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Does Nigerian Food Make You Fat?

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“Weight Gain Nigerian Food” are two words that are always mentioned when discussing healthy weight management. You will hear something like ‘ eating our food , it is not possible to loose weight.  My friend Kachi has been struggling with weight gain as far as I have known her. Sometimes she admits to having eaten the wrong things  but most of the time you will her say ‘ but I don’t even eat oh.  I only drink tea’. Having listened to this story line of tea drinking on many occasions  it is certain that this is not true. I know for sure that when people are challenged with weight gain they will do everything to cover up for their bad relationship with food.

The point is that some of us have a higher ability to burn off calories than others. Whilst some people can finish 2 cups of eba 3 times a week and remain lean , for some of us a quater cup ones a wekk could be dangerous. My sister for example has more struggles with her weight than I have had. Basically she most likely has a lower BMR.   BMR ( basal metabolic rate) is the rate at which we burn off calories.

I have personally not had any issue with weight gain at least whilst I was still raising my kids. This was the time I was active. Holding down a 9-5 job and raising children, family engagements, social engagements etc. I also had to juggle school runs and all that it takes to raise young children.  I started noticing that I had to take care and reduce my carbohydrate intake as soon as the children started getting into boarding school. For me the simple analogy is that I was no longer expending as much energy and so I did not have any business eating as much

When I travel on holidays outside the country I have opportunity to take long walks and exercise in the gym. Trust me I hardly put on weight when the holiday is over. By the way as a Naija woman I usually will cook all the Nigerian foods  on holiday because that is what my children will want to have. Mum is around so they want a taste of home. So naturally I join them to eat.  The point I am making here is that as long as I expend the calories, Nigerian food will not accumulate as fat and cause weight gain.

But again just like everything if you decide to eat eba or pounded yam most evenings and retire to sleep 2 hours after, you will put on weight, period. It’s the same thing that happens if you eat Mac & Cheese and go to bed. If you eat burgers or meals that contain lots of butter or cream on a daily bases and also in large portions you will put on weight full stop. So its not just about Nigerian food.

Of course it is true that the bulk part of a typical Nigerian meal is root carbohydrate heavy and palm oil heavy. This is particularly true in the southern part of the country , for those that like to eat swallow and soup .  But again our northern brothers eat sallow too, all the Tuwon are swallow but these are cereal based and they don’t eat meals with palm oil flowing on top . They are generally slimmer than their southern counterpart. So we cannot make a blanket statement that Nigerian foods cause weight gain.

Here are a few points on what I think the issues are :

1, Inability of some of us to be disciplined to eat smaller portion of carbohydrates and minimize the amount of palm oil in our dishes. We do not have facilities to exercise so we should reduce carbohydrate portions after a certain age

2, Food bloggers are setting the pace in food and changing eating habits gradually. It is our responsibility to educate even if we feel the consumers like to see pictures of oily dishes

3, Reduce the amount of oil in dishes. Egusi is already oily therefore there is no need for much palm oil in the soup

4, Better nutrition education. Many people are ignorant about food so wrong choices are made. The advent of fast food being associated with affluence has not helped our case.

5, The misconception that salads are the only low calorie foods. There are simple ways of adjusting recipes of Nigerian foods to reduce the calories.


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