Ghana is blessed with a rich cultural heritage of which food forms a major part. Mention a food item and it is almost the same as mentioning a group of people in Ghana. The most beautiful aspect is the fact that you do not have to be at your hometown to have access to your local dish. An Ashanti can get fufu at Tamale and an Ewe indigene from Klefe can have access to akple in Accra. Also, we all eat Ghanaian food, whether it belongs to our ethnic group or not. This makes our culture so rich and fosters unity. Let us uphold this rich culture. In fact, if you have not tasted food from any other ethnic group, it is time to do so.
It is sad however to note that there is growing preference for food that is not Ghanaian in origin. There is nothing really wrong with importing the culture (food) of other countries. When doing so however, bring in only the healthy foods. Stop going after the fried stuff. Stop going after the very sweet drinks and stop making our Ghanaian foods look like they are not good.
Most of our Ghanaian foods are presented as healthy, well balanced meals. There is enough starch (carbohydrate) for energy. There is enough fat and oil, also needed by the body. Protein is always available in our food since we eat meat, fish, egg, beans among others. Vitamins and minerals are also superabundant in our foods.
Everything we need to make up a healthy meal is available to us in this country. The challenge is our inability to make time and prepare our own rich Ghanaian meals. Those who make time also use one or two ingredients in excessive amounts, thus making the dishes unhealthy. For example some people cook with too much salt. This is not good for a good cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) health and well-being. Many people also cook with too much oil; take a look at a typical palava sauce! It is like drinking oil which is obviously not good for health and well-being.
As Ghanaians, when we cook palm nut soup, we must eat it for five days. On the fifth day, it would have thickened enough to be used as stew and eaten with rice or yam. The palm nut soup is not the problem but how we eat it. It is easy to gain weight after eating such an oil laden soup for so many days in a row. It is safer to eat it just once and wait a long while before going for it again. This means that preparing this soup in large amounts is not a good idea.
We also like cooking for so long, this does not help retain nutrients in some foods. In order for our foods to cook well, give off good flavour and taste great, long cooking time is common among us. Let us note that the more you cook foods like the leafy greens, the more you destroy their nutrients especially vitamins. Steaming and boiling for just few minutes is the way to go.
We often do not manage salt and cubes well when cooking. Note that they both contain sodium, a nutrient necessary for life and maintaining a good blood pressure. Taking excess amounts of this nutrient however leads to the development of high blood pressure. Ideally, if you are using cubes, do not add salt to the stew or soup. On the other hand skip the cubes if salt is being added. We can save a lot of lives by being careful about the use of these spices (salt and cubes). Herbs are better off than these two. We have them in abundance as well; garlic, ginger, whentia, pepre, ahaliwoe, akukor besa, dawadawa, prekese, pepper (all kinds), among others. They can actually make your food tasty even if you do not use salt or cubes.
The reason why you are gaining weight is not because you eat banku, fufu, Kenkey, yam, TZ, etc. The weight is increasing because you eat too much of these foods. And also because you eat them too late at night. You are also not exercising enough because you sit in cars even over a distance that can be covered on foot.
Let us all stop giving our foods a bad name. Let us rather prepare them well, eat them in the right quantities and at the right time. Let us also eat them every day, every week and every month and not only in March which is our independence day month.
Eat well and stay healthy, God bless our homeland Ghana!!!
By Wise Chukwudi Letsa