Foods for Diabetic Patients in Nigeria
In this article, we will dispel the unfortunate notion that foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria are limited to beans and its derivatives alone.
There are lots of tasty alternatives that are readily available out there in the market, but before diving in, let us briefly touch on what Diabetes is all about.
What is Diabetes?
Also known as diabetes mellitus, WHO defines it as “a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or when the body cannot optimally use the insulin it produces”.
Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar. When the body does not use this insulin effectively, it leads to Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a condition where there is a deficiency in the production of insulin in the body is referred to as Type 1 Diabetes.
people with type 1 diabetes require daily administration of insulin
Finally, as the name implies, Gestational Diabetes occurs in females during pregnancy. Several factors can lead to it, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Now to the elephant in the room. As you may have known, the general idea behind diet management in diabetes is to cut down on fatty and high carb content meals. This in addition to certain other lifestyle changes contributes to the successful management of diabetes.
Without further delay, the list below contains foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria as well as those to stay away from for better glycemic control.
Easily Available Foods for Diabetic Patients in Nigeria
Most locally available soups are good sources of food for Nigerians living with diabetes. The preferred ones are listed below:
- Bitter Leaf Soup
- Waterleaf Soup
- Afang soup
- Okra soup
- Vegetable soup
- Oha soup
- White soup (ofe nsala in Igbo)
- Groundnut soup
- Banga soup
- Okro Soup
- Edikang Ikong
- Okaze soup
The Nigerian oha soup (image credits: Amah kitchen)
Swallows made from any of the following sources are considered healthy foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria. They are all easily available all across Nigerian markets.
- Millet (a.k.a Dawa, Achara, Okababa)
- Unripe plantain
- Guinea corn (Sorghum)
Meat choices for diabetic people are governed by the preference for lean meats. This is in order to reduce their intake of unhealthy fats. The following are some suggestions:
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, etc (ensure they are skinless)
- Fish (mackerel, sardine, etc)
- Certain beef parts (intestine, towel, liver, lungs, etc)
- Certain goat parts (intestine, towel, liver, lungs, etc)
- Pork loins
- Cowskin (kpomo)
- Shrimps, crabs
The following are also excellent foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria. They are all popular with most tribes in Nigeria, and as such readily available.
- Brown basmati rice
- Unripe plantain
- Moi Moi
- Wheat bread
- Dawa (Sorghum or Guinea-corn)
- Sweet potatoes (not white ones)
- Fat-free dairy produce (cheese, milk)
- Ofada rice
- Millet (Joro)
- Walnuts (also called Ukpa, Asala, or Gyada)
- Spinach (also called inine, Amunututu, Ganye Alayyafo)
Fruits for Diabetics
According to experts, most fruits rank low on the GI scale and are therefore safe for you to take. However, fruits like pineapple and watermelon with high GI scores should be avoided. Here is a small list of fruits that can be used to supplement foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria:
- Berries (Blackberries, Strawberries)
As always, moderation is key. The quantities consumed at a go should be watched closely. It is advisable to spread it out through the entire day than to consume large quantities at a go.
Diabetic Drink List
Drinks containing lots of sugar have a direct impact on your insulin level. They can easily create an imbalance that isn’t good for you. The following drinks can also be incorporated as foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria:
- Fruit juices with no added sugar
- Probiotic Yogurt
- Zobo (unsweetened)
- Low-sugar malt drinks
- Soy milk with low sugar
- Kunu (from dawa or joro)
What Nigerian Foods to Avoid with Diabetes
Since we already know that foods with a high glycemic index score are bad choices for a diabetic, the wise thing to do is to limit their intake to the barest minimum.
If they must be consumed, the quantity should be limited and you must pair them with protein or healthy fat foods in order to reduce their impact on blood sugar.
Additionally, refined sugar and saturated fats can exacerbate diabetic conditions. So generally, you want to avoid processed and fried foods such as sweets, chips, biscuits, fries, and baked foods.
For better clarity, let’s run down a brief list of Nigerian foods that fall in this category:
- Yam or pounded yam
- White Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, etc)
- White rice
- Bread (except wheat bread)
- Ripe plantain
- Red meat
- Energy drinks
- Fries (buns, egg roll, etc)
- Bananas (if you must take it, ensure it’s in small quantity)
- Cakes or chocolates
While the list above contains foods that you should stay away from, They can still serve as foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria so long as they are taken in very little quantities and balanced off with low-carb or low-fat foods at each serving.
Smoking: Although it does not fall within the scope of this article, it is still important to stress that managing diabetes as a smoker is much more difficult. It exposes you to more complicated health problems.
According to this report by the CDC, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes increases with each extra cigarette stick you consume.
Alcohol: When taken in moderation, alcohol is not a direct danger to a diabetic patient. However, if you are on an insulin medication, you could be more exposed to an alcohol-induced hypoglycemia.
Benefits of a Diabetic Diet
A diabetic diet regime has some inherent advantages. The sacrifices you are making by staying away from certain types of foods translates directly to the following health benefits:
- Reduced chances of developing diabetes complications
- Maintenance of an optimal blood pressure
- Maintenance of general good health
- Regulation of your blood glucose level
- Maintenance of balanced blood fat levels
- Maintenance of a healthy body weight
Don’t you think they are worth whatever sacrifice you may be making?
In conclusion, there are lots of readily available foods for diabetic patients in Nigeria. However, the reality is that living with diabetes doesn’t necessarily demand a specially designed diet plan. You only need to make adjustments to your meal by:
- Eating foods high in fiber
- Consuming only carbohydrates with a low GI score
- Including fruits and vegetables in your meal
- Consuming foods low in saturated fats (lean proteins)
- Avoiding foods with low added sugar.
In addition to all these, try reducing the quantity you consume at a go in order to maintain a healthy body weight. Wishing you a long and healthy life!