By Morenike Taire
Knowing what and how to eat has become challenging, with conflicting nutrition information floating around. You might have been told to go vegan or follow a ketogenic or low-carb diet.
The truth is that while these diets may be effective short-term, they are unsustainable for most people and can cause long-term damage.
There is a common misconception that Nigerian diets are unhealthy and that the best way to lose fat and control blood sugar is to cut out traditional delicacies such as egusi, ogbono, eba, fried rice, afang and banga and eat salads only. Even if you could do this, I can guarantee you would not last very long, and once you begin eating these foods again, you will undo any progress you made.
The traditional Nigerian diet is rich in starchy carbohydrates, including rice, cassava, plantains, and yams, leafy vegetables such as efo, afang, ewedu, shoko, and waterleaf with moderate quantities of proteins – beef, chicken, eggs, fish – and fats from vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
When paired correctly and eaten in the appropriate portions, these whole unrefined foods keep your blood sugars balanced and provide essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – compounds that fight damaging free radicals – that keep you healthy.
Besides extremely large portions of traditional foods, Western fast food (burgers, pizza, e.t.c), sweetened beverages (soft drinks, hot chocolate), baked goods (bread, pastries, cakes), sweets, and refined vegetable oils have infiltrated the traditional diet. These foods are nutrient-poor, rich in saturated fats and sugar and very easy to overeat, which leads to weight gain. Over time, overnutrition and excess weight gain causes your body to lose its ability to process the sugar in your diet leading to diabetes and other health complications.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet, but focusing on traditional whole foods, practising portion control, and staying true to your food preferences are the keys to a nutritious diet that balances your blood sugars and prevents diabetes.