When it comes to natural, healthy food that can aid in weight loss, we have it so good in Nigeria. In some cases, some families have 5 different organic fruit growing inside their garden.
In spite of this most Nigerians are embracing imported food and fruits filled with preservatives and other harmful chemicals, processed food and foods that are almost at their expiring date which is dumped for unsuspecting consumers.
This has increased the rate of cardiovascular disease including stroke, HBP, Type 2 diabetes, childhood and adult obesity and the diagnostic rate of all manner of disease.
It is time for us to embrace our foods. There is nothing shameful about eating foods like fio – fio. It is the same food called lentil. People are enjoying it globally because of the high protein content.
We refuse to eat it because we think it’s for people with low economic status. Some of the food we look down on as not befitting our status is actually healthy and good for us.
I have heard people say Nigerian foods are high carb foods and aid in weight gain.
There is no nation in the world that does not have high carb food. We need carbohydrate for our body to function. That’s where we get our energy from. We have natural carbohydrate like yam and sweet potato. They are healthy.
It is the noodles and white bread; the processed carb that is unhealthy. The secret is learning how we can combine our foods to get the maximum benefit from them.
Okpa is one of our healthy foods. A delicacy popular in Eastern Nigeria; It’s made with Bambara nuts and is rich in protein. Like all protein rich food, it is thermogenic and helps in weight loss.
Thermogenic foods take longer time to digest and the body uses more energy to digest it. This can help you to lose weight. You also get satisfied fast and feel full for a longer time and drink more water.
Okpa has become the fast food of the east, as workers are seen eating it while driving to work in the morning, as lunch for kids and as breakfast for most families. Sellers are seen early in the morning make brisk sales.
The beauty of Okpa comes from the fact that it only needs palm oil, salt and pepper to cook. There’s no preservative or any other chemical to overload your system. The calorie only comes from Okpa which is part of your nutrition and nothing to worry about, and maybe a negligible part from the palm oil.
But, the simplicity of Okpa is also its main problem
It can only be good for weight loss when it is prepared and eaten the right way. Just because it is good for weight loss and is rich in protein doesn’t mean it should be eaten without any thought for calorie. You should also know that even though it is rich in protein, that it also contains carbohydrate.
Okpa is a complete food and a cup contains 250 calories with 40-55 % carbohydrate. Has 6% fiber too and about 15-20 grams of protein and contains other important minerals like calcium, magnesium potassium and manganese
Most of the Okpa we eat is bought from commercial vendors and sometimes they add corn flour or other things that has nothing to do with Bambara nut to thicken it and make more money.
They may also contain excessive palm oil (sometimes when you press okpa, palm oil drips from it or it stains your hand). They may also add red coloring to save cost in oil while giving it the rich red color that makes it so attractive
Another thing is what you eat it with.
Okpa and cola drink is a perfect match and that’s what most people use when eating it. For someone that wants to lose weight, this is not the best. Cola adds to your calorie load. You may find that after eating the Okpa that you have already added 500 calories to your meal. And this is just breakfast.
How to prepare and eat okpa
The nutritional content makes it a good addition to your healthy meals and for weight loss.
You can eat it with green tea, hibiscus tea, yogurt, pap or with any liquid of your choice
It is prepared in several ways; you can make it with vegetables or you can make it with oil alone
To make sure that what you are eating is Okpa, it is better to make yours at home.
The first process is to buy the Okpa seeds and dehull it. In Enugu, you can do this at Ogbete main market towards Akwata. After dehulling , you can have it ground to very fine powder immediately. I prefer this method; so that when you want to eat it, all you have to do is mix it and cook.
And you also know what’s inside what you’re eating. When you learn it, you can make it a big batch and keep in the fridge not freezer and warm it when you need it.
You can find someone you trust that sells already dehulled, pure, ground okpa flour and buy from them. That’s what I do.
How to prepare it
If you’re doing this for the first time, it’s better to try it on a Saturday
- Get one cup of okpa flour and pour it in a mortar. You can also use blender or bowl and whisk
- Add one cup of warm water to the okpa and turn it with pestle
- You want a watery mix, a thick mix will make the okpa too strong when it’s done
- Turn it till it’s a bit drawy and creamy consistency
- When you get the drawy mix, add 2 spoons of oil, salt and pepper to taste
- Turn again
- Pour into cups and put into a pot with boiling water. Cook for 30 minutes.
- Check the water regularly so it doesn’t burn. When it’s done, eat while warm.
How to eat okpa for weight loss
When you get N100 Okpa, eat with a glass of milk or yogurt or a cup of coffee
Some eat it with pap, if you’re trying to lose weight, reduce the quantity of pap as this may add to the calorie load, and instead eat with hibiscus tea (zobo) or healthy yogurts or good old plain water.
If you don’t want palm oil, you can add turmeric or tatase to give it color. Enjoy!