Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Local Nigerian Foods to Combat Mineral Deficiencies

Last Updated on November 19, 2023


Embracing local Nigerian foods is key to conquering mineral deficiencies and fortifying overall health. A balanced diet, rich in:

  1. Iron-packed Ukodo and Bitter leaf soup combat anemia, ensuring robust blood health.

  2. Calcium-rich Uji and Eru foster strong bones, crucial for long-term well-being.

  3. Magnesium-infused Afang soup and Waterleaf soup support optimal muscle and nerve function.

  4. Zinc-packed Efo riro and Ofe nsala contribute to a resilient immune system.

By exploring these local delicacies, we embark on a flavorful journey toward a well-nourished and mineral-balanced lifestyle, essential for lasting vitality.

Overview of Mineral Deficiencies in Nigeria

In Nigeria, mineral deficiencies pose a significant public health challenge, affecting a large portion of the population. According to statistics, the prevalence of these deficiencies is alarmingly high.

Statistics and information about prevalent mineral deficiencies in Nigeria

For instance, iron deficiency affects about 70% of pregnant women and 30% of preschool-age children in Nigeria. This deficiency often leads to anemia, causing fatigue, weakness, and impaired cognitive function.

Another prevalent mineral deficiency is iodine deficiency, which affects approximately 32% of Nigerians. This deficiency can result in goiter, mental retardation, and impaired growth in children.

Zinc deficiency is also widespread, with an estimated 26% of the Nigerian population affected. This deficiency can compromise immune function, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and delayed wound healing.

Calcium deficiency is not uncommon in Nigeria, especially among women and children. Insufficient calcium intake can lead to weak bones, dental problems, and an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Moreover, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent due to limited sun exposure and poor dietary intake. This deficiency can impair calcium absorption and lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

The negative health implications of these deficiencies

The negative health implications of these mineral deficiencies cannot be overstated. They not only affect physical health but also hinder economic and social development in Nigeria.

Iron deficiency anemia, for example, reduces productivity and impairs cognitive abilities, thus affecting children’s educational performance.

Inadequate iodine intake during pregnancy can result in irreversible brain damage in infants, leading to learning difficulties and reduced intellectual potential.

Zinc deficiency weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections such as diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, which can be life-threatening, especially in children.

Insufficient calcium intake contributes to the high prevalence of bone diseases, fractures, and dental problems in Nigeria.

Vitamin D deficiency, on the other hand, increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer.

To combat these mineral deficiencies, it is crucial to promote a diet rich in locally available foods that are abundant in these essential minerals.

Some local Nigerian foods that can help address these deficiencies

  1. Dark leafy greens: Efo riro, ugu, and bitter leaf are excellent sources of iron, calcium, and other essential minerals.

  2. Legumes: Beans, cowpeas, and soybeans are rich in iron, zinc, and protein, making them vital for combating deficiencies.

  3. Seafood: Fish, specifically dried or smoked varieties like mackerel, herring, and catfish, are packed with iodine, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

  4. Nuts and seeds: Groundnuts, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of zinc, calcium, and other minerals.

  5. Fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines provide vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption from plant-based sources.

By incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into daily meals, Nigerians can significantly improve their mineral intake and combat deficiencies.

In essence, mineral deficiencies pose a significant health issue in Nigeria, with widespread prevalence and detrimental consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

By consuming a varied diet that includes locally available foods rich in essential minerals, Nigerians can take proactive steps towards better health and well-being.

Read: A Deep Dive: Mineral Content in Nigerian Fruits

Sources of Essential Minerals in Nigerian Foods

Nigeria is a country rich in natural resources, including the abundance of essential minerals found in its local foods.

These minerals play a vital role in maintaining our overall health and combating mineral deficiencies.

In this section, we will explore the different Nigerian foods that are rich sources of essential minerals and how including them in our diet can help combat specific mineral deficiencies.


  1. Leafy greens: Vegetables like ugu (fluted pumpkin), waterleaf, and spinach are excellent sources of calcium.

  2. Sesame seeds: These seeds are rich in calcium, making them a great addition to various Nigerian dishes.


  1. Red meat: Beef, pork, and lamb are good sources of iron, which is important for healthy blood circulation.

  2. Hemo-iron foods: Nigerian foods like liver, garden egg, and ogbono soup contain hemo-iron, which is easily absorbed by the body.

  3. Plant-based sources: Locally grown beans, peas, and lentils are high in iron content and can be included in vegetarian diets.


  1. Seafood: Nigerian coastal communities have access to fresh seafood such as fish, prawns, and oysters that are rich in zinc.

  2. Pumpkin seeds: These seeds are not only a popular snack but also a good source of zinc, improving immune function and supporting wound healing.

  3. Dairy products: Nigerian dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt also contain zinc.


  1. Plantains: This staple food in Nigeria is a great source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health.

  2. Yam: Another popular Nigerian food, yam is also high in potassium, providing benefits for nerve function and muscle contractions.

  3. Fruits: Nigerian fruits such as bananas, oranges, and pawpaw are rich in potassium and can be enjoyed as a snack.


  1. Millet and corn: These grains are commonly consumed in Nigeria and are rich sources of magnesium, essential for bone health and energy production.

  2. Nuts: Nigerian nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts are excellent sources of magnesium, aiding in muscle function and stress reduction.

Nigerian cuisine offers a wide range of local foods that are rich in essential minerals.

Including these foods in our diet can help combat specific mineral deficiencies and promote overall health.

From calcium-rich leafy greens to iron-packed red meat, zinc-filled seafood to potassium-loaded plantains, and magnesium-rich grains to nuts, Nigerian foods offer diverse options to meet our mineral needs.

By embracing the abundance of these local ingredients, we can take significant strides towards maintaining optimal health and addressing mineral deficiencies in our diet.

Read: Iodine and Nigerian Diet: Foods for Thyroid Health

Calcium-Rich Nigerian Foods

In Nigeria, there are several local foods that are rich in calcium and can help combat mineral deficiencies.

These foods are readily available and offer numerous health benefits. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as for proper muscle and nerve function.

Incorporating these calcium-rich Nigerian foods into your diet can have a significant impact on your overall health.

Egusi Soup

Egusi soup is a popular Nigerian dish made from melon seeds. It is not only delicious but also a great source of calcium. Consuming egusi soup regularly can help improve your calcium intake.

Okra Soup

Another traditional Nigerian dish that is rich in calcium is okra soup. Okra is a vegetable that is low in calories and high in nutrients, including calcium.

Including okra soup in your meal plan can boost your calcium levels.

Nigerian Spinach

Locally known as “efo tete,” Nigerian spinach is an excellent source of calcium. This leafy green vegetable can be used in various dishes such as soups and stir-fries, providing you with a calcium-rich option.


Moringa is a superfood that is gaining popularity globally. In Nigeria, it is commonly referred to as “zogale” or “drumstick tree.” Moringa leaves are rich in calcium, making it a fantastic addition to your diet.

Ogbono Soup

Ogbono, also known as African bush mango, is another Nigerian food that is rich in calcium. This soup is prepared from ground ogbono seeds and is not only delicious but also nutritious.

Nigerian Beans

Beans are a staple in Nigerian cuisine and a great source of calcium. Varieties such as black-eyed peas and brown beans offer significant amounts of calcium, making them an ideal addition to your meals.


Kolanuts are not only used for cultural and ceremonial purposes in Nigeria but also provide a good amount of calcium. Including kolanuts in your diet can contribute to meeting your daily calcium requirements.


Although not traditionally Nigerian, sardines are a readily available and affordable source of calcium. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits.

Calcium is crucial for maintaining strong bones and teeth, making it essential to include these calcium-rich Nigerian foods in your diet.

Incorporating these foods regularly can help combat mineral deficiencies and promote overall health and wellbeing.

Including foods such as egusi soup, okra soup, Nigerian spinach, moringa, ogbono soup, Nigerian beans, kolanut, and sardines can significantly boost your calcium intake.

Embrace the richness of Nigerian cuisine and reap the benefits of these calcium-packed foods.

Remember, a balanced diet with adequate calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, as well as overall health and vitality.

Read: Phosphorus in Nigerian Cuisine: Where to Find It

Iron-Rich Nigerian Foods

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in our overall health.

Let’s dive into some of these nutrient-packed options:

  1. Spinach – This leafy green vegetable is not only delicious but also a great source of iron. Adding spinach to your meals can significantly boost your iron intake.

  2. Bitter Leaf – Don’t let the name fool you; bitter leaf is a nutritional powerhouse. It not only contains iron but also offers various health benefits, including immune support.

  3. Pumpkin Leaves – Another fantastic source of iron, pumpkin leaves are commonly used in soups and stews. They not only add flavor but also contribute to your daily iron requirements.

  4. Garden Egg Leaves – Widely used in Nigerian cuisine, these leaves are not only rich in iron but also packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

  5. Waterleaf – A popular choice in soups, waterleaf contains high levels of iron and can easily be incorporated into your meals.

  6. Snails – Snails are often enjoyed in stews and soups and are an excellent source of iron, providing a healthy dose of this essential mineral.

  7. Beef – As one of the most consumed meats in Nigeria, beef is another iron-rich food that can help combat mineral deficiencies.

  8. Fish – Fish, such as mackerel and catfish, are not only delicious but also rich in iron. Including fish in your diet can contribute to meeting your iron needs.

  9. Eggs – Whether boiled, fried, or poached, eggs are a versatile source of iron, making them a great addition to your meals.

  10. Beans – Known as a protein-packed food, beans also offer a substantial amount of iron. Including beans in your diet can help combat iron deficiencies.

All in all, Nigeria’s rich culinary heritage provides us with an abundance of iron-rich foods.

Remember to incorporate vitamin C-rich foods alongside iron-rich meals to enhance iron absorption.

Read: Sourcing Local: Minerals in Nigerian Market Staples

Local Nigerian Foods to Combat Mineral Deficiencies

Zinc-Rich Nigerian Foods

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in immune function and growth.

It is important to include zinc-rich foods in our diet to combat mineral deficiencies.

In Nigeria, there are several local foods that are abundant in zinc content.

Let’s take a look at some of these foods and understand why zinc is crucial for our overall well-being.


Oysters are not only a delicacy but also a fantastic source of zinc. ust a small serving of oysters can provide your body with a substantial amount of this essential mineral.


Beef is a staple in Nigerian cuisine and is also a great source of zinc. It is particularly beneficial for individuals who follow a non-vegetarian diet.

Pumpkin Seeds

These tiny seeds are packed with nutrients, including zinc. Snacking on pumpkin seeds or adding them to your meals can significantly boost your zinc intake.


Cashews are not only delicious but also a good source of zinc. Incorporating cashews into your diet can help fulfill your body’s zinc requirements.


Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are commonly used in Nigerian dishes. These legumes are rich in several minerals, including zinc, making them an excellent choice for a balanced diet.


Popeye knows the importance of spinach, and so should you! Besides being a great source of iron, spinach is also rich in zinc.


Although not native to Nigeria, quinoa is becoming increasingly popular. It is not only a fantastic source of plant-based protein but also contains a good amount of zinc.


Nigeria’s extensive coastline ensures an abundance of seafood options. Fish varieties like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are excellent sources of zinc.

Now that we have explored the list of zinc-rich Nigerian foods, let’s discuss why zinc is essential for immune function and growth.

Zinc is a critical component of over 300 enzymes that help facilitate our body’s chemical reactions.

It plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system by aiding the production and function of immune cells.

Zinc also helps in wound healing and supports the development and proper functioning of cells.

Furthermore, zinc is essential for growth and development, especially during childhood and adolescence.

It is involved in DNA synthesis, protein production, and cell division.

Adequate zinc intake is necessary for optimal growth and development during these crucial stages of life.

In addition to immune function and growth, zinc also supports our sense of taste and smell, assists with fertility and reproduction, and is involved in maintaining healthy skin and hair.

To conclude, including zinc-rich Nigerian foods in our diet is vital for overall health and well-being.

Oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, spinach, quinoa, and seafood varieties are excellent sources of this essential mineral.

By incorporating these foods into our meals, we can combat mineral deficiencies and ensure our immune system functions optimally.

So go ahead, add these zinc-rich foods to your shopping list and savor the benefits they bring to your body.

Magnesium-Rich Nigerian Foods

Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is needed for muscle function, nerve function, and even heart health.

Thankfully, Nigerian cuisine offers a wide range of delicious foods that are rich in magnesium.

Incorporating these foods into your diet can help combat mineral deficiencies and keep your body in optimal condition.

Pumpkin Seeds

These tiny but mighty seeds are a great source of magnesium.

Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds provides nearly half of the recommended daily intake.

Snack on them alone or sprinkle them on top of your salads or soups.


Nigerian cuisine is known for its love of beans, and it’s no wonder why.

Beans, particularly black-eyed peas and kidney beans, are not only a great source of plant-based protein but also contain a generous amount of magnesium.


Popeye knew what he was doing when he reached for that can of spinach.

This leafy green is not only rich in iron but also an excellent source of magnesium.

Include it in your soups, stews, or sauté it as a side dish.


Not only are cashews a delicious and satisfying snack, but they are also a fantastic source of magnesium.

These creamy nuts are perfect for snacking, making a homemade nut butter, or adding to your stir-fries for some extra crunch.

Dark Chocolate

Yes, you read that right – dark chocolate! Indulging in a little dark chocolate can actually provide you with a decent amount of magnesium.

Make sure to choose chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content to reap the benefits.

Brown Rice

Swap out your white rice for nutrient-packed brown rice. Besides being a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, brown rice also contains magnesium.

Use it as a base for your stir-fries or enjoy it as a side dish.


A staple in Nigerian cuisine, plantain is not only versatile but also magnesium-rich.

This starchy fruit can be boiled, fried, or grilled, and pairs well with various dishes. It serves as an excellent source of magnesium in your diet.


Another nut that deserves a spot on this list is almonds. Snack on them raw, make almond milk, or sprinkle them on top of your favorite dishes to add a crunchy texture.

These tasty nuts are an excellent source of magnesium.


Aside from being a creamy and delicious fruit, avocados are also an excellent source of magnesium.

Mash them up, and enjoy them on toast, use them in salads, or make a delicious guacamole. The options are endless!

Moringa Leaves

Known as “miracle leaves,” moringa leaves are packed with nutrients, including magnesium.

They can be added to soups, stews, or made into a healthy green smoothie.

Enjoy the numerous benefits of magnesium with this leafy green.

Incorporating these magnesium-rich Nigerian foods into your diet will not only help combat mineral deficiencies but also add a burst of flavor and variety to your meals.

Remember, it’s essential to maintain a balanced and nutrient-rich diet to support your overall health and well-being.

So, why not enjoy the goodness of Nigerian cuisine while providing your body with the magnesium it needs


The significance of local Nigerian foods in combating mineral deficiencies cannot be overstated.

By incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into their diet, readers can improve their overall health and well-being.

Whether it’s the iron-rich spinach, the calcium-packed egusi soup, or the zinc-filled beans, Nigerian cuisine offers a wealth of options for meeting essential mineral needs.

In summary, exploring Nigerian cuisine not only introduces us to new flavors and culinary traditions but also provides a practical solution to mineral deficiencies.

We encourage readers to take this opportunity to try out these local Nigerian foods and witness the positive impact they can have on their health.

So why not add some Nigerian-inspired dishes to your meal plan and reap the rewards of a mineral-rich diet? Your body will thank you!

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