The Benefits Of A Traditional African Diet

The Benefits Of A Traditional African Diet

In recent years, the African continent has become more and more ‘western’ in its ways. Africans are enjoying western technologies as well as indulging in western excesses, some of which has had positive effects on the development of the continent, others which haven’t. The benefits of a traditional African diet seem to have been lost in a sea of polystyrene- served, microwaved cooked foods while technology has brought laziness.

Recent studies have shown that these excesses are proving to be detrimental to African health across the continent and some say this is due to the ‘nutritional transition in which the healthy, wholesome, nutritious traditional foods have been replaced by processed, high fat, high sugar foods of significantly lower nutritional value’. A study published in BioMed Central (BMC) Public Health in 2009 suggested that obesity levels rose in seven African countries by almost 35% during the early 1990s to early 2000s.

The dramatic change was attributed to a change in food as well as decreased physical activity levels as a result of better technology and infrastructure – less walking, more sedentary living.  As a result, diseases like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and some forms of cancer were on the rise.

 The traditional African diet the young people are now shying away from had kept older generations better protected nutiritionally thanks to:

High Fibre:
In their least processed forms, traditional foods are mainly vegetable and plant-based, such as corn, cassava, millet, barley and plantain. Fibre is brilliant for decreasing cholesterol and protecting the digestive system and bowels. It can also be helpful for weight control.

Low Sodium
traditional cooking relied on herbs and spices. Now with the advent of table salt, it is used in pretty much everything increasing sodium levels which is detrimental to African health as people of African descent are genetically prone to diseases caused by high levels of sodium in the blood such as hypertension.

Low Fat
Starches, fruit and vegetables contain no fat while meat is leaner than western meat due to the animals living environments being more organic and natural.


Traditionally, organic seeds are used to grow crops; seeds are harvested from the previous year. GM seeds are rare. Animals live free on farms feeding on the pasture side-by-side. Pesticides are rarely used, therefore, chemicals rarely ingested by human consumption.

Wholesome cooking methods
African cooks traditionally did not rely on deep fat fryers and microwaves. African’s steam food in leaves, boil, grill, roast or bake in a fire. Nowadays palm oil cooking has become the norm with young people relying on fast food instead of learning to cook in the traditional way.

From Egusi to Pumpkin leaves, plantain, yams to beef to wild game, food choices have always been well varied, providing an adequate balance of nutrition, ensuring that the body receives all the vital minerals and vitamins needed from general health and well being.

source: African Pot Nutrition

photo credit:media.holidaycheck

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