconut water.
Coconut water is nutritional. It is very good for oral re-hydration especially in the case of diarrhea. A better alternative for a carbonated drink. Most people after breaking coconut don’t like drinking the water. To read more on health benefits of coconut water, click here.
17) Ujuju Fruit.
Ujuju fruit popularly referred to as Chinese date is one of several natural healthy foods in Nigeria. The fruit is so rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin B2 and manganese. It is very good for treating insomnia and anxiety. Antioxidants in the fruit help to defend the body from free radicals, improve digestions and protect the liver.
One unique thing about our ujuju fruit is that it can be used to make a local candy for children while Northern women in Nigeria use it as an aphrodisiac. Interestingly, it can also be used as a red puree for cooking food.
18) Monkey Apple.
This fruit is another natural healthy foods in Nigeria. The botanical name is mimusop coriacea. Eating money apple helps in maintaining a healthy oral cavity, lowers blood pressure, aids digestion, improve the immune system, prevent cancer and improve heart function.
19) Bush Apple.
The Local bush apple Irvingia Gabonensis is rich in iron, potassium; calcium, zinc, vitamin B complex and C. Eating bush apple help to reduce diabetes risk, improve the immune system, lower heart risk and improves our mood.
20) Pumpkin Seed.
This local food is rich in potassium, vitamin C and Beta-carotene. Eating pumpkin seed would help to regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer, controls diabetes and boost the immune system. The dietary fibre help to regulate bowel movements.
21) Pepper Fruit.
This is one of the other natural healthy foods we have here in Nigeria. Pepper fruit is called mmimmi in Igbo, ata igbere or igberi in Yoruba, Imako in Delta, Ako in Benin and nkarika in efik/Ibibio.
Pepper fruit is rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, niacin, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and thiamine. Eating pepper fruit helps to heal gastrointestinal diseases. It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer. Eating pepper can help to heal typhoid.
This native food is rich in calories, vitamin A, E, & C. However, It also contains potassium. Eating cocoyam helps to prevent cancer, reduces high blood pressure and improves health function.
Similarly, cocoyam helps to regulate glucose blood level and boost overall cellular health.