Grains on” MyAfricanPlate!”…. A Guide To Healthier Eating.

The Recommendation:  Make a quarter ( 1/4)  of your plate from the grain group.

Grains are truly the staple of the African diet. From maize and sorghum to rice and teff, the continent boasts one of the world’s largest varieties of grains and it is not uncommon to hear people complain that they are not satisfied until they have had a serving of the particular grain that is native to their country. Examples of grains consumed in Africa include maize (corn), rice, millet, sorghum, wheat, oats and teff. As common as they may be in the African diet not all grains provide equal nutrition, some are healthier than others.

All grains have 3 main components that contribute to make them  healthy and nutritious:

English: A wheat kernel and its nutritional va...

  The bran is the outer covering of the seed. Its function is to protect the contents of the seed. It is highly indigestible and provides the fiber in food.

The endosperm is where the starch and protein of the seed lies. 

  The germ is the nutrition powerhouse of the grain as it contains essential oils that are rich in nutrients. .

 Most grains are consumed in their mechanically altered form  (milled, pounded, ground etc) and are divided into 2 main groups: “Whole Grains” and “Refined Grains.”

 Whole Grains

Whole grains are grains that despite being mechanically altered continue to have all aspects of the grain itself, the endosperm, germ and bran. Consequently, these grains are high in nutrients such as  fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, magnesium and depending on the soils they are grown in, selenium. They have “a rough mouth feel” and take a long time to cook. This is due to their high fiber content. However, this should not stop anyone wanting to eat healthier from picking them because they are extremely nutritious. Whole grains have been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar control, help curb hunger and decrease the risk of some cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Examples of whole grains are brown rice, brown wheat flour, straight run maize (corn) meal, straight run sorghum and straight run millet.

 Refined grains:

Refined grains are the direct result of an evolving industrializing world. These grains have a smooth mouth feel, cook in a short time and may be more aesthetically appealing than the whole grains. In some instances, refined grains may cost more than their less processed counterparts. As a result refined are sometimes viewed as “status” foods as those of a higher income can afford them. From a nutritional standpoint however, they do not boast the nutrients that whole grains contain as they are lacking in fiber and other nutrients. The nutritional implications of a diet high in  refined grains include poor blood glucose control, certain diseases of the digestive tract (diverticulitis and some cancers) and possible weight gain. White flour, white rice, super refined cornmeal, couscous and pasta all fall in the Refined Grain group. People trying to improve their eating habits should aim to eat less of the foods in this group.

(Please note: Some governments are now requiring that some grains be “fortified” with certain vitamins and minerals as part of their processing.  While this improves the nutritional content of the refined grain, it remains inferior to the whole grains as some nutrients (such as fiber) are not always replaced.)

Take Home Message:

  • Go for the grain….whole grain that is. You will feel full longer,  enjoy the taste of the food and reap numerous health rewards.

Nutritional Content of Select African Grains and  Grain Dishes

Nutritional content per 100g (3.5 oz) edible portion

Grain

Calories

Carbohydrate (g)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Fiber

(g)

Rice, white, boiled

126

27.5

2.7

0.3

0.4

Rice, brown, boiled

112

21.3

2.6

0.9

1.7

Chapati, with oil

372

43.9

5.9

3.5

1.3

Maize stiff porridge*

91

25.6

2.7

1.2

2.4

Sorghum and millet stiff porridge*

112

24.7

3.4

0.3

4.3

Maize and sorghum stiff porridge*

110

24.7

3.0

0.9

4.3

Maize porridge with sugar

94

22.7

0.8

0.4

0.7

Millet porridge with sugar

91

22.6

0.7

0.1

1.3

Rice biriyani

208

19.5

9.9

10

0.7

Rice and meat pillau

177

23.6

7.1

5.6

0.9

Rice with coconut milk

170

35.5

2.9

1.5

0.7

* Stiff porridge is also known as Ugali/ Sadza/ Nshima/ Pap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battle of the Maize/Corn Meal

Nutrient Information per 100g (3.5 oz) edible portion

Grain

Calories

Carbohydrate (g)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Fiber

(g)

Maize meal, straight run, raw, white

423

75.1

9.2

4.3

10.6

Maize meal, super, raw, white

396

83.5

8.8

1.2

2.6

Maize meal, sifted, raw, white

411

80.2

9

3.5

4.6

Maize meal, unsifted, raw

412

78.3

9.1

3.7

6.2

Maize meal, yellow

362

76.9

8.1

3.6

7.3

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

1. South African Food Composition Tables

2. Lukmanji Z., Hertzmark E., Mlingi N., Assey V., Ndossi G., Fawzi W., Tanzania food composition Tables. MUHAS- TFNC, HSPH, Dar es Salaam Tanzania-2008

 

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Categories: Food As Medicine, General Nutrition, My African Plate- A Guide to Better Eating!, Uncategorized

Author:Cordialis Chipo

Cordialis is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - a nutrition consultancy that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian or on Facebook (The African Pot Nutrition.

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