Having just a balanced diet with a regular workout does not cut it these days, especially for keeping fit and healthy. The right type of food should also be included in our diets, because relying on suggestions from friends and family about a particular food, vegetable or fruit are still not enough as we have to know what particular food is right for our body and the impacts it makes on our health and wellbeing.
African/ Nigerian foods have a diverse range of all balanced diets ranging from popular dishes, fruits and vegetables such as oha leaf, bitter leaf, water leaf and others. They are used in a variety of dishes with common names likes edikang ikong soup, bitter leaf soup, zogalai soup, oha soup, vegetable soup and so on. These soups are popular due to the amazing benefits of the vegetables used in these soups as well it delicious sweetness and aroma that is hard to acquire in any other type of dish. They are not just found in Africa but in other parts of world as well. We will be finding out the benefits of these vegetables and what they do to our bodies when consumed. Most of these vegetables on the list can be eaten raw and some have to be cooked or steamed in order to get the best taste. I would recommend trying one at a time in order to know which one goes well with your body system and also asking your nutritionist or dietician on how these vegetables can be worked into your diet regimen.
1. Bitter Leaf
Vernonia amygdalina also known as Bitter leaf is a medicinal plant that is found in East and West Africa. In ancient times, during the time of our grandfathers it was used as an ethno medicinal drug in treating illnesses such as rash, toothaches, fever, stomach upsets, hiccups as well as kidney problems. It is still being used today in our everyday lives such as in our kitchen for soups, health drinks and sauces. The stem and root are used as chewing sticks in several parts of Africa such as Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana . This vegetable is proven to be highly rich in phytochemicals which aid in detoxifying our body system, reducing harmful free radicals as well being used in the fight against cancer and managing diabetes mellitus . Apart from its delicious taste and aroma, this vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals as well as protein such as phosphorus, zinc, potassium, folic acid, calcium and vitamin C. It can be eaten cooked or raw.
2. Moringa leaf
Moringa oleifera also known as ‘Moringa’, ‘Horseradish tree’ ‘Ben oil tree’ and ‘Drumstick tree’ is a native to Africa and South Asia and is now being grown all over the world due to its amazing health benefits. It is often called ‘The Super food of Super Foods” or ‘Miracle Tree’. It is a powerhouse of nutrients and it has mind-blowing phytochemicals and nutritional values. It is known as the latest discovery to modern science and its market value has not only doubled but tripled over the years around the world. It has even been formulated into capsules as well as tea bags for commercial purposes. It is now being used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, malnutrition, colitis, headaches, fevers, bronchitis, as an antiseptic as well as in treating eye and ear infections . It is also being eaten by the local women in villages as well as in developed countries by women as it is believed to aid in the production of breast milk for breast feeding mothers. It has also been used extensively in water treatment. It is popularly eaten by the hausa tribe in Nigeria which they refer to it as ‘Zogale’.
3. Fluted Pumpkin Leaf
The Fluted Pumpkin leaves are found in West Africa and native to Southern Nigeria but it is now being widely grown in Ghana, Cameroon and Sierra Leone. The botanical name is Telfairia occidentalis. It is popularly eaten by the Igbo and Calabar tribes in Southern Nigeria. Its common English names are fluted gourd, fluted pumpkin and its native names are referred to as Ugu, Ikong-Ubong. Its nutritional values are one- of- a- kind as it is used to treat anemia due to its haematinic properties, cardiovascular diseases, increase production of milk in lactating mothers, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties. It has also been discovered to have a rich source of iron, calcium, protein, fat and carbohydrates. It is popular been eaten as a soup known as the Edikang Ikong soup which comprises of waterleaf and other ingredients.
4. Water leaf
One of the most underrated vegetables in Africa is the Water leaf. The availability of the vegetable comes in handy due to the fact it grows all year round especially during the rainy season when it can be seen in abundance. It also has a short life span and is considered perishable. This vegetable is indigenous to West Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean’s, Central and South America. The Water leaf which is known as Talinum triangulare is also considered as a weed to most people and so not given much importance. The reason for the name originated as a result of various researches both traditionally and scientifically which shows that it has a high quantity of moisture which is also known as several names all over world as Philippine spinach, Flame flower, Sweetheart and Florida spinach. It is known for its excellent effects in treating and prevention of various diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis, weak immunity, inhibiting cancer cells, insomnia, enhancing brain activity, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), detoxification, boosting blood levels, regulating cholesterol, managing cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes. From where I come from, it can eaten raw in salads or in soups like Afang soup or Edikang Ikong soups, in sauces or made together with stew. It has a high amount of nutrients such as proteins and pectinases and can also be used as a softener of other vegetables.
5. Scent Leaf
Ocimum gratissimum popularly called Scent leaf, Clove or African basil is a tropical and aromatic vegetable which is known to contain medicinal and nutritional benefits. The plant is originated from Africa and Southern Asia. It has also been discovered to be growing in India, Bolivia, Hawaii and Brazil. This vegetable has a very strong aromatic scent which is being used in numerous ways such as in sauces, stews, soups like Banga soup where it is the main star of the dish as well as in any kind of pepper soup. It can be found densely in the Northern part of Nigeria. It is known as ‘Efinrin’ by the Yoruba, ‘Daidoya tagida’ by the Hausa and ‘Okrika/Nchuanwu/ahuji’ by the Igbo tribes. This vegetable has so many uses as it can be taken to normalize cholesterol, boost immunity, aids digestion, used in reducing coughs, colds, and flu, increasing blood count and flow, treating skin diseases such as ringworm, used in tea for medicinal purposes and also the stem can be used as a food preservative due to its antimicrobial activity . In some tribes, the women eat this vegetable as a soup after giving birth as it cleanses the system and purifies the blood and also prevent blood clotting after birth. This plant is discovered to have remarkable essential mineral nutrients such as manganese, sodium, chromium, manganese, copper, and calcium.
6. Jute Leaf
This is a very interesting vegetable as when boiled it has a slimy consistency when compared to okra. Going by the botanical name as Corchorus olitorius, it is commonly found in tropical and subtropical parts of Africa and Asia. This amazing vegetable has been eaten for hundreds of years which also have high nutritional value as well as vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, A, B6, C, iron, and other amino acids. It has been consumed all over the world for its health benefits such as prevention of asthma, colds and flu, protecting healthy hair and skin, reducing cholesterol, internal bleeding, restless leg syndrome, eye health, supporting skin health and continuous cell growth. Dried leaves of this plant has also been incorporated into health and beauty supplements in places like Japan. It is known by many names such as ‘ewedu’ in Nigeria, ‘saluyot’ in Phillipines, ‘ayoyo’ in Ghana , ‘nalta sag’ in India. It is also known as the ‘Golden Fiber” in Bangladesh as this is the main cash crop for the country.
7. African jointfir Leaf
This remarkable vegetable is indigenous to Africa. Scientifically it is known Gnetum africanum. I know by now you keep on wondering why so many of these vegetables are found in Nigeria. Yes, my beloved country is home to so many of these health benefitting vegetables, my reason for wanting to share it with you. It is known as ‘Afang’ or ‘Ukase’ in Nigeria by the Igbo tribe, ‘Eru’ or ‘Okok’ in Cameroon, ‘koko’ in both the Central African Republic and Congo. It is also known as African Jointfir in English. The leaves can be eaten as salads mixed with fish and meat or made in a popularly made soup known as ‘Afang’ soup in Nigeria. The Eru leaves are rich in crude fibre, crude protein, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. The presence of both magnesium and phosphorus makes it an ideal vegetable in the management of diabetes mellitus as well as in the treatment of other diseases such as sore throat, boils, nausea, enlarged spleen, cataracts and also used as a worm expeller.
8. Bush Buck leaf
This vegetable is found in the eastern part of Nigeria. It can be used as an herb in medicinal purposes or used in food to add more flavor. This vegetable grows in the tropical rainforest and it is known botanically as Gongronema latifolium. This vegetable has a distinct bitter-sweet taste which is similar to the bitter leaf but also loses its bitter taste when dried. It has been used as a remedy for cough, cold, catarrh, dysentery, intestinal worms, as a laxative, controlling body weight, diabetes as well as in the treatment of malaria. Research shows that it has also been formulated as an antibiotic against Staphylococcus aureus. This local vegetable is often used as a spice for pepper soups and other dishes such as unripe plantain porridges, white soup, sauces, salads. It is also known popularly as Utazi by the igbos.
9. Black Pepper leaf
Piper guineense, also known as West African pepper, Ashanti pepper, Benin pepper, black pepper, uziza is a spice that is produced from the dried fruit. Its leaves and seed have been used as an herbal medicine as well as condiments which are used in food. Internationally, the spice is used in intercontinental dishes thereby making it in high demand all over the world. It is packed with various nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, alkaloids, vitamins, minerals and fats. It is being used as a pain reliever, treatment of infertility, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, flatulence, stomach ache, cough, loss of appetite and convulsions.
10. Amaranth leaf
This popularly known ever-growing vegetable is one of the most common vegetables in Nigeria. It can be easily grown and is been sold in all markets across the country. Amaranth leaf also known as pigweed is often used in salads, vegetable soups known as ‘Efo riro’ soup. Botanically named Amaranthus hybridus, the nutritional content is sufficient enough that it can be used as supplement to other sources of nutrients. It is high in Vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B3, B6. It also contains other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, potassium and Iron. It is eaten as an everyday vegetable mainly for its nutritive benefits.
The right kind of nutrient says a lot about what happens to our bodies and we do not know the values of these God’s gifts of nature thereby trying to find cures in so many drugs when the solution is at our finger tips. Washing our vegetables with vinegar and not overcooking them preserve the nutrients found in these vegetable thereby making sure we get the most out of our vegetables. If you liked this article and would hope to read more, you can read my other posts on this blog😁😁, Please send your comments😊😊😊, questions🤔🤔🤔, likes 🤩🤩🤩and reviews😍😍😍. Let me know if you tried some of them and what you think. Please, Please please, don’t forget to follow my blog or subscribe, it’s very encouraging. So until my next post….