processed food

 

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A few years ago, I wrote a post about how there were so many bad food choices in the world and someone commented “Thank goodness we do not have processed food in Nigeria”.

The rest of the comment seemed to imply that the reader was under the impression that the foods we grew up with were all natural, healthy and not processed.

She is not alone as a lot of people tend to think that this is a new thing and that with most of the things we grew up seeing, we would naturally not class them as processed food.

I disagree. Vehemently. This is not even a matter of “New Nigeria”. By the time I was growing up, we already had things like Treetop (colored, sweetened drinks), Gala Sausage roll (I am not even sure I can properly describe it as a sausage roll, but pretty much everyone in Nigeria knows what I refer to). We also had Samco, Ribena (yes, it is water and sugar with just a little bit of fruit concentrate) and a plethora of biscuits and candies (remember Okin biscuit? I loved them. The square shaped one was an easy favorite). There has also always been Bournvita, Milo and Ovaltine beverages. Let’s not even begin to talk about seasoning cubes like Knorr and Maggi.

“New Nigeria” has even more to offer because we have quite a number of offerings from other countries. We see folks eating certain things on their blogs, youtube or elsewhere on the internet and we decide that we MUST try it. Rather than importing health, we are importing Potato Chips, a wide range of cookies and wafers, processed deli meats, plastic cheese (what else can one call those Kraft Singles – watch this video here). Heck, even some spices are not all-natural foods.

That is not to say that the Nigerian companies are not catching up. Let’s not forget that Coca Cola and Pepsico have been here for years. We have La Casera’s wide range of drinks and the other day, someone asked me if she could give my daughter “Bobo”. I had no idea what that was so she had to explain to me that it was a flavored milk drink. Of course, their selling point would be that milk is necessary for strong bones and teeth (lie) and that a flavored version would be more “palatable” for the kiddies (double lie).

Ah, and then there are the ubiquitous noodles. Indomie led the way and other companies followed. What was not to love? A 2 – 5 minute cook time to yield a “delicious”, satisfying, pocket friendly meal.

Yet what nutrients do we really get from any of these things? Because that is what FOOD means.

food |fo͞od|

noun

any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Did you catch the key word? Nutritious.

What, pray is Nutritious? Well, for something to be nutritious, it MUST contain Nutrients. And what are those? Hold, on my trusty dictionary is coming to the rescue.

nutrient |ˈn(y)o͞otrēənt|

noun

a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life: fish is a source of many important nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals.

So, you see the nutrients have to actually have been in the food. Not like processed foods that have had the nutrients processed out of them and then (in some cases) some synthetic Vitamins added at the end of the process of refining them.

Now let me ask you…are there processed foods in Nigeria? Which do you know?

10 Comments

Maureen

This is sadly very true. The way that Indomie has found its way into kitchens across Nigeria still amazes me till this day. I have received funny looks when I said my children don’t eat Indomie and I think you just gave me the perfect response for the frequent “what is wrong with it?” that I get asked. I have to ask though, what healthy snacks can we pack for school children that won’t go bad/sour? I tried doing fresh juices rather than fruit concentrate juice packs but they turned sour before their snack time. Also, are (unsweetened) biscuits really all that bad?

Reply
Natural Nigerian

Hi Maureen, good going on cutting out Indomie from your family’s diet. Regarding the healthier options, you can actually send the kids to school with healthier meals as long as you have your temperature control pat. There are things that can aid you. I have discussed it in this post, here. You will find that even the juices are possible.

A good alternative to biscuits (which use flour) would be to make oat cookies for them. There are some simple 3-4 ingredient biscuits you can find online.

Reply
Chinenye Umeike

Great insight NN. I’m a long way from eating what is right but Im trying because I know better. That definition of food really struck me especially the part that states “in order to maintain life and growth”. A lot of what we eat is actually killing us slowly.

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Tobigirl

Yes! There are lots of processed foods here in Nigeria. Some I remember from childhood are the biscuits you mentioned, there was this candy that was just all melted sugar on a stick! Then there was this milk melted with sugar thing cut into squares(very yummy) I used to buy for like 1 naira or so then in Kaduna where I grew up. Now I see the packed “sausage rolls” sold everywhere, “Agege bread” fried yam, akara, ofada stew made with bleached palm oil, sugar and coloring filled “cocktails” sold in fancy bottles etc etc..

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Celestina

You are sooo on point! Things like geisha, sardine etc. the fact is that most of the things we usually refer to “enjoyment” are the killer meals! Ever wondered why all these deadly diseases/illness are popular in the urban, it is because of the lifestyle and eating habit of the people. Recently I struggle to eat any stew made with tin tomatoe.
Someone in the village eats ukwa (breadfruit) in the morning, snacks banana as lunch only to pluck okro for soup with lots of vegetable paired with yam/cassava fufu thinking he/she is ‘managing’ life while the ‘city’ counterpart (who is believed to be better off) takes French fries with ketchup, all the Chinese rice of this world, etc. with chicken (that is not properly cooked)
The ‘green’ awareness is increasing though and people are really becoming concerned not just about what they eat but also that which goes into their skin.

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Imisiayo

I recently tried to stop eating processed food because I learnt about all of the benefits I could get by not eating them. It’s been really really hard. Especially when I’m so hungry at work and all that is available is gala, soda drinks, biscuits and rice with a lot of oil. Please remind me how people in the city live long? There is hardly anything that is not processed and doesn’t have sugar or oil that clogs the blood vessels. Well done Nn. Nigerians need more voices like yours.

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CHIKEZIE

THANKS, FOR THIS KIND OF FORUM ‘COS I’VE BEEN WANTING TO GO ALL NATURAL~ FOOD, DRINKS, COSMETICS, N CLOTHES. PLS, IS BREAD A PROCESSED FOOD ‘COS I’M ONE HEAVY EATER OF BREAD, I’LL ALSO LIKE A TIMETABLE OF FEEDING ON THE ‘NATURAL’ AS GUIDE FOR ME-WHAT TO EAT,WHEN TO EAT. I’LL AWAITING REPLY PLS.THANKS

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tito

There’s truly nothing as good as eating natural! But seriously,you are living in d city where everything is expensive..yes fruits inclusive! How many people can afford these thing. Living in d village is life. I believe the most important thing is living as God would have intended. A lot of people eat right n still die young! Eat right yes but please bless whatever before eating! God bless yall

Reply

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