Editor’s note: Naij.com contributor Ifeyinwa Nzeka, in a bid to help us keep those New Year resolution to eat healthy, diet and/or lose weight, presents a list of “clean” foods that should be on our menu whether eating at or away from home.
It’s the New Year and with it comes resolutions that will be broken before the end of January!
The struggle remains real, I tell you, when it comes to eating healthy, dieting and weight loss. Sometimes the amount of information available out there can make you dizzy, no kidding! Especially the one million and one diet programs – Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, Weight Watchers, raw food diet, more extreme ones like a juice cleanse and a host of other restrictive diets – which one person wan come follow?
The obsession over diet and weight loss can sometimes be excessive. However, I find it is more important to imbibe a healthy diet as an everyday lifestyle rather than a quick fix to knock off those extra kilograms you are carrying.
Here in Nigeria, it is easy to eat “clean” foods as there is an array to choose from and you can find some of the world’s super and healthiest foods in abundance here. Here is a rundown of some of them, which you should make a part of your diet towards a healthy lifestyle.
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“Water, e no get enemy!” So drink up! Drinking an average of eight glasses of water a day keeps the skin smooth, sharpens the memory, can help with weight loss and a number of other great benefits. And the best part? Water contains zero – as in zilch – calories! Let’s drink to that!
This large fruit with a green exterior and succulent red or pink interior contains about 92 per cent water. It is low in sugar and calories and high in Vitamins A, C and B6. Watermelon also contains significant amounts of lycopene, amino acids, potassium and antioxidants. Eat water melon on its own for a refreshing low calorie snack or add it in salads as a lovely meal or side dish.
Eggs are great. One of the most inexpensive proteins (sold at about N30 naira each) and packed with nutrients, there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t incorporate this into our diets. One large egg contains an average of 70 calories and about six grams of protein. So go ahead and cook or boil, fry, poach, scramble, bake and eat egg alone or as an accompaniment to a wide array of meals.
Whether it be honey beans (oloyin), olotu, or drum/white (black eyed peas), beans are incredibly high in protein and low in cholesterol, loaded with fiber, folate, and magnesium. Their fiber packed quality also makes them protective against certain cancers and a top-rated food for diabetics. And here in Nigeria, there is no limit to what one can do with beans! From plain boiled beans to beans pottage, agoyin beans and sauce, beans and plantain or yam pottage, beans and corn, gbegiri for your amala and of course moi moi and akara… Add beans as part of your diet for a filling meal every time. Beans keeps you feeling full for hours after a meal.
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This has to be one of our favourite spice. Added to that, it is a natural remedy to a number of ailments from nausea and digestive challenges to having anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties…. Ginger’s good! Add it in as a spice, sliced into dishes or made into a refreshing cup of tea.
I know what you are thinking! Garlic may be the bad-breath king but boy, are they a super food! Packed with a wide array of vitamins and minerals, and tremendous medicinal properties. You get the most of the medicinal properties in its raw state. However, If you don’t have the “liver” to eat it raw, use it to flavor meals as well as saute or roast the garlic hole which reduces its pungency.
We already eat this in abundance, what with the amount of stew I know you already eat? There are some of us who wouldn’t eat anything without stew but that is a matter for another day. Tomatoes are packed full with vitamins A and C, fibre, potassium and lycopene (an antioxidant). It has been suggested that tomatoes prevent the growth of cancer cells and also contain anti-inflammatory properties. Whether it is eaten raw, added to salads, used for stew, sauces and a variety of dishes, including tomatoes as part of your diet will make for a healthier you.
8. Chili pepper
Popularly known as shombo, chili pepper is as healthy as it is hot! Containing a wide variety of minerals, vitamins and health benefits, you have every reason not to fear “chopping” pepper! Chili peppers can easily be incorporated into most meals.
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Pawpaw (or papaya) is loaded with vitamin C, A and E as well as antioxidants which protect against heart disease and colon cancer and improve the skin and immune system. Pawpaw is available all year round and is enjoyed on its own or in salads.
Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat that help you feel satisfied for longer as well as being nutrient packed. Enjoy them on their own, in salads or mash and used as a topping and dressing in various dishes.
Once upon a time, I thought beets (or beetroot) was not grown in Nigeria and then a visit to the vegetable section of Mile 12 market left me with my mouth wide open. The dark red color signals the incredible phytonutrient package of beetroot. Boil or roast them and eat them on their own or in salads.
Oranges are a great source of fiber, folate, antioxidants, vitamin C and so much more. Eat it on its own, not just sucking the juices out but eating the roughages as well to take in all the goodness. Juice them and also add in salads!
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13. Sweet potatoes
Nutrient pack with vitamin A and beta carotene as well as being a good source of fiber, folate and potassium, you can’t go wrong with sweet potatoes. They are also incredible cheap. Boil or grill them for a healthy addition to you diet.
Onions are readily available and are great for raising good cholesterol levels, lowering high blood pressure, thinning the blood thereby preventing blood clots. Onions are versatile and has a place in almost every dish you could possibly prepare. You could also saute or roast them, add them to salads or eat them raw. I bet suya and onions is sounding good to you right now.
From cashew nuts to peanuts, nuts are yummy and beneficial to the heart. They contain healthy oils, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Enjoy them boiled or roasted, as toppings, nut butters or healthy snacks such as kuli kuli.
16. Coconut oil
A heart-healthy antioxidant, coconut oil can help support your body against viruses and bacteria that cause illness. Coconut oil also helps with blood sugar regulation, aids digestion, boosts thyroid function and help keep the weight balanced. Use it to sauté vegetables, in baked goods and also as a moisturizer for healthy skin and hair!
Ifeyinwa Nzeka is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, hospitality practitioner and blogger who is passionate about Nigerian food and cuisine.
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