Africa has some of the tastiest dishes on the planet. Unfortunately, they can also be some of the unhealthiest. Take a look below to see which foods made the list and their healthier alternatives.
Egusi soup has a special place in the hearts of most West Africans. It is a spicy mix of ground melon seed, palm oil, pepper, dry fish and various meats. While it may be delicious, egusi can be detrimental to your health.
A majority of egusi soup is composed of ground melon seed. Ground melon seed alone is high in fat. According to Weight Watchers, one cup of melon seeds could contain as much as 58 grams of fat.
Melon seed is not the only unhealthy ingredient in the soup. Many people fry the ground seed in palm oil. Palm oil is high in saturated fats, which increases levels of LDL circulating in the body. LDL can clog the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Alternative: Eating a little egusi soup every once in a while will not hurt. Remember, everything in moderation. When you do choose to prepare this delicious soup, try frying the egusi using olive oil or vegetable oil. This will provide the same great taste in a healthier package. Also try substituting meat with fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Research studies have shown that these fatty acids are great for the heart and blood vessels.
Plantain is a staple food not only in African countries but worldwide. This fruit is not necessarily unhealthy. It has more to do with the way that it is prepared. Of all the ways to prepare plantain, frying it is one of the unhealthiest.
Alternative: Try boiling, baking or grilling your plantain. The sweet, fresh taste is still there without a side of saturated oil.
Fufu is a common dish in West Africa and in the Caribbean, where it is called mofongo. In West Africa, it is usually eaten with a soup like egusi. It can be made from yams, plantains or cassava. Fufu is rich in carbohydrates, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes unhealthy when you eat large amounts of it multiple times a day/week with high fat soups like egusi.
Alternative: Eat less! When you just have to have it, prepare smaller proportions. Try eating it with a healthier soup, like pepper soup, which consists of mostly water.
Joloff rice is another delicious dish that is a staple in every West African household. It is a very common dish that is eaten frequently. It is composed of white rice that is mixed with a tomato stew fried in oil and meat. How can this be unhealthy? It becomes unhealthy when you overdo it.
Alternative: Try brown or wild rice. They are considered healthier alternatives to white rice, which is high in starch. Use fresh tomatoes instead of canned and throw in some mixed vegetables. Making these substitutions will make for a great-tasting healthier alternative.
Photos: chefinyou.com, endlesssimmer.com, worlddelicatecuisine.blogspot.com