Saturday, July 13, 2024

From Calcium to Zinc: Nigerian Foods That Have It All

Last Updated on November 19, 2023


Minerals play a pivotal role in our diet, ensuring our bodies function optimally.

Nigerian cuisine, renowned for its diversity, offers a treasure trove of these essential minerals.

From calcium to zinc, these nutrients are abundant in various traditional Nigerian dishes.

Calcium, crucial for bone health, and zinc, vital for immune function, are just a glimpse of the essential minerals found abundantly in Nigerian foods.

Emphasizing the significance of these nutrients, Nigerian culinary traditions have woven a tapestry of dishes rich in minerals, contributing to overall health and well-being.

Nigeria’s culinary landscape boasts an array of delicious and nutrient-dense foods that are not only flavorful but also packed with minerals.

From the iron-rich dark leafy vegetables like spinach, ugu, and bitter leaf to calcium-loaded foods like crayfish, stockfish, and dairy products, the diversity of minerals in Nigerian cuisine is astounding.

Furthermore, Nigerian staple foods such as rice, beans, and yams are not just sources of carbohydrates but also reservoirs of essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Even spices like ginger, garlic, and turmeric offer a wealth of minerals, adding both flavor and health benefits to dishes.

In this blog series, we embark on an enlightening journey through Nigeria’s culinary heritage, exploring the rich tapestry of minerals woven into its traditional dishes.

Join us as we delve deeper into the world of Nigerian gastronomy, discovering how these vibrant flavors are not just a treat to the taste buds but also a powerhouse of essential minerals vital for a healthy lifestyle.

Calcium-rich Nigerian foods

Popular Nigerian foods that are good sources of calcium

  1. Ugwu (pumpkin leaves): High in calcium, these leaves are commonly used in Nigerian soups and stews.

  2. Ewedu: This popular Nigerian vegetable is not only delicious but also packed with calcium.

  3. Okra: Besides being a good source of calcium, okra is commonly used in Nigerian dishes.

  4. Njegere (cowpeas): These legumes are not only rich in calcium but also provide other essential nutrients.

  5. Iru (locust beans): This local condiment not only enhances the taste of Nigerian dishes but also adds calcium to your diet.

Importance of calcium for bone health and other body functions

Calcium plays a crucial role in maintaining strong and healthy bones.

It is also essential for muscle function, nerve transmission, and blood clotting.

Insufficient calcium intake can lead to weak bones, osteoporosis, and increased risk of fractures.

Including calcium-rich foods in your diet is vital for overall health.

Examples of dishes or recipes that incorporate calcium-rich Nigerian foods

  1. Egusi soup with ugwu: This traditional Nigerian soup combines the goodness of egusi (melon seeds) with calcium-rich ugwu leaves.

  2. Ewedu soup with amala: Enjoy a nutritious meal by pairing ewedu soup (made from ewedu leaves) with amala (yam flour).

  3. Okra soup with eba: Okra soup, enriched with calcium, pairs perfectly with eba (cassava flour).

  4. Njegere porridge: Cook njegere (cowpeas) with vegetables, spices, and palm oil for a delicious and calcium-rich meal.

  5. Iru-infused stew: Add iru (locust beans) to your favorite Nigerian stew for an extra dose of calcium and flavor.

Incorporating these calcium-rich Nigerian foods into your diet is a simple but effective way to boost your calcium intake.

Whether it’s through soups, stews, or porridges, these foods not only provide essential nutrients but also add unique flavors to your meals.

Remember, prioritizing calcium-rich foods is essential for maintaining strong bones and overall well-being.

Read: Crucial Role of Chromium: Top Natural Sources in Nigeria

Iron-rich Nigerian foods

Significance of iron in the body, particularly for blood health and energy production

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the body, particularly in blood health and energy production.

It is crucial for the transport of oxygen to all organs and tissues, making it essential for overall wellbeing.

Incorporating iron-rich Nigerian foods into your diet is an excellent way to increase your iron intake naturally.

These foods provide a healthier alternative to iron supplementation, and they offer additional nutrients that are beneficial for your overall health.

Nigerian foods that are known to be good sources of iron

Here is a list of Nigerian foods that are known to be good sources of iron:

  1. Beef: Lean cuts of beef, such as sirloin or tenderloin, are excellent sources of iron. Including beef in your meals can help increase your iron levels.

  2. Chicken liver: Chicken liver is a powerhouse of iron and other essential nutrients. It can be incorporated into soups, stews, or even as a side dish.

  3. Spinach: This leafy green vegetable is not only rich in iron but also packed with vitamins and minerals. Add spinach to your salads, stir-fries, or smoothies for an iron boost.

  4. Dried beans: Various types of beans like black beans, kidney beans, and lentils are excellent sources of iron. Incorporate them into stews, soups, or salads for a nutritious meal.

  5. Pumpkin seeds: These crunchy seeds are not only delicious but also high in iron. They can be eaten as a snack or sprinkled on top of salads or yogurt.

  6. Soybeans: Soybeans are not only a good source of iron but also a complete plant-based protein. Incorporate tofu, tempeh, or soy milk into your meals for an iron-rich option.

  7. Palm oil: Besides adding a unique flavor to dishes, palm oil is also a good source of iron. It is commonly used in Nigerian cuisine for cooking various dishes.

  8. Egusi seeds: These seeds are commonly used in Nigerian soups and stews. They not only add a nutty flavor to dishes but also provide a good amount of iron.

  9. Groundnut: Groundnut, also known as peanuts, is a nutritious snack that is high in iron. However, it is important to consume them in moderation, as they are also high in fat.

How to incorporate iron-rich Nigerian foods in the daily diet

To incorporate these iron-rich Nigerian foods into your daily diet, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start your day with a spinach omelet, using fresh spinach leaves and eggs for a nutritious breakfast.

  2. Include beans or lentils in your soups, stews, or salads to increase your iron intake.

  3. Snack on pumpkin seeds or groundnuts instead of unhealthy, processed snacks.

  4. Use palm oil in your cooking, particularly in traditional Nigerian dishes, to add flavor and increase your iron levels.

  5. Consider incorporating soy-based products like tofu or tempeh into your meals for a plant-based iron boost.

  6. Cook egusi soup with either chicken liver or beef to combine the goodness of iron with other nutrients.

By including these iron-rich Nigerian foods in your daily diet, you can ensure that your body receives an adequate supply of this essential mineral.

Remember to combine them with other nutrient-dense foods for a balanced diet and overall good health.

Read”: Boosting Bone Health: Manganese in Native Dishes

Zinc-rich Nigerian foods

Role of zinc in the immune system, growth, and development

Zinc plays a pivotal role in bolstering the immune system, fostering growth, and facilitating development.

This vital micronutrient fortifies immune responses, aids in DNA synthesis, and supports optimal growth, especially during childhood.

It also contributes to wound healing and supports the senses of taste and smell.

Nigerian foods that contain high amounts of zinc

Nigerian cuisine offers an array of delectable options brimming with zinc.

Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas stand out as fantastic sources.

Additionally, seeds like pumpkin seeds (‘ugwu’ seeds) and sesame seeds are dense in this essential mineral.

Enjoying nuts like peanuts and cashews significantly boosts zinc intake.

Whole grains like brown rice and fortified cereals are other fantastic choices.

Tips on including more zinc-rich Nigerian foods in meals

Incorporating zinc-rich Nigerian foods into your diet can be an exciting culinary adventure.

Start by including more legumes in traditional dishes like ‘Ewa Agoyin’ (mashed beans) or ‘Moin Moin’ (bean pudding).

Experiment with snacks featuring pumpkin seeds or sprinkling sesame seeds on salads or stews.

Enjoy a nutrient-rich breakfast with fortified cereals or swap out regular rice for zinc-packed brown rice.

By amalgamating these nutrient-rich foods into daily meals, Nigerians can effortlessly elevate their zinc intake, thereby fortifying their immune systems and fostering robust growth and development.

Embracing these delicious options isn’t just about taste; it’s about nourishing the body from within, ensuring vitality and well-being.

Read: Minerals in Nigerian Street Foods: What to Eat

From Calcium to Zinc: Nigerian Foods That Have It All

Magnesium-rich Nigerian foods

Importance of Magnesium for Nerve Function, Muscle Relaxation, and Overall Health

Magnesium is a crucial mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining overall health.

It is essential for proper nerve function and muscle relaxation.

Without adequate magnesium levels, the nervous system can become overactive, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.

Magnesium also helps in regulating muscle contractions and relaxation.

It supports normal muscle function and prevents cramping and spasms.

Furthermore, magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, making it crucial for overall health.

Nigerian Foods Naturally High in Magnesium

Nigeria offers a wide variety of foods that are naturally rich in magnesium, making it easier for Nigerians to obtain this essential mineral through their diet.

  1. Leafy Greens: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and amaranth leaves are excellent sources of magnesium. They can be added to salads, soups, or stir-fried dishes.

  2. Beans and Lentils: Legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas, are not only rich in protein and fiber, but they also provide a significant amount of magnesium.

  3. Whole Grains: Native Nigerian whole grains like millet, sorghum, and brown rice are excellent sources of magnesium. They can be used as alternatives to refined grains.

  4. Nuts and Seeds: Foods such as almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds are packed with magnesium. They make for a healthy and nutritious snack.

  5. Seafood: Fish like mackerel, tuna, and sardines are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also contain magnesium.

Incorporating Magnesium-Rich Nigerian Foods into the Diet

Adding magnesium-rich Nigerian foods to your diet can be simple and delicious. Here are some ideas:

  1. Prepare a nutritious salad using leafy greens like spinach, topped with grilled fish and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

  2. Create a hearty bean stew using a variety of beans, lentils, and vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.

  3. Cook a flavorful side dish by mixing cooked millet or brown rice with sautéed vegetables and chopped nuts.

  4. Snack on a handful of almonds or cashews for a quick and healthy magnesium boost.

  5. Include seafood in your weekly meal plan, such as grilled mackerel or tuna steaks accompanied by a side of steamed leafy greens.

In short, incorporating magnesium-rich Nigerian foods into your diet is essential for maintaining optimal nerve function, muscle relaxation, and overall health.

By including leafy greens, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seafood in your meals, you can ensure an adequate intake of this vital mineral.

Remember, a balanced diet that includes magnesium-rich foods is key to supporting your body’s needs and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Read: Exploring Mineral Contents in Popular Nigerian Soups

Other mineral-rich Nigerian foods

Other minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and selenium

When it comes to mineral-rich Nigerian foods, it’s not just about Calcium and Zinc.

There are plenty of other minerals that play a vital role in our overall health.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these minerals and the Nigerian foods that are packed with them:


Potassium is an essential mineral that helps regulate fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contractions. Nigerian foods rich in potassium include:

  1. Plantains: This staple food is not only delicious but also a great source of potassium.

  2. Yams: Yams are not only rich in carbohydrates but also provide a good amount of potassium.

  3. Coconut: Apart from being refreshing, coconuts are packed with potassium.


Phosphorus plays a key role in bone health, energy production, and cell repair.

Here are some Nigerian foods that contain phosphorus:

  1. Millet: This ancient grain is not only a good source of phosphorus but also rich in other minerals.

  2. Beans: Whether it’s black-eyed peas or brown beans, they are packed with phosphorus.

  3. Pumpkin seeds: These tiny seeds are not only delicious but also loaded with phosphorus.


Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps protect the body from free radicals.

Nigerian foods that are high in selenium include:

  1. Garlic: In addition to its pungent flavor, garlic is known for its selenium content.

  2. Fish: Nigerian cuisine offers a variety of fish options, all of which are excellent sources of selenium.

  3. Brown rice: This nutritious grain not only provides selenium but also other essential minerals.

How to incorporate these mineral-rich Nigerian foods into daily meals

Now that we know about these mineral-rich Nigerian foods, let’s discuss how to incorporate them into our daily meals:


Start your day with a potassium-rich smoothie made with plantains, coconut water, and a handful of pumpkin seeds.

Pair it with a side of boiled yams for an extra dose of potassium.


For lunch, enjoy a delicious bowl of Nigerian beans and brown rice.

This combination not only provides you with phosphorus and selenium but also offers a good amount of protein and fiber.


Instead of reaching for unhealthy snacks, opt for a handful of roasted plantain chips.

Not only are they crunchy and satisfying, but they also help replenish your potassium levels.


As the day winds down, indulge in a flavorful fish dish like Nigerian-style grilled tilapia.

This not only adds selenium to your diet but also offers a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

In review, Nigerian cuisine offers a wide variety of mineral-rich foods that can be easily incorporated into our daily meals.

From plantains and yams to beans and fish, there are plenty of options to choose from.

So, let’s start incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into our diet and reap the benefits of a well-balanced mineral intake.


Overall, minerals play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced diet and promoting good health.

By incorporating mineral-rich Nigerian foods into your diet, you can ensure that you are meeting your body’s mineral requirements.

Nigeria boasts an abundance of foods that are packed with essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron.

From leafy greens like ugwu and bitter leaf to seafood like crayfish and prawns, the options are diverse and delicious.

I encourage you to explore and incorporate these foods into your meals for improved health.

By doing so, you can enjoy the benefits of stronger bones, better digestion, and a boosted immune system.

Remember, a well-balanced diet is key to overall well-being.

By including mineral-rich Nigerian foods in your daily meals, you can take a proactive approach towards a healthier lifestyle.

So, what are you waiting for? Head to your local market, stock up on these nutrient-packed foods, and start reaping the rewards of a mineral-rich diet today.

Your body will thank you for it!

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