Saturday, July 13, 2024

Iron-Rich Traditional Foods Every Nigerian Should Eat

Last Updated on November 19, 2023


Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining overall health and well-being.

It is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in our blood.

Adequate iron intake is crucial in preventing iron deficiency anaemia, a condition prevalent in Nigeria.

Traditional Nigerian foods are not only delicious but also rich in nutrients, including iron.

These foods have been an integral part of Nigerian cuisine for generations and provide a crucial source of essential nutrients for the population.

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight the iron-rich traditional foods that every Nigerian should include in their diet.

By incorporating these foods into their meals, Nigerians can ensure they are meeting their iron requirements and improving their overall health.

Iron-Rich Traditional Foods

  1. Ewedu: This popular Nigerian soup is made from jute leaves and contains high amounts of iron.

  2. Ukwa: Also known as African breadfruit, this nutty-flavored food is a good source of iron.

  3. Ogbono: This Nigerian soup made from the African bush mango seeds is not only delicious but also provides iron.

  4. Bitterleaf Soup: Bitterleaf contains a significant amount of iron and is a staple in Nigerian cuisine.

  5. Garden Egg: This vegetable is a good source of iron and can be incorporated into various Nigerian dishes.

  6. Liver: Organ meats like liver are rich in iron and can be prepared in different ways to suit individual tastes.

  7. Chickpeas: This legume is high in iron and can be used to prepare Nigerian dishes like moin moin.

Including iron-rich traditional Nigerian foods in our diet is essential for maintaining good iron levels and preventing iron deficiency anaemia.

By embracing our traditional cuisine and incorporating these foods into our meals, Nigerians can ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Read: Iron in Nigerian Foods: Fighting Anaemia Naturally

Importance of Iron

Iron is an essential mineral for the human body, playing a crucial role in various functions.

The role of iron in the body, such as oxygen transportation and immune system support

It is involved in the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Additionally, iron supports the immune system, helping it to fight off infections and diseases.

When the body lacks iron, it can lead to several consequences.

The most common consequence is anemia, a condition characterized by a low level of red blood cells or hemoglobin.

This can result in fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and even impaired cognitive function.

Iron deficiency can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

Fortunately, Nigerian cuisine is rich in iron-containing foods that can help combat iron deficiency and its consequences.

Traditional Nigerian foods that every individual should incorporate into their diet

  1. Red meat: Beef, goat meat, and lamb are excellent sources of heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron.

  2. Organ meats: Liver and kidney are particularly high in iron and other essential nutrients.

  3. Fish: Fish, especially oily fish like mackerel and sardines, provide not only iron but also omega-3 fatty acids, benefiting both heart and brain health.

  4. Poultry: Chicken and turkey are lean sources of iron and can be easily incorporated into various dishes.

  5. Eggs: Apart from being a good source of iron, eggs are also packed with protein and other essential vitamins and minerals.

  6. Legumes and beans: Foods like black-eyed peas, lentils, and chickpeas offer a plant-based source of iron and are also rich in fiber and antioxidants.

  7. Green leafy vegetables: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and ugu leaves are not only rich in iron but also provide numerous health benefits.

  8. Nuts and seeds: Snacking on iron-rich options like cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds can help increase iron intake.
  9. Nigerian soups and stews: Traditional dishes like egusi soup, okra soup, and bitter leaf soup often contain iron-rich ingredients like meat, fish, and vegetables.

  10. Palm oil: A staple in Nigerian cuisine, palm oil is rich in vitamin A and can enhance iron absorption when consumed with iron-containing foods.

The consequences of iron deficiency, including anemia and weakened immunity

Incorporating these iron-rich foods into the Nigerian diet is essential for maintaining optimal iron levels and preventing iron deficiency-related complications.

Ensuring an adequate intake of iron is particularly important for children, pregnant women, and individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Overall, understanding the importance of iron in the body and the consequences of its deficiency highlights the significance of consuming iron-rich traditional foods.

By incorporating these foods into their diets, every Nigerian can support their overall health and well-being.

Read: Top Nigerian Foods Rich in Calcium for Bone Health

Iron-Rich Traditional Foods Every Nigerian Should Eat

Iron-Rich Traditional Foods

1. Green leafy vegetables

  1. Nigerian greens like amaranth (tete), bitter leaf (ewuro), and spinach (efo tete) are rich in iron.

  2. These vegetables can be prepared by washing, chopping, and cooking them in various dishes.

  3. They provide important health benefits such as improving blood circulation and preventing anemia.

2. Legumes

  1. Legumes such as cowpeas (black-eyed peas), lentils, and pigeon peas (fio fio) are great sources of iron.

  2. They can be used in recipes like soups, stews, and bean salads to increase iron intake.

  3. Including legumes in the diet can enhance energy levels and boost the immune system.

3. Animal-based sources

  1. Organ meats like liver, kidney, and heart are high in iron content.

  2. Lean meats, poultry, and fish also provide significant amounts of iron.

  3. Incorporating these animal-based sources into the diet ensures an adequate iron intake for overall health and wellbeing.

4. Palm oil

  1. Palm oil is widely used in Nigerian cuisine and contains a good amount of iron.

  2. It is commonly used for frying, sautéing, and as a base for soups and stews.

  3. Consuming palm oil in moderation can contribute to a balanced diet and provide potential health benefits.

5. Traditional Fermented Foods

  1. Fermented foods like ogi (pap), iru (locust beans), and ogiri (castor oil seeds) are rich in iron.

  2. The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of iron in these foods.

  3. These traditional fermented foods also hold cultural significance and are often used in traditional dishes.

Including these iron-rich traditional foods in the Nigerian diet can help prevent iron deficiency and its associated health problems.

Green leafy vegetables, legumes, animal-based sources, palm oil, and fermented foods offer a variety of options for individuals to meet their iron requirements.

By incorporating these foods into daily meals, Nigerians can enjoy a balanced diet while reaping the many potential health benefits that come with sufficient iron intake.

Remember to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized dietary advice and to ensure adequate iron intake.

Take charge of your health by incorporating these iron-rich traditional foods into your diet and promoting overall wellness.

Read: Mineral Water vs. Tap Water: What’s Best for Nigerians?

Tips for Maximizing Iron Absorption

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in our body. It is involved in the production of red blood cells and supports the transportation of oxygen throughout our body.

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, weakness, and other health issues.

Therefore, it is important for every Nigerian to consume iron-rich traditional foods to maintain good health.

Tips to maximize iron absorption

  1. Consume iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources like citrus fruits.

  2. Avoid consuming iron-rich foods with calcium-rich foods, as calcium inhibits iron absorption.

Vitamin C is known to enhance iron absorption. Therefore, combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can boost your body’s ability to absorb iron.

Nigerian traditional foods that are high in iron

  1. Red meat: Beef, lamb, and goat meat are excellent sources of iron.

  2. Seafood: Shrimp, clams, and oysters contain high amounts of bioavailable iron.

  3. Dark leafy greens: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in iron.

  4. Beans and legumes: Black-eyed peas, lentils, and kidney beans are iron-packed plant-based options.

  5. Eggs: Consuming whole eggs, especially the yolks, can provide a good amount of iron.

  6. Dried fruits: Raisins, prunes, and apricots are dried fruits that are high in iron content.

  7. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are iron-rich snacks.

While it is important to focus on consuming iron-rich foods, it is equally crucial to pay attention to the factors that can hinder iron absorption.

Calcium-rich foods should be consumed separately from iron-rich foods as calcium inhibits the absorption of iron.

Foods high in calcium include dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

By avoiding the combination of these foods, you can maximize iron absorption.

In addition to dietary choices, cooking techniques can also influence iron absorption.

Acidic foods like tomatoes or vinegar can increase iron absorption when used in cooking.

On the other hand, cooking in cast-iron pots and pans can also enhance the iron content of the food.

In essence, maximizing iron absorption is essential to prevent iron deficiency and maintain optimal health.

By following these tips, such as consuming iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources and avoiding the combination of iron-rich and calcium-rich foods, Nigerians can ensure they are getting an adequate amount of iron from their traditional diets.

Remember, a balanced and diverse diet is key to meeting your nutritional needs and promoting overall well-being.

Read: Why Every Nigerian Should Eat Mineral-Rich Foods Daily


In summary, it is crucial for Nigerians to recognize the importance of consuming iron-rich traditional foods.

These foods play a significant role in maintaining optimal health and preventing iron deficiency.

By incorporating these nutrient-dense options into their diets, individuals can improve their overall well-being.

The variety of iron-rich traditional foods available in Nigeria is vast, offering numerous options to choose from.

From dark leafy greens like spinach and ugu to local delicacies like ogbono soup and akara, the choices are endless.

By embracing this diversity, individuals can create a balanced diet that provides them with the necessary nutrients to flourish.

It is highly encouraged that readers actively incorporate these iron-rich foods into their meals.

Making a conscious effort to include foods like beef, fish, eggs, and vegetables can significantly boost one’s iron intake.

This, in turn, can prevent iron deficiency anemia and contribute to better overall health.

Remember, iron is essential for the body’s proper functioning, including oxygen transportation and energy production.

Neglecting iron-rich foods can lead to fatigue, weakness, and decreased immunity.

By prioritizing these traditional foods, individuals can ensure that their bodies receive the necessary iron levels for optimal performance.

In the end, Nigerians should consider the significance of iron-rich traditional foods and make an effort to include them in their diets regularly.

By doing so, they can improve their health, increase their iron intake, and ultimately lead a more vibrant and energetic life.

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