Nigerian foods that reduce blood sugar for diabetes patients

People eating Nigerian (African) foods on a round table

Key takeaways

  • Diabetes is a common condition that is characterized by an abnormally high blood sugar level.
  • Dietary and lifestyle modifications are the key to treating and managing diabetes.
  • Some healthy Nigerian foods for diabetes patients include unripe plantain porridge, egg, moi-moi, wheat bread and breadfruit (ukwa)

If you are wondering how to reduce sugar in the body in Nigeria, think food. Eating healthy Nigerian meals is one of the effective ways to reduce sugar in the body in Nigeria.

There are different healthy Nigerian foods for people with diabetes, such as chicken sauce, unripe plantain, moi moi, whole wheat meals, vegetable soup, and unsweetened zobo drinks. Exploring the best foods that can help reduce blood sugar for people with diabetes living in Nigeria will be worthwhile.

If you have diabetes and are battling with keeping your blood glucose level low, your doctor will most likely advise you on dietary and lifestyle management strategies. Aside from taking medications, making the right food choice and eating the right meals can help deal with the condition.

This article discusses how to reduce sugar in the body in Nigeria and also lists healthy Nigerian foods that can reduce blood sugar (particularly for people with diabetes). It also discusses diabetes mellitus and its prevalence in Nigeria.

What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes is a common metabolic condition characterized by increased blood glucose levels. A person is diagnosed with diabetes if their fasting blood glucose is 7 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) or higher, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Aside from high glucose levels, other symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, constant feeling of thirst, a numb or tingling sensation in the hands or feet, and slow healing sores.

Diabetes is divided into type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Clinicians believe that type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks the organ (pancreas) responsible for secreting insulin hormone.

Cells need insulin for glucose uptake, and in the absence of insulin, glucose will remain in the blood and will be unable to enter the cells where it will be needed to produce energy.

In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin; thus, the body will be unable to produce insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need regular insulin shots.

Type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin; however, their bodies cannot utilize insulin well. This means the insulin doesn't function effectively, and glucose accumulates in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1. About 90-95% of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On the other hand, people with type 2 don’t need to take insulin. However, they will need medications such as metformin, acarbose (Glucobay), and pioglitazone (Actos), and dietary and lifestyle adjustments to manage the condition. Eating healthy Nigerian meals that reduce blood sugar will greatly benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

List of Nigerian foods that can lower blood sugar level for diabetes patients

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If you have diabetes, it will be best to be selective of the foods you eat. To help reduce sugar in the blood, you may want to eliminate foods high in carbohydrates and foods with a high glycemic index (GI). 

Foods with a high glycemic index are foods that can cause a quick spike in your blood glucose level. Examples are starchy foods like white bread, sweet potatoes, white rice, breakfast cereals, and sweetened foods like cookies, cakes, and refined beverages. 

Research suggests that sticking with foods with a low glycemic index is best for people prone to diabetes as they reduce the risk of high blood sugar. They help control blood sugar by slowly releasing glucose and not causing blood sugar levels to spike. 

Research also indicates that eating foods with a low glycemic index can help with weight loss if you are also trying to keep your weight within the normal BMI range. People achieved significant weight loss after sticking with foods with low GI. These foods may also help prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases.1

Aside from limiting high-carb foods, you should also consider meals that contain healthy fats, enough proteins, and fibres. With that said, below are healthy Nigerian foods that can reduce blood sugar for people with diabetes mellitus:

1. Low-carb meals

Sticking with foods low in carbohydrates can help reduce blood sugar levels.

Examples of foods that are low in carbohydrates that are good for diabetes patients include:

  • Unripe plantain porridge
  • Boiled or roasted plantain
  • Moi moi
  • Wheat bread
  • Wheat meals with soup
  • Irish potatoes
  • Water yam
  • Breadfruit
  • Brown basmati rice

2. Swallow

Of course, people with diabetes can still enjoy swallows made from Nigerian staple foods, such as

  • Guinea corn fufu
  • Amala from unripe plantain
  • Fufu made from wheatmeal flour
  • Semovita
  • Unripe plantain fufu

3. Nigerian foods that contain fiber

You can go for foods like:

  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic and ginger
  • Carrots
  • Vegetable soups
  • Corn
  • Apples
  • Mangoes

These foods are common in Nigeria. They are high in fiber and can help reduce blood sugar.

4. Nigerian soups

Your swallow will not be complete unless paired with a plate of delicious healthy Nigerian soup, such as:

  • Waterleaf soup
  • Okra soup
  • Vegetable soup
  • Bitter leaf soup
  • Afang soup
  • Ogbono
  • Egusi

The good thing is that these Nigerian soups are also healthy and good for people with diabetes as they can help reduce blood sugar levels.

5. Nigerian stews and sauces

For people with diabetes, foods like brown rice and roasted or boiled plantain will go well with spicy stews like:

  • Tomato stew
  • Banga soup
  • Chicken/turkey sauce
  • Smoked fish sauce
  • Shrimp sauce
  • Oil bean sauce
  • Fresh fish sauce

6. Nigerian comfort foods

If you are the type that likes going out to unwind with friends in the evening, you will want to watch what you eat out so you don’t eat foods that will spike your blood glucose.

Opt for Nigerian delicacies like:

  • Isi ewu with utazi leaves
  • Bush meat pepper soup
  • Cow leg
  • Nkwobi
  • Chicken/fish pepper soup
  • Peppered gizzard/snail
  • Liver sauce

These foods are good for the heart and can help lower blood glucose levels.

7. Healthy Nigerian snacks

Some healthy Nigerian snacks for people with diabetes include:

  • Boiled groundnuts
  • Coconut
  • Cashew nuts
  • Fried breadfruit
  • Walnut
  • Garden eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Akara balls
  • Oatmeal
  • African almond (udara)
  • Avocado pear

Luckily, they are everyday snacks that can be accessed anywhere in the country. Sticking with them instead of high-calorie snacks can help lower your blood glucose level.

8. Healthy drinks

There are some locally-made Nigerian drinks that may not spike blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, such as:

  • Unsweetened zobo drink
  • Soya bean drink
  • Unsweetened yogurt
  • Joro (millet) kunu drink
  • Dawa (guinea corn) kunu drink

These drinks are nutritious and derived from natural plant sources. Consuming them instead of highly sweetened carbonated drinks can help reduce your blood sugar.

Other ways to reduce sugar in the body in Nigeria

Many people in Nigeria today find it challenging to keep their blood sugar levels in check, but being intentional and forming healthy routines can help you achieve your health goal.

There are things you can do to reduce blood sugar whether you are in Nigeria or any part of the world such as:

  • Implementing food portion control
  • Managing stress levels
  • Exercising regularly
  • Drinking enough water to stay hydrated
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels constantly

Prevalence of diabetes mellitus in Nigeria

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Studies have shown a global rise in type 2 diabetes over the years. This increase also applies to Africa, with studies indicating that the prevalence of the condition in urban Africa is similar to or may even supersede that of developed countries.

There is insufficient research on diabetes and its prevalence in Nigeria and some other African countries. According to a study, most of the evidence pool for diabetes in Nigeria comes from the southern part of the country. 

In 2016, WHO estimated 28,000 diabetes deaths in Nigeria. This figure may not be accurate, as national mortality data were unavailable for computing the estimates. 

However, estimates showed that more Nigerians were admitted to hospitals for diabetes-related complications. This means that many people visit the hospital only at the advanced stage of diabetes. 

The current figure published by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reported the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in adults aged 20-69 years as 1.7% (1.2-3.9 million people with diabetes).

However, it is believed that IDF significantly underreports the diabetes burden in Nigeria, given that there are many people with undiagnosed diabetes in the country and not enough data for computing estimates.


Being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to eat uninteresting foods or foods that test bland. Nigeria is blessed with natural foods and a large variety of healthy meals that are good for people with diabetes. 

You can draw a three-course meal plan with the foods listed in this article. Sticking with these meals can help drastically reduce your blood sugar levels. You can also consult a dietician to help you draw up a standard Nigerian meal plan.


  1. Augustin L.S.A. et. al. (2015). Glycemic index, glycemic load and glycemic response: An international scientific consensus summit from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC)
  2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). What is diabetes?
  3. Diabetes UK. (n.d.). Diabetes medications.
  4. Guariguata, L et al. (2014). Global estimates of diabetes prevalence for 2013 and projections for 2035.
  5. International  Diabetes Federation. (2017). IDF Diabetes Atlas. (Eight Edition 2017)
  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. (2016). Insulin, medicines & other diabetes treatments
  7. Whiting, David R et al. (2011). IDF diabetes atlas: global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes for 2011 and 2030
  8. World Health Organisation (2016). Global report on diabetes.
  9. World Health Organisation. (n.d.). Mean fasting blood glucose.