Ghana Month: Patronising the country’s indigenous cuisines for a healthy life

A GNA feature by Florence Afriyie Mensah 

Kumasi, March 25, GNA – What have you been eating lately? Is it the local food or continental (polished), and do you check for the nutritional benefits before or after you have had any meal?

Well, what we take in as food can make and unmake us – it can either boost our immune system or give us diseases.

      In Ghana, there are many tribes with each having its peculiar tribal or indigenous food or meals, which serve as delicacies.

      Some of these prominent traditional foods are ‘Fufu’ for the Asantes, ‘Kenkey’ for the Gas, Tuo-zaavi for the people of northern Ghana, and Akple for the Ewes, among others.

      In the Ashanti Region, which is predominantly inhabited by the Asantes, aside the fufu (pounded cassava and cocoyam or plantain), which is often eaten with soup prepared from local vegetables, herbs and spices, there are other indigenous foods and meals considered as part of the traditions and cultural heritage of the people.

     Like most tribes, the Asantes are a unique people in many ways, and is evident in their history, language, food, traditional costumes, and dresses, as well as culture in general.

Some Local Foods in Ashanti Region

     Among many foods and dishes that are intractably related and perceive as part of the “blood and soul” of the Asante people are Etoo (mashed plantain or cocoyam), and Ampesi, (cooked plantain, cocoyam, yam or taro), which is eaten with kontomire stew (boiled and blended cocoyam or taro leaves spiced with other vegetables, nuts and salt).

     Aprapransa (fried corn flour mixed with palm-nut soup, and groundnut paste) is also cherished very much by the Asante people.

      Others are akaton (boiled cocoyam with hot pepper), Mpoto mpoto (mashed cocoyam with red oil and herrings) and Adibi (mixture of corn dough, palm oil, and herrings).

     Some of these indigenous foods are also used for sacrifices, purification rites and during puberty rites for adolescent girls.

     All these cuisines and many others, which are highly nutritious and aids in the development and well-being of individuals, have been handed down to the people from generation to generation.


     These foods and cuisines are prepared differently with some taking more hours and even days to cook to perfection.

       Madam Ama Bonsu, a traditional caterer who has been cooking some of these foods for sale for many years, told the Ghana News Agency that though their preparation was time consuming, they were worth the try, considering the health benefits derived.

      She said their preparation were traditionally taught by elderly women. In the olden days, young women who were about to get married were usually confined to the kitchen and taught how to prepare some of these foods.

    “Those days the inability of a married woman to prepare these dishes for her husband was considered as a taboo and possible grounds for divorce,” Madam Bonsu said.

     “No matter how beautiful a woman is, if she is unable to cook these sumptuous foods for her husband, she is considered as a disgrace, which could be a terrible ground for divorce.”

      Therefore, mothers and elderly women in the family took keen interest in the training of young girls to prepare these traditional cuisines.

     Madam Bonsu said soup and stew preparation were the most important parts of the training.

The choice of the vegetables and the proportion of what is to be added, as well as the type of spices and quantities needed for each soup or stew is very important in ensuring the woman presents a sumptuous meal to the table.

       The Asantes prefer soups such as palm-nut soup, light soup, Abunabunu (kontomire and other green leafy vegetable soups), Abenkatekonto (mixture of palm-nut, groundnut paste and kontomire) to go with their fufu.

     It is, therefore, essential for a lady who wants to marry an Asante man, to know how to prepare these foods.

      Mrs Rosemary Serwaa Frimpong, who sells etoo (mashed plantains) at Effiduase, told the GNA that the traditional meal is seen as sacred as it is used to perform some traditional rites among family members.

       The boiled plantain or cocoyam is mashed in an earthenware with red oil, groundnut paste, fermented fish, pepper, onions, and salt added to taste.

      Avocado pear, eggs and fried groundnuts are often used to garnish the food to make it appealing before serving.

    “Etoo is currently gaining roots since people now use it during weddings and other social events,” Madam Frimpong said.

Nutritional Benefits and Expert’s Advice

      Mr Kaakyire Yaw Obiri Yeboah, a Nutritionist at the Oforikrom Municipal Health Directorate, elaborating on the nutritional values and benefits of local foods, said they contributed greatly to increasing the life expectancy of a person.

      He cited the Etoo, Aprapransa, Fufu and green soups as some of the foods with high nutritional values.

     They contained phytochemicals (plant chemicals), which are rich in fibre and antioxidants, aiding in the prevention of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases among others. 

     Mr Obiri Yeboah indicated that healthy eating must be a lifestyle to enhance one’s well-being.

    Countries like Japan, Korea and Switzerland had higher life expectancy rates largely attributed to their good diets, he said. 

      People from these countries eat more plant foods (Mediterranean diets).

     He called on Ghanaians to go back to their roots and promote the consumption of local foods to derive the maximum benefits from the inherent nutrients. These include minerals, proteins, vitamins, zinc, and iron.  

      Mr Obiri Yeboah was, however, worried over the manner some of the foods are prepared currently.

      For instance, he said, people should be cautious of using too much salty fishes like ‘‘kako, koobi, and momoni” to a kontomire or garden eggs stew.

“By the time one finishes eating the food, one’s blood pressure might have shot up,” he noted.

    He advised the public to be measured in taking too much palm-nut soup, despite its richness in nutrients, as it may have some health implications.

     “The palm-nut oil is a saturated fat and when one eats saturated fat, it blocks the veins and arteries, which leads to arteriosclerosis and other serious conditions,” he said. 

     “Such foods should be eaten in moderation”.


     It is important that Ghanaians look at the way they eat.

     Indigenous foods protected the nation’s forefathers, which saw some of them growing healthily with longer life expectancy.

     “We must change our preference for foreign foods and resort to eating our local foods not only to boost our health and lifespan, but also to support the farmers who produce these foods to derive the maximum benefits from their sweat,” Mr Obiri Yeboah said.