Gari, palm oil, beans and egg known as gob3 in slang, is regarded by many as a life saver because it is relatively less expensive when compared to other staples such as kenkey and fried fish or fufu and soup.
It has gained some nutritional prominence in the past week from a media publication that claimed that it has the ability to lead to loss of “pot belly”.
As a dietitian, I have a few concerns about this blanket statement making the media rounds and wish to separate the facts from the fad.
It is a fact that beans is high in soluble fibre, protein and some carbohydrates, which include Oligossacharides. Oligossacharides are not well digested by the body, hence will go to feed the good gut bacteria in the colon for protection.
The soluble fibre also helps in blood cholesterol control, ease in digestion and bulking of faecal matter to prevent constipation. The presence of non-haem iron in beans and the high quality iron in the boiled egg or fish that is added also make it useful in red blood cell production and quality.
The low carbohydrate content and high fibre content make it a good food for weight loss as against the intake of similar quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods such as polished rice, fufu etc.
However, these benefits must be placed in the Ghanaian eating context, since boiled beans is usually not eaten in isolation. It comes with palm oil that has zomi, a salty residue from the extraction and processing.
It also comes with gari, a starchy food item and fried ripe plantain, which is deep fried, hence, soaked with oil. The quantities of oil, gari and fried ripe plantain added are at the buyer’s discretion or the one who serves the food.
Infact, the reason students enjoy gobᴈ is because of its high caloric content when they add generous amounts of oil, gari and fried ripe plantain.
When it settles, it hardens up like concrete and when ingested, it makes one take in copious amounts of water to satiety. This can keep for the whole day without necessarily feeling hungry, hence not spending much on food thereafter.
It is, therefore, misleading or erroneous to say in blanket terms that gari and beans intake leads to loss of pot belly.
On the contrary, if it is eaten the way it is usually done, it will rather lead to weight gain and consequent increase in pot belly, since the excess calories will be stored in the liver and abdomen as fat.
However, when the oil is reduced to the barest minimum and the plantain is shallow fried or roast to reduce or eliminate the oil content, the calories (energy content) will be reduced.
Also, if the portions of beans, gari and plantain are moderated to one’s physical activity level, age and physiological state, there is the possibility of reducing the caloric content which can help in weight loss.
This is why I advise that we add plain boiled beans to our boiled rice or add beans to our stews. While at it, reduce the oil on the stew if an adult is to eat it.
Why fry your beans in stew and also fry your already ripe plantain to make it that soggy with oil? It will lead to caloric overload. So let’s place this in perspective and provide complete nutrition information in the context of a people’s food culture to help improve health outcomes.
Do not hesitate to speak to a dietitian or nutritionist who are the most qualified health professionals to speak on food-related issues, for an assessment and consult to help manage and prevent chronic non-communicable diseases. Life is precious so eat to live.
Source: Nana Kofi Owusu
The writer is a Registered Dietitian/Lecturer at the University of Health and Allied Sciences. E mail: email@example.com