Looking for Nigerian foods rich in fibre?
Below is a list of common Nigerian food that are high in fibre and their fibre content.
By the way, this list is by no means exhaustive. And for the purpose of explanation, all amount of dietary fibre listed is per 100g unless stated otherwise.
Finally, if you don't know what fibre is or why it's important, I have saved that info the later part of this post.
Nigerian Staples High in Fibre
Here are some of the most common staple Nigerian foods and their fibre content...
Love it or hate it, beans are a firm staple in the average Nigerian household. As with most staples it is very versatile. It can be boiled, made into porridge, Moi-moi, Akara etc.
Beans gets its bad rep from its gas producing properties and the resulting bloating / stomach upsets. Also, there is a wide-spread misconception in Nigeria; beans are viewed as a main source of protein.
Although this is true for vegetarians, beans are more a source of carbohydrate than protein (see below). Therefore, avoid the usual parings with high-carb foods like beans and bread, beans and yam, beans and plantain etc. instead pair it with proteins.
Fibre content: 5.3g (this is an average, as they vary according to species). Carbs: 20g Protein: 9g
Cocoyam is high in nutritional values when compared with others like cassava and yam. It packs substantial amounts of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
It can be roasted or boiled to accompany any sauce, used as thickeners in various soups and used to make the delicious Ekpang Nkukwo (Ibibio).
The beauty of Ekpang Nkukwo is that Cocoyam leaves (as well as the tubers) are used. These are equally high in fibre and vitamins. Paired with the right proteins this dish is simply a taste of heaven!
Fibre content: Cocoyam (Taro) flesh: 5g and cocoyam leave: 4.3g
Corn can be roasted or boiled. The variety of corn determines its fibre content.
Popped corn boast a whopping 14g of fibre compared to 1.37g for the average white corn.
It can be processed into meals such as Akamu (pap) and Agidi. Although it is rich in dietary fibre and minerals, be mindful that these are reduced when processed. For example, Akamu has only 0.5g fibre.
Fibre content: Popcorn: 14g, White corn: 1.37g, Pap: 0.5g.
Although Oats do not jump to mind when thinking of “Nigerian foods” they are an excellent source of soluble fibre.
They can be made into swallow to accompany any soup, used as thickeners for soups, patties and smoothies. Not to mention they make the best breakfast ever! Overnight oats anyone??
Fibre content: 3g
Yam’s symbolism as king of crops is manifested in its use in ceremonies such as those for marriages and fertility, as well as an annual festival held to celebrate its harvest.
It is believed to be responsible for high fertility rates and twin pregnancies (albeit unproven).
All the same, yams can be enjoyed as part of a nutritious balanced diet. It can be boiled, roasted, fried or pounded. It is calorie dense, so portion control is paramount.
Fibre content: white yam boiled: 2.8g
Although this post is about Nigerian foods rich in fibre, as a comparator, I cannot ignore two common staples. Although they are relatively low in fibre content, my hope is that the explanations below will help in making an informed decision about what to put on your plate.
Interestingly, Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava. And unsurprisingly, Cassava is the third-largest source of energy carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize, thanks to its high caloric content and the ease to cultivate it, even in drought conditions.
Cassava contains toxins such as cyanide, so adequate processing (such as cooking, soaking and fermentation to make garri) is essential before consumption to avoid harmful toxic effects.
However, this processing can deplete its vitamins and fibre content. Therefore, cassava meals such as Eba and Tapioca should be consumed as part of a balanced diet, paring it with nutritious vegetables and protein. Portion size should be controlled, especially if trying to lose weight.
Fibre content: Cassava raw: 0.9g, Garri: 1.3g
The staple that needs no introduction. And the source of many mouth-watering dishes like jollof rice and fried rice amongst others. Like cassava it is high in caloric content, low in fibre and has a high glycaemic index, especially the commonly used white polished rice(resulting in sugar spikes).
My intention is not to demonise any food, but to explain that just as with cassava above, rice should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, or better still these signature recipes can be made with alternative grains, that are higher in fibre and other nutrients, and they taste just as good!
Fibre content: white boiled rice: 0.65g.
Nigerian Vegetables High in Fibre
Here are some of the most common Nigerian vegetables and their fibre content...
Although technically a fruit, it is used as a vegetable. It is very weight loss friendly as 90% of raw Okra is made up of water. It is used to make different varieties of Okra soup to eat with a starchy swallow. Okra has a slimy consistency when cooked in soups. It can be cooked by itself, paired with leafy vegetables, combined with tomatoes sauce or added to Ogbono, to make “draw soup”. It is a brilliant soup to wean children on to, as the swallow balls slides down their throat with ease and they love it. It is very nutritious and high in fibre.
Fibre content: 3g
Editan is a green leafy vegetable that is like bitter leaf and used by the Ibibios / Efiks to make various soups. Editan can be washed to the desired bitterness level. Editan soups can be combined with bitter-leaf, Okra, or water leaves. Resulting in a nutrient dense, high fibre and low-calorie yumminess (just don’t drown it in oil sha!). Due to its bitter taste, it can help regulate blood sugar level.
Fibre content: 3g
Fluted pumpkin leaves (Ugu leaves)
This is a green leafy vegetable. It is high in fibre, iron (helpful for red blood cell production) and potassium. It is used to make various Nigerian soups and can be blended into smoothies too.
Fibre content: 2.2g
Others vegetables include Scent leaves with 6.8g of fibre and Cabbage with 2.5g of fibre.
Nigerian Fruits High In Fibre
Here are some of the most common Nigerian fruits and their fibre content...
African star apple / Agbalumo (Yoruba)
This is a fruit that can be eaten raw as a snack. It contains on average 4-6 seeds in a start like arrangement, hence the name. The taste of the flesh pulp can range from tangy sour to sensationally sweet, depending on the species and the degree of ripeness.
The tree also produces a sap that when chewed for a long time can turn into a chewing gum like consistency. Children would use it as a substitute for gum, when they were not allowed commercial chewing gum!! It is high in fiber, vitamins C (more than oranges) and minerals.
Fibre content: 4.3g
Avocado pear needs no introduction really. This super food is pack full of healthy fats, fibre and potassium. It is super creamy and delicious too, it can be added to salads, made into guacamole, or eaten as a snack. But before you go eating it by the bucket! be careful as it very calorie dense and moderation is key here.
Fibre content: 6.7g
This is a fruit that is consumed as a snack raw or made into smoothies or juice. It is high in dietary fibre and vitamin C.
Fibre content: 5.3g
Pawpaw or papaya is very delicious, succulent and sweet when ripe. It can be eaten as a snack, added to fruit salad or made into juices and smoothies. It has a high fibre content and vitamins too and can help to prevent / treat constipation.
Fibre content: 6g
Another food that needs no introduction, it is a powerhouse of energy, and wonderful if you need an energy boost e.g. pre-workout or when u are on the go. It is also loaded with potassium, magnesium, and various vitamins. It can be eaten as a snack, made into smoothies (yum!) and added to baked goods, who doesn’t love banana bread with a cup of tea (hmmm)!
Fibre content: ripe banana: 2.6g
Nigerian Nuts & Seeds High In Fibre
Here are some of the most common Nigerian Nuts & Seeds and their fibre content...
Tiger nut is popular in Northern Nigeria. They can be eaten as a snack, made into drinks or flour.
Fibre content: 13.5g
Eating fresh coconut as a snack provides high fibre and healthy fats. As mentioned before moderation is key when it comes to fat consumption and the processing of coconut into coconut milk will of course reduce its fibre content significantly.
Fibre content: Coconut flesh immature: 3.3g / mature: 11:45g
Bitter kola seed has a sharp bitter taste that fades away as you chew. It is a stimulant, has anti-diabetic and appetite suppressants tendencies.
It has cultural significance too, it can be given to show respect, as a rite of passage, as part of a celebration, or the sealing of a contract.Interestingly, some of the first recipes for Coca-Cola were made using the extract of the bitter kola plant!
Fibre content: 5.23g
What is dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre and resistant starch are supplied by carbohydrate-rich foods. Fibre is the component of carbohydrates that passes through the digestive track undigested or absorbed.
Sugars either occur naturally in fruits and dairy products or are added artificially to foods during processing. Starches are many glucose (sugar) units linked together.
Grains, legumes, and vegetables provide starch in the diet. Most starches are broken down to sugars by digestive enzymes, but some starches escape digestion.
These “resistant starches” function similarly to dietary fibre in the large intestine, as some can be fermented by gut bacteria with protective benefits.
Food processing can either increase or decrease fibre content. Peeling vegetables will decrease its fibre.
Some cooking and cooling methods can increase fibre content especially if water is drawn out in the cooking process. For example, unripe raw plantain and unripe cooked plantain have a reported fibre content of 0.4g and 6.4g per 100g respectively.
It is recommended that a healthy adult consumes on average 30g of fibre per day, sadly majority of people consume less than half of this amount.
Types of Dietary fibre
There are two types of fibre.
- Soluble fibre: They absorbs water to form a gel like substance, they are important in reducing cholesterol, especially the harmful type called low density lipoprotein (LDL).
- Insoluble fibre: They, on the other hand, are crucial for bulking stools, this helps in gut motility, thereby preventing constipation.
Benefits of Dietary fibre
- Foods high in fibre generally tends to be lower in calories, so they can aid weight loss
- Foods high in fibre slows stomach emptying, this keeps hunger at bay and prevents over consumption of calories
- High-fibre diet provides a steady sugar release, thus reducing blood sugar levels
- High fibre diet reduces blood cholesterol
- The combined effect of a normal healthy weight, blood sugar and cholesterol will prevent chronic metabolic syndromes like diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases etc.
- When insoluble fibre reaches the colon, they become food for the gut bacteria, they ferment these fibres, creating short-chain fatty acids that nourish the cells that line the intestines and keep them healthy.
Any Down sides of Dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre can cause gas formation, resulting in gastro-intestinal distress especially for those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Low fibre diets are recommended for such individuals. In general, it is advisable to start with small amounts of fibre intake and build up in time.
Nigerian Foods High in Fibre Conclusion
Fibre is an important dietary requirement, with numerous health benefits. Unfortunately, we under consume it. Stick to whole grains and unprocessed foods to increase fibre intake. Be mindful of food that are dense in calories or processed (resulting in reduced fibre and minerals). When consuming such foods, control your portion size and add nutritious vegetables, proteins and fat as part of a healthy and sustainable diet.