Which African Food is Good for Diabetes?

Which African Food is Good for Diabetes?

Managing diabetes involves making mindful dietary choices, and incorporating nutritious foods from various cultures can add variety and health benefits to your diet. West African foods, known for their vibrant flavors and nutrient-dense ingredients, offer several dishes that can be particularly beneficial for those with diabetes.


Understanding the Benefits of Low-GI African Foods for Blood Sugar Control


What is the Glycemic Index (GI)?

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI release glucose slowly and steadily, which is beneficial for blood sugar control.


Benefits of Low-GI Foods

Improved Blood Sugar Control: Low-GI foods help maintain steady blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes.

Enhanced Satiety: These foods keep you full longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating and weight gain.

Better Insulin Sensitivity: Regular consumption of low-GI foods can improve the body's insulin sensitivity, making it easier to manage diabetes.


Nutrient-rich African Dishes That Help Manage Diabetes

Millet and Sorghum

Benefits: Millet and sorghum are staple grains in West African diets. They have a low glycemic index, meaning they release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. Both grains are also high in fiber, aiding in digestion and satiety.




Benefits: Okra is rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. The high fiber content helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down sugar absorption in the intestines. Okra also contains polyphenols, which can improve insulin sensitivity.


Bitter Leaf Soup

Benefits: Bitter leaf, a common ingredient in many West African soups, has been shown to have hypoglycemic effects, meaning it can lower blood sugar levels. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, which support overall health.

Also Read: 10 Delicious African Soups And Stews That Pair Well With Fufu


Benefits: While plantains are starchy, they have a moderate glycemic index and are rich in dietary fiber. When eaten in moderation, especially in less ripe forms, they can be part of a diabetic-friendly diet. They provide essential vitamins like Vitamin A and C.


Beans and Lentils

Benefits: Beans and lentils are high in protein and fiber, making them excellent for blood sugar control. They provide a slow, steady source of energy and help keep you full longer, which can prevent overeating.

Also Read: How To Lower Your Blood Pressure With African Herbs And Spices


Leafy Greens (Efo Riro)

Benefits: Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and amaranth (commonly used in Efo Riro, a traditional West African dish) are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. They also contain magnesium and antioxidants, which are beneficial for blood sugar control.



Nuts and Seeds

Benefits: Nuts and seeds, such as groundnuts (peanuts) and sesame seeds, are packed with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They help regulate blood sugar levels and can be a great addition to a diabetic diet.


How to Incorporate These Foods into Your Diet

Balanced Meals

Creating balanced meals that include a mix of these ingredients can help manage blood sugar levels effectively. For example, a plate of millet fufu served with okra soup and a side of leafy greens provides a well-rounded, nutritious meal.


Healthy Cooking Methods

Opt for healthy cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, or boiling instead of frying. This helps retain the nutrients in the food and reduces the intake of unhealthy fats.



Portion Control

While these foods are beneficial, portion control is crucial. Consuming these foods in moderation ensures that you reap their benefits without consuming excess calories or carbohydrates.


Recipe Ideas


Bean Stew with Plantains

- Ingredients: Beans, plantains, onions, garlic, tomatoes, spices.

- Preparation: Cook beans until tender. In a separate pot, sauté onions and garlic, add tomatoes and spices, and then mix in cooked beans. Serve with boiled or lightly sautéed plantains.



Bitter Leaf Soup

- Ingredients: Bitter leaf, meat or fish (optional), onions, tomatoes, spices.

- Preparation: Sauté onions and tomatoes, add meat or fish if using, then stir in bitter leaf and cook until tender. Serve with a side of millet or sorghum.


Groundnut (Peanut) Soup

- Ingredients: Groundnuts (peanuts), chicken or fish, onions, tomatoes, garlic, spices.

- Preparation: Roast the groundnuts and grind them into a paste. Sauté onions, tomatoes, and garlic, then add the groundnut paste and water to make a soup. Add chicken or fish and simmer until cooked through. Serve with millet or sorghum.



Lentil and Spinach Stew

- Ingredients: Lentils, spinach, onions, garlic, tomatoes, spices.

- Preparation: Cook lentils until tender. Sauté onions, garlic, and tomatoes, then add cooked lentils and spinach. Simmer until the spinach is wilted and the stew is well combined.



  1. Avocado
  2. Brown Rice/Ofada
  3. Garden Eggs
  4. Whole Grain Oats
  5. Omega 3 Fatty Rich Fish like Salmon, Sardine, 

Also Read: The Importance Of Iron-Rich Foods In Your Pregnancy Diet



Which West African food is best for managing diabetes?

Many West African foods are beneficial, but millet, okra, and beans are particularly good for managing diabetes due to their low glycemic index and high fiber content.


Can I eat plantains if I have diabetes?

Yes, plantains can be eaten in moderation. Less ripe plantains have a lower glycemic index and are a good source of fiber, which helps in managing blood sugar levels.


Is bitter leaf soup good for diabetes?

Yes, bitter leaf soup is beneficial for diabetes as bitter leaf has hypoglycemic properties that can help lower blood sugar levels.


How should I cook West African food to make it diabetic-friendly?

Opt for healthy cooking methods like steaming, grilling, or boiling. Avoid frying and use minimal oil and salt to keep the dishes healthy.


Are nuts and seeds good for a diabetic diet?

Yes, nuts and seeds are great for a diabetic diet as they are high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which help in regulating blood sugar levels.


Where can I find ingredients for West African recipes in the US or Canada?

You can find all the ingredients needed for these West African recipes at My Sasun African Market if you are in the US or Canada.

Also Read: 15 African Superfoods You Should Add To Your Diet Today



Incorporating West African foods into your diet can be a delicious and nutritious way to manage diabetes. With their rich flavors and health benefits, dishes like beans stew, okra soup, and bitter leaf soup can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Remember, you can get all the ingredients you need for these recipes at My Sasun African Market if you are in the US or Canada. Enjoy good African foods while taking care of your health!

N.B: The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.