Food is a crucial aspect of lifestyle in Africa. It unites family members and allows them to have conversations at the table. During holidays, Africans enjoy gathering around the meal table – it’s a great way to meet new people or reunite with relatives.
Unfortunately, for many, food is also the enemy, causing rapid increases in diseases across Africa, such as heart attack, type-2 diabetes, stoke and certain cancers.
The number one culprit of food-related diseases is a diet rich in fast food. For many, not only is fast food tasty but it is affordable, satisfying and filling. Additionally, it’s also easy to have during a busy schedule.
Most healthy foods or “Superfoods” tend to be inaccessible or expensive to the average African, making individuals feel like they are not getting enough from their diet. Luckily, being healthy does not always have to involve a visit to the supermarket. In fact, most healthy foods can be found at home.
The following are some African staples that have been touted as some of the healthiest food options in Africa, and some even around the world.
1. Coconut and coconut oil
Coconuts and coconut oil consist of lauric acid and heart-healthy fatty acids, that also boost brain function. Furthermore, coconut milk contains protein and it helps enhance skin and digestive system health. Lauric acid possesses antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties making it an excellent addition to your palate. To top it all off, coconut milk can make a wonderful and delicious “energy drink” due to its massive levels of electrolytes that can hydrate the body and boost its energy levels.
While some like to have tamarind solo, others like to make a juice which is rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can be incorporated into various dishes to boost flavor. The pulp is a great source of fiber and consuming it can also help restore electrolyte balance, similar to coconut water.
Teff is a grain grown mainly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is packed with nutrients, especially calcium, iron, protein and vitamin C – a combination that is not typically found in grains.
A close relative to millet, fonio is a grain resistant to drought and also an African favourite in stews, salads and porridges. It is rich in amino acids and fibre, making it a superb choice for your regular meals.
Amaranth is incredibly dense in protein, with 30% more protein than most cereal grains like rye, sorghum and rice. Amaranth’s nutritional profile is comparable to those of oats and wheat germ, which means it’s also full of fiber, antioxidants and minerals.
Moringa has become quite popular over recent years due to its high levels of chlorophyll, minerals and vitamins. Moringa’s high calcium, iron, protein, magnesium, vitamin A and Vitamin C levels have also lead to it being called a superfood by many health experts. In fact, some estimates show that moringa may contain 25 times the iron found in spinach, twice the protein from yogurt, 7 times the vitamin C in oranges and 4 times the calcium in milk!
7. Pumpkin leaves
Pumpkin leaves are consumed all over Africa and are often eaten dried or fresh. You can steam the leaves like spinach or sauté with your favorite oil and seasoning. Pumpkin leaves have adequate levels of calcium, iron, folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B and C.