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Hail the Starch-Filled Life

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Let’s not pretend, we all love that amala with ewedu or pounded yam with ogbono or tuwon masara with miyan kuka.  Not only are these the stems of our culture, they hit the spot really well too. Thus, when all the nutritionists come forward and ask us to give up starchy foods, we look at them up and down twice, delete the conversation from our memories, and simply go on with our days. Nobody is telling us how we can be who we are, while trying to keep healthy at the same time.

Yes, our Nigerian foods are starchy, no doubt. And yes, they are filled with a lot of ingredients that some of us can’t even pronounce. So how are we supposed to keep track of what nutritional value we get from our food? Well, there is a way. We can focus on the nutritional content of the raw foods, and try to translate that into what it means to us. Though you may not readily find the calorie content of garri, you can easily find the calorie content of cassava. Same for tuwo, pounded yam, and even our beloved starch.

Today, we’ll focus on a lot of the traditional starchy food we eat to see what the true nutritional content is (well, as close as we can get). To truly keep a log of what we eat, it is important to know the benefits of each food, as well as the negatives. My focus today is on the caloric and protein content because these are the most important for weight maintenance, energy, and muscle growth. Because calories are determined from the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content, I will not list these factors separately, but focus on the overall calories in each food type. However, there are many other important nutritional factors like the calcium, potassium, sodium, fiber, and sugar content.

I love lists because they tell a clear visible story, so here goes:

Eba: This is beyond a staple. Everywhere you go in Nigeria, people regularly eat eba, which is simply referred to as garri in some areas. The estimated protein and caloric content of one cup of garri is below. One cup contains about 8 ounces.

Calories: 330
Protein: 2.8g

Pounded Yam: I have a dream, and I’m sure most of us do too, to once again eat manually pounded yams. With real yams. Yes. Anyway, pounded yam is a staple for most young Nigerians today, whether you eat it out at restaurants, or you buy the powdered version and make it at home. But since people use both the powdered and ‘live’ version, it is important to show both. This is for half a cup of instant pounded yam, and one medium twelve-inch tuber of yam.

Instant Pounded Yam
Calories: 470
Protein: 4g

Real Pounded Yam
Calories: 526
Protein: 6.8g

Fufu: Traditionally called ‘Akpu’, no one likes better fufu than the Igbo people because this is a staple for eastern Nigeria. And besides the smell, I think we all love it too. Akpu is made of cassava just like garri, and so the nutrition content is fairly similar. However, if you’re worried about the smell, it’s really just fermented cassava. The information below is for about one cup of cassava.

Calories: 330
Protein: 3g

Amala: In my opinion, there’s only one way to really enjoy amala. With some ewedu. But I know some friends who beg to differ, arguing that gbegiri is actually the ish. To each his own. Amala actually contains less refined sugar that the other starchy foods we eat since it’s usually made from the skin of the yam rather than the actual yam, so it is a great choice for diabetics or anyone else simply trying to watch their weight. Foods with lower refined sugar content are digested slower by the body and so you gain the benefit of burning some calories during the digestive process. Let’s take a look at the nutrition content.

Calories: 352
Protein: 4g

Tuwo: No, I didn’t leave my dear northerners out. Whether it’s tuwon shinkafa or tuwon masara, the finger-licking goodness of this northern staple can be served with miyan kuka, miyan taushe, gbegiri, or a host of other soups. At least tuwo is a pretty easy concept. Tuwon skinkafa is usually made with sticky rice, and tuwon masara is usually made with corn meal flour. So what’s the nutrition content of both styles of tuwo? The following is based on one cup of boiled sticky rice, and one cup of corn meal flour.

Tuwon Shinkafa
Calories: 216
Protein: 4.8g

Tuwon Masara
Calories: 360
Protein: 9g

Starch: Also called usi, for my southerners, life is not complete without this golden delicacy. It takes some skill to make, and even more skill to eat it properly. Couple it with ovwo or banga soup, and you’re good to go. And you would think that the very name suggests that it would be a terror for our bodies, but what is truly the nutritional content of starch? Starch is made of cassava just like garri and fufu, and so the nutritional content is again similar. But starch is sold in lumps, not in powder form. So I will assume one lump of starch is gotten from one cup of cassava, just like with akpu. However, since palm oil is also added to starch, it drives the numbers up.

Calories: 490
Protein: 4g

Let’s be honest. In our own restaurants, we tend to serve foreign foods when we’re trying to promote a healthy or exotic diet. This is mostly because it’s simpler to get the caloric information of those foods, and nobody wants to do the research. But the important thing when it comes to the Nigerian diet is to simply focus a lot on portion control. Most of the food we eat is fairly heavy anyway so we don’t need to eat too much of it.

Well, hopefully, this information will stir a cook somewhere to start putting our great local stuff on the menu. That’s the dream.

______________________________________________________________________________
Suzanne also blogs about practical health and fitness at http://eightsandweights.blogspot.com. For regular fitness tips, follow her on twitter at @eightsnweights.

Suzanne Brume is a fitness blogger and yoga enthusiast who strives to live a healthier lifestyle and helps others do the same. She blogs consistently at Eights and Weights (www.eightsandweights.com), and gives tips and demonstrations on Twitter (@eightsnweights) and Instagram (@eightsnweights). She is always open for fitness questions!

61 Comments

  1. OMOGE

    August 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

    hahahaha….I will still stick to my Real Pounded Yam, and as u said delete this writeup from my memory….
    being a Lagos girl with a Husband from Ondo state?…..its REAL POUNDEDYAM all the way.

  2. Joohls

    August 24, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Nne good job on this. you try no be small 🙂

  3. sade

    August 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    no wonder the northerners are not really on the big side.

    • Moji

      August 31, 2010 at 7:06 pm

      Sade that is not true. I’m from Kaduna and I’m skinny. Infact people from the East and south are on the big side.

    • oju

      September 1, 2010 at 7:55 am

      Moji u obviously didnt read her post properly!!Whats with the generalization anyway!!tall, short,big,fat,skinny people c0me from ALL parts of the country….ahem the world!!

    • tamiz

      September 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      That’s cos u probably eat tuwo… lol

  4. Nma

    August 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    great job my dear! I have always wondered about the caloric intake of our native food! N e time i decide to eat pounded yam/ plantain flour/garri ……i just estimate really high…say about 600 calories (w/o the soup!)…lol…that way i know that whatever else i eat thruout the day would be minimal. Its a relief to see that i can loosen up a little lol.

    I don’t know if anyone has tried PLANTAIN FLOUR….it is off the hook! I’d say i even prefer it to pounded yam! It is better than the name implies trust me! So smoooooth and light! Try it my people!

    And post more of this kinna stuff!

    • Garnetcore "Boss"

      September 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm

      I totally agree with you. Plantain flour does not bog you down like the others and happens to be more healthy as well!

  5. Lolly-Dee

    August 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Good job girl…cos, I’ve always wondered how to get caloric information on our Naija foods. This is definitely very helpful for those of us that want diet and still want to be able to eat our Naija food.

  6. kay9

    August 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    @”dreaming of pounded yam”: Nne, its no dream for me! I’m actually going out now to wire solid pounded yam and oha soup with periwinkles and “azu-okpo”… Hang the caloric values, i’m hanging Omoge – ctrl+a, delete!!

  7. elisa

    August 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I love naija food but sometimes I wonder about the caloric intake. Plaintain flour has less calories than aforementioned flours. I love the fact that Amala is made from yam peel and has a lot of fibers. Oh how i miss periwinkles. I can’t find it in new york. If you have info on where I can go and by periwinkles, please don’t hesitate to share it with me.

  8. Ms. ATL

    August 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Hey, you left off Onunu (pounded yam + plantain) from Rivers State!!!! BEST EVER!!!

    • oju

      September 1, 2010 at 7:59 am

      LOVE LOVE ONUNU!!but just like everything Nigerian, we the minorities seem to be left out!:(

  9. Nneka

    August 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Great job here Suzanne. I didn’t even know Amala was sourced from yam skin! I’m glad I read this.

    • ayodeji

      September 13, 2010 at 12:42 am

      It depend on the type of amala o! The one we eat in my house which we call ‘gbodo’ is made from real tubers of yam which has been sun-dried!

  10. Taraji

    August 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Starch or not, I still love Naija food, though I am from East Africa!

    • Amaka

      November 30, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      Come jore you be better person! lol! I will pretend I didn’t read this post because me and my starch and pounded yam (the REAL one) with egusi can never ever part ways! lol!

  11. Tew mad

    August 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    hahahahahahaha. why bother counting calories for the starch?? just eat it jor! The article is a good guage but dieters need not even feel guilty! you killed the diet by eating eba, iyan or any of the aforementioned. I had ogbono the other day and lets not start counting the oil, fish, meat,snail,and crayfish that was in there! i would estimate about 1600calories for the meal i ate and it was all worth it! to kill it i slipped into a suga coma and went straight to bed. OH did i mention it was after 9pm! hahahahaha. dont do what i did tho. I eat these things like twice a year when that G-d sent aunty comes to visit!!!

    • missy-spectacularrr

      September 9, 2010 at 8:05 pm

      LOL!!!!!!!!!

  12. candey

    August 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    “Most of the food we eat is fairly heavy anyway so we don’t need to eat too much of it.” Please tell Uncle Bello about it, he’ll send you flying lol!Rofl!

  13. brendz

    August 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    i love this article…could we have more tips, especially on the soups…want to know hw much calories we get by using palm oil…our soups are pretty healthy esp if u live in naij cos most thigs are bought fresh in the market “organic” acording to oyinbo………”cept for the oil……nice article all the way

  14. dami

    August 24, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    @ tew mad ahahha u funny ooo after 9pm chai u really try thank God it only twices a year lol

  15. jen

    August 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    This explains why you’ll see a Nigerian woman who is skinny with a big belly…too much starch and calories..funke akin

  16. FollyKay

    August 24, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Note to self, quit eating pounded yam and revert to tuwon shinkafa! Thanks Suzzane fab artilce as always keep up the good work Couz. @ Nma more like 750 when u add all the assorted meat.

  17. mee

    August 24, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    That’s what I do too. Whenever I’m eating any of these, I tell myself, “that’s about 1000 calories.”

  18. sade

    August 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    What abt semolina? I think semo has less calories too.
    Omo this thing hard o. Sometimes u just want to ‘swallow’.like my naija peeps will say.lol.

  19. soon to be married

    August 24, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Yam and vegetable with plenty snail fish and perewinkles rule. As for the calorie wahala ctrl+a=del. See you at the nearest mama put

    • Loli

      August 25, 2010 at 6:47 pm

      Oh yes! Mee too

  20. Personalperson

    August 25, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Hey peeps i’ll tell you a little secret, if you want to enjoy your soup without guilt or concern to do with whatever is accompanying it, then you should try having you soup with good ol’ “quaker oat” did i hear anyone say what??? well. yes, it’s the best thing to eat with your soup,
    Firstly, you feel fuller for longer because it is complex carb and takes time to digest and secondly you can’t eat as much as you do of all the other above listed accompanies of the “soups” . It’s healthy, curbs appetite, it’s fab for Diabetic patience due to it’s low sugar content, you cut down drastically on calories and you are fuller for longer.
    PREP METHOD
    Pour out the required quantity into a microwaveable bowl, pour in hot water to cover the oat and mix thoroughly then cover the bowl, put into the microwave and cook for 20 minutes. After which you take out of the Microwave and stir with a spatular (just like you do with your eba) and enjoy with any choice of soup!
    Recommended for a Diabetic patient by an English Doctor!
    ASK ANY DOCTOR ABOUT THIS!

    • Aibee

      August 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

      Ehn Ehn?!!!! Soupwith quaker oats ekwa? Recommended by an English doctor ehn? So that makes it ‘good’? Psschew.

    • Amaka

      November 30, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      Sorry but just imagining this concoction you are prescribing makes me want to puke! Oats is meant to be eaten with Peak milk and honey with a giant quartered orange on the side! Full stop! ROFL Just being intentionally garrulous don’t mind me jo!

  21. alarmed

    August 25, 2010 at 1:46 am

    you know we have no choice but to just eat and die in this present age….. if you look at it african food is better off than white food… nothing that is proccesed is healthy it contains preservatives that are more harmful than our own starch so what should we eat????

  22. ugo

    August 25, 2010 at 2:13 am

    @ alarmed, i hope you realise that all western food is not processed? they just happen to grow some fruits, vegetables, legumes and roots that we don’t.

  23. ugo

    August 25, 2010 at 2:14 am

    or rephrase, “…not all western food is processed…”

    1

  24. food advisor

    August 25, 2010 at 11:33 am

    will have to disagree with brendz. not all food u get in naija is fresh if u consider preservation methods and how long it takes to transport them to d market place.thus,fresh food is most available in d western world taking food regulation into consideration as well. To eat either fresh or not is by choice.
    It is good to count calorific content of our native food but remember these are estimates and i dont know if these figures have considered the effect of food processing e.g. processing of cassava to garri. My advice is nothing should be eaten in excess. Remember that whatever food item you eat equals certain amount of energy bein taken in.so always ask yourself if you are goung to be expending as much energy as you are taking in.if you are not going to use that much energy during the day then pls dont take it in moderation is the key word.

  25. Aibee

    August 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Now I know why I’m starting to have a pot belly,lol. Used to eats lots of Tuwo while I was up north- breakfast, lunch and dinner & my tummy waas at flat as ever. No sooner did I move back to Lagos than my biggybelle started. So, short of eliminating amala & gbegiri (which I just ordered for, by the way) from my diet, how does one handle these high calory foods.
    @ Personalperson, Ehn Ehn?!!!! Soup with quaker oats ekwa? Recommended by an English doctor ehn? So that makes it ‘good’? Psschew.

  26. Loli

    August 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Gee– seriously why are we even having this discussion…African’s have lived on this diet for decades and still out live westerners. African food is very nutritious combined with a wide variety of ingredients and spices it tastes better than burgers or pizza hands down.

    Since when did we start worrying “caloric content” and nutritional values? Obesity is a genuine concern and shouldn’t be taken lightly but if Africans would embrace their culture and stop trying to be like other people I think our natural diet serves us well.
    As with anything else moderation is key but seeing as the standard of living is improving in many countries the allure of the western culture starts to seep in.
    I love and enjoy african food because most of the dishes combine veggies, meat, carbs, all in one meal and it is very filling so you don’t have to gorge on 3-4 meals between meals.

    Knowing the caloric or nutritional value of these dishes makes no difference to me–I think I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy local dishes all the more. The food in the photo looks delish…its making me hungry!

  27. mariaah

    August 25, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    hMmmn I will continue to eat what ever I want whenever (well b4 9.00) but in moderation. That is, if you don’t use as much oil, remove the fat from chicken, lamb, then o wa alright mate.
    Ermm Suzzanne you left out “OJE ABACHA” cassava flour, very smooth from Igala/Idoma…I support plantain flour though its very good for diabetic patients or if you are trying to loose weight and its got a lovely smell too..
    Come to think of it going to make me some Eba; eating it with vegetable/egusi soup (fish and chicken?). Evil laff**** Good bye!!!

    • POSH

      August 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      hahahaha @ Oje abacha… Sis, dis list right here is incomplete without my smoothe white oje!

  28. sade

    August 26, 2010 at 9:51 am

    whole wheat is good too and it digests easily.

  29. effizzi

    August 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    who said amala is made from yam skin? NO, it’s made from dried (sun) yam.
    African diet is really high in calories. Alot of africans in america are suffering from diabetes/hypertension and obesity as a result of this diet. Dont do “Yam in the morning /rice in afternoon and eba in the evening kinda diet” unless if you workout 2hrs in the gym daily.. Cutting down on the proportion is the key and mixing the food with a lot of vegetables and staying away from all the oil and useless parts of meats we cook.. just my 2cents…

    • Just me

      March 30, 2014 at 3:19 am

      Lol @ just my 2 cents

  30. me

    August 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

    @Loli..Lifespan in Africa is shorter than in the Western world. Yes, you have to count your calories on a daily basis if you want to live longer!! Please stop being ignorant!

  31. Ginika

    August 30, 2010 at 8:52 am

    lol… mehn you guys are funny. After reading this article I started craving my naija food. Okay, for me I learnt about the effect of eba & co on the tummy along time ago like 2003 so I drastically cut down on the portion of eba & co. Anyway, we eat semo or wheat and I eat it like twice or three times a year -min and ten times a year if I’m really lucky- max. I pack the soup like crazy and then I take very, very small portion of semo enough for 6 scoops (with a fork because I can pack the soup well well and it taste better to me).

    I started doing sit ups in 2001 when I was still in Naija all because I read about a Nigerian lady who was in her 50’s and did about 150 sit ups a day. I was very impressed and started by the way I was about 13years old. I’m turning 23, thanks to that lil thing I started I have a nice flat tummy not a six pack ~thats too manly for me ~ but very strong abs and flat; however if I let go, my tummy develops a lil bulge.

  32. Kaylah

    August 30, 2010 at 10:54 am

    please can i know where the food on display was prepared , or where exactly i can get to eat that< cos im about to faint here!.....OMG!!

    • Napoleon

      June 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Me too! Lol!

  33. Uchechi

    August 30, 2010 at 11:15 am

    You sure have a point.. I believe regular excercise and eating a balanced diet even whether na akpu, iyan or tuwo will go a long way.

  34. Geekgirl

    August 31, 2010 at 5:13 am

    i am telling you, i read this post and i feel like pounded yam and efo riro!!!:-)
    As far as i am concerned everything should be eaten in moderation!If you like food then exercise a lot…

  35. Taciturn Turned Talkative

    August 31, 2010 at 11:12 am

    The only thing that will stop me from eating garri with soup is fishbone in my soup (i swallowed a fish bone, when I was young and i never got over it. made me hate fish).

    I don’t really enjoy akpu, not just because of the smell.

    Talking of calories, I haven’t really been interested in nutritious value of food. Lately, I’ve been eating just the things i enjoy (even indomie 2 times a day). yeah, I’m in a hostel in UNILAG, not at home:-). Will have to pick up though. Thanks for the post

    Taciturn Turned Talkative
    http://uononso.blogspot.com

  36. Suzanne Brume

    August 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Hi all, thanks for reading! I think the key here is to focus on portion control. ‘Moderation’ means different things to different people, but at least knowing the nutritional value can help us make better decisions when it comes to how much of each food to eat. I know I left out some of our ‘swallows’, but hopefully, this helps to give you an ‘overall’ picture. Keep watching this space for more helpful tips!

  37. tight

    August 31, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Pls people, i just read that Amala is made from from yam peels!!!!! that is soooo wrong, any Amala with yam skin is adulterated. I KNOW, COS I MAKE MY OWN AMALA FLOUR MYSELF. it makes me wonder what else is wrong in this article of calorie counting.

  38. Suzanne Brume

    August 31, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Just to clarify to prevent confusion for the readers, there are three types of amala. So it depends on the kind you eat:
    Light coloured – Made from cassava
    Medium coloured – Made from dried yam
    Dark coloured – Made from yam skin
    This text focused on the dark coloured elubo.

    • Speak Out

      February 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      This comment still shows how ignorant you are with regard to Nigerian meals. Amala is made from dried yam. When the skin of the yam is used, it is adulterated and a cheaper version. Go to Ibadan or Osun State where I am from, you will be told this. Saki in Oyo state is a large market for Elubo (Amala) and most of them sell dried yam. Even in Lagos alone, go to Mile 12 or Onipanu market and you will be properly educated.

      As for what you called white amala, the real name is Lafun.

  39. Maobi2nyc

    September 2, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Peeps abeg which one food does have a story behind it? The same food that my greatest grannies thrived on and still lived to die very old?! I stick to my guns..poundo,akpu all the way!

  40. Personalperson

    September 6, 2010 at 11:39 am

    @Aibee: You must not comment on everything you read so hissing like a myopic person and making non intelligent comments isn’t adding to the topic. if you don’t buy the advice then move on and comment on other issues where childish comments are welcome. Ignorance is a disease and people perish due to lack of knowledge… i’m just saying!

  41. Ogina

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Nice job, however you didnt talk about wheat meal, or oat meal, some people use these!

  42. CC

    September 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I refuse to sit and count calories of the God-given food of my fatherland! Mbanu its not right. I eat nni ji, nni oka and akpu until I’m satisfied and I just make sure I work out at least an hour 5 -6 days a week. Keeping healthy and maintaining a size/specific weight isn’t just about watching what you eat, but how often you get up and get moving. You can starve and deprive yourself all you want, but if you don’t get your exercise on, you’ll just be skinny and flabby.

  43. Keyshia

    September 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    me i just finished a bowl of wheat with Okazi,uhmmmmmm ….i dont understand this calorie thing oooo anyway wen i discover i add weight i just cut down on the heavy food and do more exercise. I guess thats okay for me……

  44. Da diva

    September 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    personally i think this is a gud topic for, and i ve been lookin at the comments on hw to count calories and all which is gud but nt every1 can do dat. for example those of urs dat leaves work and get home at 8 or 9pm. wht do u suggest we eat at that time, considering the traffic and hunger trust u would want to munch on sumfin lol. another thing is i eat oat meal in the morning then like 1 and half hour later am hungry nt sure more. is this normal. pls advice thanks…

  45. Nwali Nkechinyere

    March 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I love this article because i work on economic analysis of akpu as my project topic.Is interesting ,so pls enjoy akpu and be happy

  46. Rhema

    April 7, 2017 at 11:07 am

    This was really helpful and informative,l. Thank u for taking time out to post this

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