Being Nigerian and having most of my family and friends back home I strive to re-create recipes in a bid to make them Nigeria friendly. Personally I have always being of the opinion that the best food to eat both from a nutritionally and financial standpoint is the one that can be found in your locality. My guiding principle is there is no need to go to Sokoto (a state in Nigeria) for what is in your Sokoto (Trousers).
The desire to re-create recipes in this way has led me into researching the nutritional value of many Nigerian staples and I must say I have been pleasantly surprised at how super healthy the Nigerian diet is or at least can be. I hope to share more of my discoveries on here so do keep following.
Today we will be looking at Egusi (Melon seeds) which is the seed obtained from Citrullus lantus (Egusi Melon), the biological ancestor of the watermelon as we know it today. This melon has its root in West Africa and unlike the juicy, red and sweet water melon we all know, this is pale yellow or green on the inside and quite bitter. This melon is therefore grown mainly for its seeds which is grounded into a flour and used in making Egusi Soup.
The nutritional benefits of Egusi are numerous and according to Ojieh, G et al (2007) are as follows:
Protein – The crude protein composition of Egusi stands at 23.4% making it comparable to other plant proteins food sources such as soybean, cowpeas and pumpkin seeds.
Fat (Oil) – The fat content is 45.7% which makes it comparable to pumpkin seeds in terms of its oil content. Now, before you decide to stop eating Egusi because of its fat content, it might interest you to know that the fats in Egusi comprise mainly of mono-unsaturated omega 9 fatty acids (15.9%) and polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acids (62.8%).
Omega 6 fatty acids are known as ‘essential fatty acids’ because the human body needs them for healthy functioning but cannot make them by combining other food components; it therefore needs to be obtained from food and/or through supplements. The body needs this kind of fat.
Fibre – The fibre content from the research stood at 12% which is high compared to other legumes.
Carbohydrate – The carbohydrate content is quite low at 10.6% compared to other legumes which tend to have anywhere between 20-60% carbohydrate content; but this isn’t really a problem as Egusi soup is traditionally eaten with a carbohydrate rich food.
Essential Amino acids – Egusi is rich in Arginine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Threonine, Phenylalaline, Valine, Histidine and Methionine.
Other Amino acids – Cystine, Tyrosine, Proline, Glutamic acid, Aspartic acid, Serine, Glycine and Alanine.
Minerals – Egusi is richest in the mineral Phosphorous, followed by Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Sodium. Other minerals include Iron, zinc, manganese and copper.
So, now that I have bored you with scientific jargon, I’m sure you are wondering why I add Egusi to my smoothie. Well, a while back I did a liver detox, which essentially involves eating foods that enhance the detox function of the liver whilst eliminating foods which have the potential to increase toxicity levels. Basically giving your liver time to catch up with a back log of work. One of the recipes called for toasting pumpkin seeds and though I had always thought Egusi to be very visually similar to pumpkin seeds, the toasting process brought back memories of toasting Egusi seeds, an essential step for making Egusi Ijebu; the crackling sound, the smell, the continuous staring in order to avoid it getting burnt were exactly the same. After that I began toying with the idea of eating Egusi seeds as I do pumpkin seeds or making Egusi soup using pumpkin seeds and so on.
Egusi (Melon seeds) are different from Pumpkin seeds though people tend to call Egusi pumpkin seeds.
The addition to my smoothie came when I was trying to create a Nigerian friendly smoothie recipe, where the original recipe called for the addition of pumpkin seeds I simply substituted with Egusi seeds, knowing fully well that the nutritional benefits are comparable. 🙂
If you want to make smoothie especially for breakfast there is one thing to bear in mind is you want your smoothie to be as much as possible a good blend of your nutritional needs. A smoothie need to be a blend of carbohydrates, protein, fat (saturated and unsaturated), minerals and vitamins. Basically your smoothie should be a balanced smoothie.
Here is my guide to a health boosting smoothie!
Essentials of a Health Boosting Smoothie
A fruit high in anti-oxidants – When it comes to antioxidant properties, I’m afraid all fruits are not equal. Example of fruits with high anti-oxidant properties include Mango, Paw-Paw, Guava, Water melon, Bell Peppers blueberries, raspberry, pomegranates and citrus fruits.
Banana – Not only is it a rich source of potassium, dietary fibre, manganese & vitamin B6 and C, it is also known to provide a quick release of energy, ideal for picking you up in the morning. They also help to add bulk to your smoothie.
Milk or other milk alternative – Milk alternatives you can use are tiger nut (aiya) milk, coconut milk, almond milk and rice milk
I remember my dad would ask us to blend tiger nuts and extract the milk for for use with cereals or simply drink. It’s quite simple really, just combine fresh tiger nut (not the dry one’s) with enough water to just cover it and blend until smooth, sieve and there you have it. You can do the same to get fresh home-made coconut milk.
You can also decide to add a little of the bits from your coconut milk or tiger milk to your smoothie for an even higher fibre content.
Seeds and Nuts – These add a rich source of protein and essential fatty acid as well as other minerals to your smoothie. Some seeds and nuts you can add include Egusi seeds (off course), Pumpkin seeds, Cashew nuts and Brazil nuts.
Handful of leafy greens – Leafy greens are a rich source of nutrients and vitamins which also adds some fibre to your smoothie. If you don’t fancy a green smoothie you can skip this one. Leafy greens you can add are spinach, ugwu,kale,
My smoothie recipe – Serves 3
1 medium sized mango
1/2 cup of milk of choice (I used a coconut and rice milk blend)
2 medium sized bananas
2 tbs of Egusi seeds or pumpkin seeds
A handful of nuts (Brazil, cashew, walnut etc)
1 tbs of coconut oil or palm oil
1 cup of water
Depending on how suit for purpose your blender is you might need to blend the nuts first, I use my coffee grinder for this.
Combine all the ingredients into a blender or smoothie maker and blend until smooth.
Now that you have got the essentials for a health boosting smoothie, make your blend and share with the rest of us.
If you found this piece interesting don’t forget to like, share and comment. Thank you! 🙂
PS: Didn’t add the green leafy vegetables because I was making this for a friend who wasn’t too keen on the idea!