5 Healthy Nigerian Swallows

okra and garri healthy - nigerian swallows

Did you find yourself gasping at the thought of healthy and swallow in the same sentence?  gasp not, swallows are fitfam complaint, you can enjoy swallow and still lose weight. There is a culture of food shaming emerging around Nigerian food – the stigma that if you are not eating salad, chewing quinoa or drinking a smoothie then you are unhealthy. This is one of the things I hope to dispel with the 9jafoodie blog and the Lose It Nigerian (LIN) brand.  If you have ever asked the question:

Is The Nigerian Diet Healthy?

Let me shout it from the rooftop , NIGERIAN DIET IS ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST IN THE WORLD.

Western mainstream media is finally catching on to things we have done for hundreds of years, things like “meal prep” and “food fermentation”. Meal prep isn’t a new idea and it’s definitely not new to the Nigerian kitchen, I haven’t met a Nigerian who grew up in a household that didn’t “meal prep”. You see when mummy cooked pot of stew, soup etc on Saturday to store in the fridge, that is meal prepping. Planning meals ahead is the foundation of meal prep, It doesn’t have to be individually portioned into bowls. Meal prepping is the foundation of a healthy diet, when you plan your meals ahead, you are less likely to eat junk. Also our traditional diet are founded in healthy whole foods; think rich stews and soups, fermented whole grains and lots of herbal drinks for proper gut health.

One might be curious as to why obesity and conditions like diabetes are on the rise in Africa then. The problem lies in the rise of modern middle class luxuries coupled with improper nutrition education on non traditional imports. With modern lifestyle come modern problems. If we want to enjoy the luxuries of food processor peeled beans, machine pounded yam, mass farmed agric products and modern transportation, we cannot eat the same quantity our forefathers did but. We need to modify our traditional recipes to properly account for other luxuries we enjoy or we drastically reduce our portions.


How To Modify For Better Health

The modern modifications required to balance traditional recipes and modern lifestyle is one of the main reasons I wrote my healthy eating and weightloss cookbook Lose It Nigerian, the book showcases simple ways to modify traditional Nigerian recipes at a much lower caloric point while retaining the ability to consume portion required to actual feel and remain full.

There are some traditional cooking techniques that served a purpose years ago. Deep frying was a method of quick food preservation without refrigeration. A well fried stew will last for weeks at room temperature. This is also true for meat, our grandparents fried meat because it made it last longer. With refrigeration and increased access to fresh raw ingredients, there is no reason why we should continue to deep fry as much as they did.



Swallow is a generic name for carbohydrate that often accompanies most Nigerian soups. Typical examples are fufu, garri and amala.

If you are trying to eat clean or lose weight on a Nigerian diet, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy swallows. These foods are often very nutritious and serve great purpose in overall cardiovascular and gut health. The best options are often fermented in whole form. Think fufu, amala, garri, lafun etc.

I was shocked when I was asked where to buy “Wheat Swallow” recently, wheat? apparently it’s being marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional swallows. This unfortunately is false. The problem isn’t with the grain itself but with the process. Traditional african swallows are great sources of carbohydrate, through process of fermentation additional protein and gut healthy microbes are introduced.

By simply milling whole wheat into powder, an obscene amount of carb is cramped together and the direct consumption will spike blood sugar levels. Continuous exposure will eventually lead to ailments like diabetes. Wheat has its place in making pastry, not alongside okra soup as swallow. I think it’s also important to note that wheat and oat are not same. Plain oat like quaker can be made into high-fiber swallow which is healthy.

The critical point to be mindful of on traditional swallow is the serving size. Because most swallow are carbohydrate dense, always aim for a fist size serving or about 1/3 cup if using dried ingredient like garri and elubo. 1/3 cup will typically yield 2-3 servings of carbohydrate, the average healthy adult is supposed to consume around 7-10 servings of total carbohydrate per day.


healthy Nigerian swallows

5 Healthy Swallow Choices


A byproduct of fermented cassava. By itself, cassava is a great source of carbohydrate yielding about 159 calories and 38g of carbohydrate in 100g. By fermenting and processing cassava into garri, some of the carbohydrate is converted to protein. Also, the water absorbability of cassava is drastically increased through processing which makes it a high satiety choice. The average healthy adult should aim for 1/3 cup per meal.



Now I am calling this elubo and not yam powder because I don’t want anyone to get confused. Yam powder/flour is one of the worst things you can eat whether you are trying to lose weight or not. It’s often filled with other fillers like potato powder and chemicals; it also has high calories and carbohydrate per portion . Because the yam hasn’t gone through any nutrition enhancing process, water absorbability is very low. Because such large amount of carbohydrate is packed into very small volume, the impact on your blood sugar is high. This is why you might feel very lethargic shorty after eating yam flour.

Elubo on the other hand even though a byproduct of yam goes through extended fermentation. This process again introduces amazing microbes, increases water absorbability when reconstituted and protein content is also increased


Fufu, Pupuru and Amala Lafun

These are is all byproducts of fermented cassava and excellent choices due to the added health benefits of fermentation as stated previously for garri and elubo.


Whole Grain Swallow

Pick any whole grain product that you like – brown rice, whole millet, guinea corn (oka-baba), fonio (acha) etc. You can turn all these options into swallow, all you need to do is ferment then in water for about 4 days and then blend into a thick paste. Cook the paste as you would semolina (mix a little with water, bring a pot of water to a boil and stir in the mix. continue to stir until thickened). Whole grains come with amazing health benefits and are often high satiety due to high fiber content


Fresh Plantain Fufu

Plantains are good healthy food, but you do have to keep in mind that they are high in calories. The average medium size plantain (200g peeled) has about 244 calories and 58grams of carbohydrate. Here is how to turn  fresh plantain into Fufu.


Eat traditional swallows in prescribed portions and AVOID wheat and poundo powder at all cost. Trying to lose weight or simply cook healthier meals for your family, download a copy of my health Nigerian recipes cookbook Lose It Nigerian. it has over 50 healthy Nigerian recipes.

nigeria swallows - Garri and okro soup healthy

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By |May 5th, 2016|48 Comments


  1. Ineomon Mabel January 29, 2018 at 5:21 am - Reply

    Hello,well done so far i have enjoyed your discussions.must i ferment the grains before grinding into powder form?

  2. mO January 15, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply


  3. Yetunde March 11, 2017 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Hi, Please is there anything healthy we can buy off the shelf if we are unable to go through this process of fermenting ourselves?…

    And in your opening chapter you mentioned food processed peeled beans… I’m shocked and disappointed is that also unhealthy 🙁 🙁


    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie March 12, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      There are lots you can buy off the shelf. Elubo, garri, fufu and oat. Not really certain I understand the processed peeled beans comment.

  4. Janet November 18, 2016 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Hello Mrs Ronke,pls am having issues with the fermentation process of the grains. I see that after the first day of soaking,it begins to smell so offensively. Even if I change the water daily, it still smells. And happy even after enduring the smell,I dry it and mill,but the smell still remain.pls how can I remedy this?thanks in anticipation of a response.
    And in the healthy food page, I noticed you said, just mill and seive the swallow options. Does that mean the healthy version dosent need the fermentation process?

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie November 20, 2016 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      Fermented foods typically stink, it’s not something you can avoid. You can do without fermentation but it greatly enhances the nutrition profile of the grain.

  5. NaijaBoy420 October 23, 2016 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    If you
    -cook with healthy oils (olive oil, canola oil are perfect examples)
    -make stew with real tomatoes and soup with veggies (okra, spinach)
    -season with herbs & spices, onion and garlic vs salts and seasonings (sea salt is okay)
    Then soup and stews can be a low calorie high nutrient dish when eaten with oatmeal swallow

  6. Emem October 14, 2016 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Please how do I make swallow with coconut. Thank you

    • Agboola muslimah October 15, 2016 at 12:05 am - Reply

      Goodmorning pls i really want to loose weight but it is very difficult .pls is there any where in the south west or abuja that one could go for aboot camp.

      • 9jafoodie
        9jafoodie October 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

        Hello! why do you think you need a boot camp. Please send me an email, I will like to help you with your journey.

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie October 16, 2016 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      coconut? No idea

  7. Sagat October 11, 2016 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Semolina.and cornmeal although not Nigerian are healthy choices. The author included garri which I find to be just full of carbs and stodgy and unhealthy. I always eat yam or semolina and cornmeal. Try cutting down on palm oil and vegetable oil. Nigerian tomato stew is always swimming in oil and has no health benefits. Try using less oil or non at all (makes a good alternative) same goes for soups with palm oil

    Everything in moderation as they say

    • NaijaBoy420 October 23, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      If you cook with healthy oils (olive oil, canola oil are perfect examples) and make stew with real tomatoes and season with herbs & spices, onion and garlic VS salts and seasonings then Stew and Soup can be really good for you

  8. cynthia September 1, 2016 at 7:04 am - Reply

    what about semolina is it healthy

  9. Onyeka August 31, 2016 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Your writing though!! I live reading it. It’s so well written and thought out. I am always impressed. I keep saying I’m going to get on LIN and I keep chickening out. But I should, you’ve clearly done all the work and all that is left is for me to actually follow the recommendations. Thanks for all your tips, you are one amazing girl!! Onyi.A

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie September 1, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Awww thank you so much babe, your words mean so much to me.

  10. Harriet August 17, 2016 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Please Ronke, can I soak any grain like Guinea corn, dry, grind into powder and store in the house?

  11. judith July 24, 2016 at 7:40 am - Reply

    But I really wanna know how many calories in fonio acha

  12. OLU June 25, 2016 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Do I need to change the water I am using to ferment my brown rice daily?

  13. Uche June 19, 2016 at 3:09 am - Reply

    How do I know when my wheat meal is done? As in done to eat? Thanks

  14. Adetoun Kolapo June 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Hello, do you know how many calories is in elubo? I see conflicting information online and it’s not available in the LIN ebook. Thanks

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie June 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      There are lots of factors that might influence the caloric content but I will say an average of 650 calories per cup.

  15. Isaiah Ozioma June 7, 2016 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Pls how heathy is unripe dried plantain?

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie June 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      If it’s undiluted, it’s definitely nutritious.

  16. Jeho Ikpeme May 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    @damilola How is garri unhealthy abeg…U sure u grew up in nigeria?? Garri is starch. The best form of carbohydrate we know. Abeg stop am oh

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie May 15, 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Let us give the benefit of a doubt, Damilola might have access to some type of nutrition research we haven’t seen yet. lol.

  17. Damilola May 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    But isn’t Eba(Garri) unhealthy??

  18. Lara May 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    This is great! Thanks! If everyone just ate in moderation though.. even the bad things won’t affect us so much.

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie May 11, 2016 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Well, I think the goal is to avoid the bad stuff especially when we have better options.

  19. Toyin May 6, 2016 at 6:49 am - Reply

    Thanks for the post. Great tips! I will definitely be utilizing the food table. Love it!

  20. Matse May 5, 2016 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this info. Very much appreciated.

  21. iembergavar May 5, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Wow, thanks for the info, especially on wheat flour. I’ve always thought it was the healthiest option. Now I know better.

  22. Sas May 5, 2016 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Sadly Nigerians overdo many things. For example traditional stew is so laced with oil that it has become inedible which has put me off oily stews (i make mine completely different without oil) same goes with some soups the lashings of palm oil is worrying (too much is bad for your health)
    Another issue to add is stodgy garri in certain parts of the country. If the garri is too hard digestion becomes difficult this would explain why many Nigerians are having pot bellies. Cancer seems to be on the increase this is able result of poor diet and lack of exercise

    • Sas May 5, 2016 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Forgot to say that I use good quality semolina coupled with farina flour for soups light and healthy 🙂

      • 9jafoodie
        9jafoodie May 8, 2016 at 7:30 am - Reply

        with farina you are not getting whole grain.

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie May 8, 2016 at 7:33 am - Reply

      very well said.

  23. Temi May 5, 2016 at 1:49 am - Reply

    Hi Ronke, thanks for all ur helpful healthy living tips. I see that in the “draw soup” category, u only provide information about okra. Please for people who don’t eat okra is there any healthy draw soup u can advice of? Thanks

    • Sas May 6, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

      Try ogbonno makes a good draw soup

    • 9jafoodie
      9jafoodie May 8, 2016 at 7:39 am - Reply

      Any sauce based or water based soup can potentially be made very healthy. I have lots of recipes on the blog. check under the health and diet category.

      • Bolanle October 11, 2016 at 8:04 am - Reply

        You are one brilliant lady!!! You really know your onions, well done😍

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