Staple foods constitute dominant parts of diet and supply major proportions of nutrient needs of a group of people.
In Ghana, staple foods are mainly rice, wheat, maize (corn), millet, sorghum, roots and tubers such as potatoes, cassava, yams; animal products such as meat, milk, eggs, and fish. Others are mushrooms and snails.
Most Ghanaians live on diets based on one or more of these staples which are usually starchy and filling. Fufu, Banku, Rice Balls, Waakye (Rice and Beans), Kenkey and others are daily foods that made out of these staples.
Soup and sauces made from garden egg, Kontomire, tomatoes okra and other vegetables usually accompany every meal.
Though our staples are predominantly heavy and starchy, those who are conscious of their body size and weight try to avoid eating heavy meals.
As snacking in between the three main meals of the day is untypical, it is not uncommon to find Ghanaians eat Banku or Kenkey for breakfast. Such people find eating heavy meals as a way to avoid constant hunger. Others say it is a way to preserve their cultural delicacies.
The weight and size conscious try to avoid carbohydrate meals such as Fufu, Banku and Kenkey especially for supper.
But really, is it the “heaviness” of our meals or the amount of carbohydrates consumed that affect weight-gain? Can what we eat, when we eat and how often we do same affect weight management? Do we necessarily have to avoid carbohydrates in our quest to manage our weight?
Carbohydrate is essential in providing daily energy needs for the body. It is vital for digestion and other physical activities. High-carbohydrate foods are sources of many essential nutrients, including Fiber, potassium and a variety of minerals.
Noted for causing weight gain, carbohydrates form the bulk of Ghanaian diets and are perceived as one that retards the progress of people who are trying to manage their weight.
Though carbohydrates form a major part of our diets, they always come with soup or stews which are made from vegetables, fish, and meat. For a balanced meal therefore, Mrs. Quist-Therson advised that soup and sauces accompanying meals should have ingredients that are rich in protein and vitamins.
According to her, the most critical factor which affects the nutritional value in our staple foods is the mode of preparation. For instance, she says, “it is healthier to cook rice without oil, especially if accompanying soup or sauce is likely to have oil in them, which is usually the case”.
Palm-nut soup, groundnut-soup and light soup (made of garden eggs) are the most common types of soup eaten in Ghana.
These soups usually have oil in them, while Stews and Sauces are more often than not prepared with palm oil or vegetable oil. It is therefore not necessary to boil rice without oil.
As much as possible, one should avoid fats and oils. Instead of frying fish, meat, etc. you could opt for baking, grilling or boiling. Also vegetables should as often as possible be eaten freshly.
Abom refers to food accompaniments prepared from garden eggs, Kontomire (cocoyam leaves), tomatoes, etc. The vegetables are usually cooked and mashed in earthenware bowls.
Typically, palm oil is added but it is advisable to have them without oil. Abom usually accompanies Ampesi, a term given to boiled yam, plantain cocoyam and other root and tuber dishes.
Choosing rice, nutritionists recommend local brown rice which contains a lot of fiber and other micronutrients.
Polished white rice has very little or no fibre. It is readily digested and so to achieve satiety, it has to be taken in fairly larger quantities. If you choose white rice however, you can add steamed vegetables to increase fibre content, achieve satiety and benefit from the micronutrients in the vegetables.
It is worth noting, according Mrs. Quist-Therson, that the heavy nature of our staples is not necessarily responsible for unnecessary weight gain. However, the quantity and time at which such meals are taken could cause weight gain.
Studies show that late eaters are likely to consume more calories. For instance one is likely to eat a lot more when eating Fufu because of its smooth texture and the ease of swallowing. At night, the digestive system slows down and nutrients in food are not fully absorbed.
When this happens, food is converted into fat leading to weight gain.
Eating starchy foods in large quantities beyond one’s body’s energy requirements could lead to unnecessary weight gain.
Moderate eating therefore, is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. Detect your satiety cues accurately and stop eating as soon as you begin to feel satisfied.
By: Vera Asokwa Ofori/Citifmonline.com