Okpa is a nutritive and popular delicacy made with a special type of bean known as Bambara nuts.
In the eastern part of Nigeria, especially in Enugu state, where it originates from, it can typically be described as a household name when it comes to food, hence the name “okpa wa wa”.
This delicious food is missing in the menu of Nigerians today not because they are not aware of the nutritive value but because of its mode of preparation.
You will agree with me that it is not everybody that knows how to cook it with plantain leaves like the Enugu people and cooking it with small transparent cellophane bags is a no-no because of the health risks associated with it.
So, in this post I will share with you the easiest and healthiest way to make okpa, and I bet you, going forward, this delicious delicacy will begin to feature prominently on your menu.
But first, Let’s look at the origin
The Bambara nut originated in West Africa, and it is grown in Sub-Saharan Africa’s warm tropics. Bambara nuts grow well anywhere groundnuts grow and are thus widely grown in the northern parts of Nigeria and Northern Ghana.
Nigeria is the largest producer of Bambara nuts, followed by Burkina Faso and Niger. Other names for Bambara nuts are Bambara bean, Congo goober, earth pea, ground bean, or hog peanut. It comes in various colors like white, red, cream, and black and its botanical name is Vigna Subterranea.
In semi-arid Africa, the Bambara nut is considered the third most important grain legume. It is heat resistant and suitable for marginal soils where other leguminous crops cannot be grown. It also has a low environmental impact.
Similar to groundnuts, the pods of Bambara nut ripen underground. Because of their high protein content, the seeds are used in food, beverages, and digestive system applications. Because of nitrogen fixation, the entire plant is known for soil improvement. They can be ;
- boiled and eaten like other beans.
- roasted when dry and eaten as a snack.
- ground into powder when dry and used in making puddings.
- used in making highly nutritive juice
Nutritional value of bambara nut
Though Bambara nut is one of the undervalued crops, it is among the three important legumes. Because of its balanced macronutrient composition, this nutrient-dense legume has been termed a “complete food.”
According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, bambara nut seed contains 49%-63.5% carbohydrate, 15%-25% protein, 4.5%-7.4% fat, 5.2%-6.4% fiber, 3.2%-4.4% ash, and 2% mineral compared to whole fresh cow milk 88% moisture, 4.8% carbohydrate, 3.2% protein, 3.4% fat, 0.7% ash, and 0.01% cholesterol.
It has a chemical composition similar to that of soy bean but Bambara nut milk is highly rated compared to milk from other legumes such as soybean and cowpea.
Bambara nut benefits(okpa)
1. Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Bambara nuts as an excellent source of plant-based protein have high fiber contents, which slows down digestion and reduces insulin spikes by keeping your blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day, and hence plays a crucial role in regulating your blood glucose levels.
2. Improves overall health
Bambara nuts contain all of the essential nutrients that the body requires, so it can help improve your overall health while also lowering your risk of malnutrition, marasmus, kwashiorkor, rickets, and other health problems caused by a poor diet and nutrient deficiency.
3. Helps prevent anemia during pregnancy
It can also help protect against malnutrition in pregnancy since it is high in vitamins and minerals. Due to its high protein and iron content, babies can be shielded from complications arising from protein deficiency or anemia during pregnancy. This makes it an excellent choice for pregnant mothers.
4. Strengthens the immune system
Bambara nuts are also beneficial to immune health. They are high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C and iron, which reduce the risk of heart disease. Antioxidants play an important role in protecting our bodies from harmful toxins, thereby strengthening our immune system.
5. Helps in optimal bone health
Bambara nuts are high in calcium and phosphorus, which are necessary for optimal bone health in both adults and children. It also contains lysine, an amino acid that aids in the absorption of calcium and other essential nutrients into the bone. Because of these properties, It protects against arthritics and other bone diseases.
6. Lowers the risk of diseases
When compared to other grain legumes, Bambara nuts have an extremely high concentration of soluble fiber, antioxidants, and essential amino acids. These nutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer and other cardiovascular diseases.
Regular consumption of Bambara groundnut is a good source of plant protein, which helps to lower the risk of heart disease and type 11 diabetes. This protein with a high lysine content aids in cholesterol reduction and a good source of healthy unsaturated fats.
7. Aids in weight management
Bambara nuts, like all protein-rich foods, stimulate metabolism and aid in weight management. The body expends more energy digesting thermogenic meals, which also take time to digest. This can help with weight loss because of its quick gratification, high level of satiety, and increased water consumption.
8. Treats insomnia
Bambara nuts are an antidote for those who have trouble sleeping. This is primarily due to the presence of tryptophan, which stimulates the production of niacin and serotonin to help regulate mood, keep the memory calm, and improve sleep quality.
Read Also: Nigerian Diet To Lose 10kg In 2 Weeks
The easiest and healthiest way to make Okpa
Okpa is one of the simplest and quickest food to prepare. Since I discovered this method, there is no week that passes without okpa featuring in my menu. The most interesting part is that the ingredients used in preparing okpa are common and affordable. It can be eaten alone, with beverages or pap.
- Aluminum tins
- 5 cups of Bambara nut Flour
- 3 big bulbs of Onions
- 7-8 pieces of fresh Cayenne Pepper/habanero pepper
- Sea salt or local salt
- 50ml Palm oil
- Lukewarm water
Bambara nut flour is simply made by grinding Bambara nut into powder. It can be done right there in the market but I will advise that you pick it the way you pick your beans before cooking because it comes with a lot of stone.
It may appear neat from a distance but when you take a closer look at it, you will notice tiny stones in it. It will not be a nice experience if you mistakenly grind with tiny stones because you will practically be eating sand when you are done cooking.
- Sieve the bambara nut flour into a large bowl.
- Grease the interior of your aluminium tins with palm oil and set aside.
- Add palm oil and salt to it
- Also pour the blended mixture of onions and pepper into the flour.
- Gently turn the mixture with a wooden spatula until you get an even consistency.
- Slowly add lukewarm water to the mixture while turning it. The result determines the quantity of water, if you want it soft, add enough water until it becomes a bit watery but if you want it hard, you should mix it to the point where it is neither thick nor watery, something in between.
- At this point you taste to make sure that salt is okay.
- Scoop the mixture into the aluminum tins. As you are pouring the mixture into the aluminum tins, you are at the same time arranging them inside a boiling pot with little water at the bottom.
- Cover the pot and allow to cook for 45-50 minutes.
- You may need to add some water to the pot as the water dries up.
- Turn off the heat and serve with pap, tea or fresh fruit juice. I enjoy it most with zobo drink or hot cocoa drink. Extremely delicious and healthy.
Okpa does not need too much ingredients , otherwise its unique taste and flavor will be lost.
Frequently asked questions about bambara nuts
Is Bambaranut good for diabetes?
Legumes such as Bambara nuts and their products are low-glycemic index foods that won’t cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar and, as such, have been recommended as a dietary therapy for diabetics. Low-GI foods provide a slower, more consistent source of glucose to the bloodstream, thereby regulating the insulin level.
Is Bambaranut good for weight loss?
Yes, if consumed in moderation. Bambara nuts which belong to the legume family are high in protein, provides satiety, and help curb your cravings. They contain nutrients and amino acids that can help you consume fewer calories and fats. The fibre content also helps you feel fuller faster without adding extra calories.
Is bambaranut good in pregnancy
The answer is yes. Bambaranuts are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, prevents anemia and boosts hemoglobin during pregnancy. Its high fiber content promotes good bowel movement and eases constipation. It is also helpful in combating morning sickness, a condition in pregnancy characterized by nausea and vomiting
Is bambara nut good for ulcer patients?
Bambara nuts have been termed a complete food due to its high nutrient content and therefore good for ulcer patients. Recently, bambara nuts are gaining grounds, emerging as a plant of interest used in the prevention, management and treatment of gastric ulcer. It helps prevent damage to the stomach mucus linings.
Is bambara nut good for kidney patients?
The answer is yes. Bambara Nut has been shown to lower blood pressure, so eating it on a regular basis will help you feel calm and relaxed, as well as reduce your stress levels. Stress is one of the leading causes of kidney disease, so it’s critical to avoid stress and stay relaxed if you want to protect your kidneys.
In conclusion, Bambara nuts also known as Bambara groundnut and Bambara beans, but popularly known as “Okpa” in Nigeria has numerous and amazing health benefits that are beneficial to the body and necessary for normal body functioning.
In Nigeria, the name “Okpa” is more commonly used than the name Bambara nut because it is being underated, again it is not as well-known as other food crops, but it has been termed a “complete food ” because it has a balanced macronutrient composition. It has no side effects and provides the body with all the essential nutrients it requires when consumed in sufficient quantities. It could also lead to weight gain if consumed in excess.
So now you know all of these ……..
Ensure you include this “complete food” in your menu going forward in order to enjoy all of the benefits mentioned above.
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