A year ago, my son was diagnosed with some food allergies and it broke my heart into pieces. Melodramatic much? No; I’d say. I felt lost. What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t even used to eating gluten free foods. How was I to make meat pies, puffies (puffpuff) and African cookies (ChinChin)? Let me tell you, as much as we all love to be healthy, meat pies, puffpuff and chinchin are a huge part of our diet; especially when you’re Nigerian and your son loves meat pies and chinchin. Eep me to cry 🙁
A few weeks ago, I took my son for a check up after an allergic reaction. after conversing with the doctor and running a test, the Dr told me my son didn’t have celiac disease but just has a sensitivity to gluten. Meaning, his reaction to gluten is pretty much different from that of a person with Celiac disease. Praise God? Yes! Hallelujah!
Apart from our fried and baked snacks, Nigerian food is very healthy and mostly gluten free. It’s actually easy to live a gluten free life in Nigeria than it is in any other parts of the world. I don’t have facts, just speaking from experience. I remember living in Nigeria and making fresh meals with tons of vegetables for my father. You can go into the open market and get freshly butchered meats and freshly harvested vegetables and spices. Our local foods are gluten/wheat free except maybe the locally made breads; with which corn meal can be substituted.
When it comes to Nigerian swallows, there are various kinds which can absolutely be eaten safely by anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. there are various types from, Garri to Akpu; which are made from cassava root. There is also the corn swallow made from maize. Or is it the one gotten for cocoyam? Nigerian diet can safely be enjoyed by anyone at all. It’s actually healthier.
I received an email from Sally and below is the article she sent me about African food and gluten as it goes for Nigerian foods…
Gluten-free Nigerian Ingredients
People on gluten-free diets often feel dismayed by the apparent lack of choice available to them. Lots of tasty dishes are suddenly off the menu, all because they happen to contain wheat, barley or other gluten-heavy grains. Luckily, many typical Nigerian ingredients are naturally free from gluten. You can go on enjoying a delicious range of healthy, scrumptious meals without the misery of gluten sensitivity or celiac symptoms.
You already know that yams are a traditional staple food, but did you know that they’re also free from gluten? Therefore, yam flour makes an ideal substitute for wheat or barley flours. Some recipes will have to be altered a little, but yam flour can be used to make all kinds of tasty baked treats and time-honored recipes.
As well as being free from gluten, yams are rich in dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are also full of vitamins, including vitamin B6 — something that people on gluten-free diets may struggle to obtain.
Plantains are a naturally gluten-free food. Plantain flour is delicious, and can be incorporated into lots of different recipes. Plantains are high in vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin C.
Coconut is one of those classic ingredients that everyone loves, but not everyone’s tried cooking with coconut flour. With its light texture and mild sweetness, coconut flour is a delicious alternative to grain flour. It’s the ideal ingredient for sweet dishes such as pancakes, or can be stirred into sauces and soups. Coconut flour is also a good substitute for nut flours if you have a tree nut allergy.
Other benefits of coconut flour include its high dietary fiber and the important proteins it contains. If you’re looking for low-carb ingredients, coconut flour is a great option — it’s very low in carbohydrates and in calories, too. You can safely use coconut flour in many diabetic recipes, or for low-carb/high-protein diets.
Ogbono is a great ingredient for those on a gluten-free diet. You’ll be relieved to know that draw soup can be made completely free from gluten, just so long as you don’t add any gluten-containing ingredients. Ogbono is also nourishing and high in fiber, and helps regulate your appetite.
As you can see, it’s easy to adapt traditional Nigerian cooking to your gluten-free diet without sacrificing any of your favorite foods.