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Nitya Hullur: Fruits I Discovered in Lagos

Nitya Hullur

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bn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_bella profileMost Nigerians either ardently Love or hate Lagos, but no visit to Nigeria is complete without experiencing this high-spirited and mind-boggling city. I often hear people talk just about the crime rate and violence in Lagos rather than looking beyond it to notice the wonderful beaches, fresh fruit markets under bridges, health carts by Mallams, aroma of freshly prepared puff-puff, most job opportunities and so much more. Lagos has everything to offer everybody. Above all the city prides itself in its locals, popularly known as ‘Lagosian’. The never-ending hustle on the roads of Lagos gives this city its life and charm.

Not too long after I entered Lagos, did I get acquainted to their food habits and preferences.  Indian and Nigerian food are quite similar in many aspects: high on spices, too many curries and both stock up on rice. Basically a carbohydrate rich spread. After work, I would often find unique, local fruits and vegetables that were so enticing, I sure did try many. They were a delightful treat, as I would call them a bunch of health hanging off the tree. Being a nutritionist I couldn’t stop myself from knowing these fruits more nutritionally, understanding their taste and adding them to my diet. So my top picks based on nutritional value and ease of incorporation into my diet are listed below.

1. Agbalumo/African cherry
This fruit also called as the African cherry is a power house of Vitamin C. Please don’t go by its rough, wild outer cover, the flesh inside is deliciously packed with nutrients and a few seeds similar to the custard apple fruit. The leaves of this fruit are extremely beneficial to regulate glucose levels in diabetics. It’s available all over Nigeria between November to March so make full use of it.bn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE 1- AGBALUMONutritionally this fruit is high in fibre, vitamin C and vitamin A giving you loads of gut (stomach) health and immunity. Always remember to stock up on vitamins, they act like your natural shields against the most common flu and the most deadly tumours. With the rising pollution levels all over Lagos, I suggest you have at least one of these daily and after a month you will notice yourself being healthier and more active. This fruit is also a great source of potassium and calcium as well. These minerals play a vital role in muscle control, proper digestion and an active heart. So much in just one fruit!

Agbalumo Recipes:
Fruit Salad:
Add Oranges, mangoes, agbalumo, pineapple and watermelon to your salad bowl and feastbn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE 2 -AGBALUMO RECIPESBreakfast Smoothie:
Blend milk, agbalumo, banana, pineapple and honey together for a nutrient rich smoothie to fuel your day.

Banana- Agbalumo sorbet:
Blend fresh pineapple juice with agbalumo. After they become smooth add sugar and 2 tsp lime juice, pour the mixture into a freezer safe container, freeze for around 1 hour and enjoy this healthy, lactose free dessert.

2. Ube Okopoko/Atili
bn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE3-ATILIAtili is an oily fruit available during the rainy season. They are generally seen in clusters ranging from dark green to purple depending on the stage of ripening. The oil in this fruit is extracted and used for cooking purposes, plantain cooked in atili oil is a delicacy in many parts of Nigeria. The flavour in the fruit skin is immense and can be sprinkled over rice and meat when crushed for seasoning.

Atili is a storehouse of protein, one of the richest vegan sources giving you about 21 gm of protein in 100 grams fruit pulp. Proteins are also known as the building blocks of your body. They are necessary for a variety of reasons from building a healthy muscle profile, coordinating your body functions to giving you satiety after a meal, they are the king of all macronutrients. The pulp is oily, and therefore gives you loads of good omega 3 fats which are very important for your heart health and ideal cholesterol profile. Due to constant dealing with the various stresses in life, Nigerians often end up having a weak heart, so this fruit can be a solution along with many other diet modifications (feel free to contact me with more questions about your diet and health needs).

Ube Okopoko/Atili Recipes:
The oil in this fruit is extremely healthy with a high amount of lauric acid, so include this in your diet as much as possible.bn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE 4-ATILI RECIPESAtili-Flax Seed Powder:
Dry the fruit, powder it, add flax seeds powder and dry fruits (walnuts, almonds, dates) and sprinkle on your salads and meats- this not only gives your omega 3 but also descent amount of proteins and loads of flavour. I tried it on jollofrice and it tasted great!

Atili Balls:
I made these at home and tasted great and are a healthy alternative to all those fried potato and packaged chips. All you got to do is add the 2tsp Atili flax seeds powder, 2 tsp peanut butter, 3 crushed dates and some butter onto a pan, simmer for 5 minutes till the butter melts and the mixtures becomes mouldable, make the balls and store to have for your snacks with your hot cup of tea or any drink of your choice.

3. Monkey Kolabn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE 5-MONKEY COLAANo, Monkey Kola is not monkey having cola. In fact this fruit is very close to becoming extinct and requires serious attention as it is a cost-effective cure to micro nutrient deficiencies. Lagos is blessed with such tasty, juicy and healthy fruits. This fruit comes in 3 varieties red, yellow and white out of which yellow is the most common. These are found most during the months of June to November. The mature pulp is crisp and sweet making it a favourite for some people. This fruit has moderate calories (65 calories/100 gm fruit pulp) making it ideal for a pre-workout meal. You can also have it post your workout with a few nuts to give you a combination of carbohydrates and proteins which are ideal to repair your muscle after strain/tear from your workouts. The high calcium content in this fruit should be made full use of. It is ideal for all age groups and helps in growth of bones, relief from blood clotting and cell signalling which are prime functions in the body and help keep you healthy. So stop your keke now, get down, buy it, wash it and eat it!!

Monkey Kola Recipesbn cuisine Nitya Hullur nutritionist bellanaija may2016_IMAGE 6-MONKEY COLA RECIPESSmoothies and lots more:
The creamy texture of this fruit makes it ideal to add to your cocktails, mock tails, smoothies and shakes. I personally love this combination; monkey kola, banana, fresh milk, full egg, vanilla essence and honey. This gives you complete nutrition and makes a heavy and complete breakfast on the go.

Healthy Ice-Cream:
You can blend the pulp, add some strawberries, cinnamon powder and fresh yogurt to enjoy a healthy sweet treat in the form of vitamin rich yellow popsicles. Also, you can have it as it is, its tasty and vitamin rich.

So these were just some of the many indigenous fruits I had tried. Lagos is a storehouse of nutrition waiting to be re-discovered so lets embark on this journey together. Follow me for more updates on my blog https://budgetnutrition.wordpress.com/ or email me for diet enquiries at [email protected]. Try giving these fruits a new life by incorporating them in your diet in the most natural and innovative ways possible. Local fruits to the rescue!!

Sources & Photo Credits: BudgetNutrition, Naij.com, KitchenButterfly.com, Pharmanewsonline.com, ijsk.org, pjbs.org,

Hey I am Nitya Hullur - a registered nutritionist based in Dubai. I have always been amazed by how much your food can speak about you. Yeah, that’s true – your food doesn’t lie. It reflects clearly on your face, body and skin - just like a mirror. That’s what got me deeply interested in understanding the dynamics of food, human body and the mind. My Bachelor's in Nutrition and Masters in Global Health allowed me to build a broader perspective on how simple, local food can impact your health positively.Through these years I have stayed both in India and Nigeria - both these places have been my source of inspiration for my blog. My attempt is to reach out to masses to make simple food alterations by bringing back local foods to have a healthier nutritional profile in a minimum budget possible.I believe healthy eating is not about counting calories, you have to go beyond it- wise food choices, healthy cooking techniques, regular timings and loads of body conditioning. I am here to help you out with all of that. Most crucial diet goals would be feeling good, loosing inches and not your mind! Follow my blog, budgetnutrition.wordpress.com for great local recipes made and incorporated with a twist. For diet counselling write to me on [email protected] - will be happy to help.Loads of Healthy, Local Love

29 Comments

  1. ChiO

    May 10, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Nitya, ensure you give credit to the owners of the pictures you use in your articles. The monkey kola picture came from kitchen butterfly’s blog.

    • Niyoola

      May 25, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      Photo credits are at the bottom of the post.

    • Morolake

      May 26, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Wow, BNHives, relax and drink water biko. Jeez, look how you just jumped without looking.

    • Morolake

      May 26, 2016 at 8:50 am

      I really enjoyed your post Nitya. Didn’t know you could do that from the local pear Ube and the things we do with agbalumo these days. Hans & Rene agbalumo gelato is everything. Well done.

  2. Ready

    May 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Wow. I knew about agbalumo, but not ube or monkey kola. Thanks for the insights.

  3. le coco

    May 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    never heard of monkey kola…. very coool.. thanks nitya

  4. Tina

    May 25, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Nice

  5. Moyo

    May 25, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I have never seen the monkey kola before, is it available in the market

  6. Oma

    May 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Nice article. I am not able to recognize this Monkey kola, anyone know its local or more common name?

    • Chinye

      November 8, 2019 at 10:44 am

      Monkey Kola is Ochicha or Achicha in Igbo

  7. Ethio

    May 25, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    wow, you think you’ve seen fruits? go down to onitsha

    • Jade

      May 25, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      She’s talking about the fruits in Lagos. I’ve never heard of these fruits except agbaloumo.

    • Nitya

      May 26, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Hey Jade,these fruits are very much available,i got mine close to oshodi-try there !!:)

  8. hezekina pollutina

    May 25, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    kitchen butterfly come and collect your credit.

  9. Tosin

    May 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Craving good fruits. Not sure where they’re hiding.

  10. Mimi

    May 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    in Akwa Ibom, the monkey kola is known as Ndiya. it is made up of a brown non edible outer layer which needs to be peeled off. while the edible part is orange. when you eat it makes this kprok kprok kprok sound. LoL! not keen about the fruit. can still find them in villages.

    • Lizzy Udofia

      August 9, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Monkey kola(ndiya) is always brought into the town from the nearby villages. Children always hawk them. Its in season; its found everywhere.

  11. Mimi

    May 25, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I also hear the seed is medicinal

  12. Abena

    May 25, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Agbalumo or what we call Alasa in Ghana can also be used for gum. You can chew the seeds or flesh to make your own gum.

    • Naijatalk

      May 25, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Abena, this made me smile. Growing up we would chew on Udala until it became gum. I miss Nigeria. There was this other fruit we called African apple (for its name we knew not) it was white/pinkish, somewhat shaped like a flower but with an opening in the middle and it was so sweet. How can I forget our almonds, übe which we called pear was divine with corn, walnuts, velvet tamarind.

  13. Kemi o

    May 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Awesome! Plus the recipes ?

  14. concerned9a

    May 25, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Refreshing to read something positive about our country for a change…Those 9ja fruits are the bizness…miss them die!!

    • Nitya

      May 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      I know right,people dont even remember these fruits,its time we get them back!!!

  15. Nitya

    May 26, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Hey guys thanks a lot for all your feedback! Much appreciated!
    I am so looking forward to all your reactions to my series of posts!
    High time people get to know the amazing food and nutrition angle of Nigeria, particularly Lagos

    • ATL's finest

      May 26, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      You’re welcome 🙂 that Cherry is all I’m dreaming about right now.

  16. Ramesh Hullur

    May 26, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Very interesting. May be add cal values of each recipe to support the healthy eating.

  17. Ndi

    September 27, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Nitya,
    I quite enjoyed your blog. Yes, Monkey Kola is my favorite fruit followed by Sharon fruit. However, I eat Monkey Kola just fresh, didn’t know you could make other dishes from all these. We eat them all fresh, no extra preparation lest you kill all the goodness in them. Cheers and hope to bump into you in Lagos one of these days.

  18. Titus

    June 23, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    These fruits have great nutritional values, speaking from experience.

  19. Akaninyene

    August 2, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Hello, nice article. But what you call African cherry is actually called Star Apple. Other countries have their own varieties, please correct that. Thank you

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