Many people today still believe that Africa is a country! As the second largest continent, Africa is comprised of 54 sovereign countries in five regions, representing a diversity of languages, cultures, and foods influenced by trade, religion, war, and migration. What they have in common are similarities in staple foods of plant origin that are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. In fact, Africa’s knowledge of healthy plant-based eating and their medicinal use has largely been unexplored by the West.
In West and Central Africa, legumes, vegetables, and green leafy vegetables are cooked together and made into soups and stews. Nuts and seeds are ground and added to soups to thicken and increase protein content. Tubers are pounded into large balls and pinched off into smaller ones to use as utensils for dipping into soups when eating. Stews are eaten over rice. Cowpeas (black-eyed peas) and African brown beans are soaked, ground and either steamed to make Moi Moi or fried to make Akara, both high in protein. Grains like maize and sorghum are also fermented to create a breakfast meal known as Akamu, Ogi or Pap. Palm fruit is fermented to make wine.
In East Africa, communal eating is still practiced. A central plate of food is shared, and hands are used in place of utensils. Traditional Kenyan breakfast includes maize porridge, boiled cassava or bananas, soup with flatbread, and rice bread with tea or coffee. Ethiopians, a Semitic culture of Orthodox Christian faith, abstain from consuming animal products. Ethiopians are known for their Injera Bread made from fermenting Teff, a gluten free grain rich in nutrients. Injera is adorned with a colorful variety of legumes like chickpeas and vegetables.
North African cuisine consists of a variety of chickpea and lentil stews consumed with grains like wheat, pearl millet and kamut. Sweet pastries made with fruits, nuts and pastes are also common. The main meal dish found in Tunisia and Morocco is Couscous made with chickpeas, vegetables, almonds, raisins, herbs and spices. During their holy month of Ramadan, in addition to fasting, North African Muslims consume less meat and a more plant-based diet.
South African indigenous foods consist of breakfast staples like fermented and unfermented maize, sorghum, or millet porridges. Samp (dried maize) and Beans, Pumpkin Soup, and Wild Vegetable stews are eaten for lunch and dinner. Sorghum bread, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and the leaves of pumpkin, watermelon, and sweet potatoes supplement their meals. Native South Africans eat very little meat and have very low rates of colon cancer due to their very high fiber and mostly plant-based diet. South Africans ferment sorghum to make traditional beer.