PAP: THE HEALTHFUL STAPLE
It may surprise you to know that corn qualifies as a medicinal plant. It is also a nutritious food plant which is a good source of carbohydrates, B vitamins (pantothenic acid – B5, niacin – B3, riboflavin and thiamine – B1), folic acid, vitamin A and C, potassium, Chromium, selenium, zinc, phosphorous, magnesium and many others.
Corn oil is very healthy and good for the heart. Scientifically known as Zea mays, corn is the basis of a lot of dishes used as main meals, but it is also a popular snack in Nigeria. The dishes made from corn are used in all meals of the day. A popular staple use of corn is the corn pap.
Corn pap: Some people (especially from the Western world), refer to it as a corn gruel. Locally, it is called Ogi, Agidi,or Akamu. It is mostly eaten as breakfast and it is healthy and nutritious. It beats the Western staple “cornflakes” by far. In a wrestle for points as to which is superior, corn pap will win the battle anyday. These points include;
-Corn pap is 100% natural. It has no additives or artificial content whatsoever.
-It has no sodium and contains potassium (lowers B.P). This means that it helps to maintain a normal blood pressure effortlessly, which makes it a perfect food for people who are hypertensive and those who do not want to develop high blood pressure.
-Pap has a high water content and helps to supply the daily requirement of water. It is as a result of this that it is used by nursing mothers to help the easy flow of breast milk (lactation) after delivery.
-The texture of corn pap makes it very easy to digest and a perfect food for convalescencing individuals who are recovering from illness. The texture also makes it an ideal breakfast food because it exerts very little stress on the digestive system when instant energy is required after overnight sleep.
– The carbohydrate in pap delivers. You may laugh at this, but it is a perfect food for athletes like footballers during half time when they need to refresh, but cannot take anything heavy which might hamper their movement in the field. It will also help to replace some of the fluid that is lost from profuse sweating.
-corn has an adequate protein score i.e. the protein in it is more than the 8% required in food. The problem with pap is the volume. This is why our ancestors (in their wisdom), combine corn pap with a protein-rich accompaniment e.g. Akara (bean cake), Moin-moin (bean pudding).
-Corn pap does not go through the long manfacturing process that cornflakes does. As a result, it retains more nutrients.
This is especially so with the cornmeal which is not sifted i.e. the corn is blended to smoothness and used like that for pap. Corn pap that is prepared this way is high in fibre because of the outer coat covering the grain. It is healthy helps to increase the amount of fibre in our diet.
-The fermented water from soaked milled corn is very nutritious and has a lot of use traditionally. In Yoruba language, it is called omidun which literarily translates to “sweet water”.
Cornfakes: It is a pity that cornflakes have become a fashionable breakfast meal, especially amongst children (not mine!). This is a typical case of using your money to buy what is inferior because cornflakes is expensive (they have to pay for all the machines and the staff). Maybe also the snob appeal of being modern. To my mind, that is ridiculous.
The Japanese and Chinese have earned the respect of the rest of the World for their local dishes and traditional cuisine because they are proud of their heritage and pass the knowledge of their nutritional benefits from generation to generation. People will respect you for what is genuinely yours and not when you are trying to imitate them!
-cornflakes is a highly processed food and therefore NOT natural. It contains preservatives so that it can stay on the shelf in stores and supermarkets for months.
-It is high in sodium and literarily all the potassium in it has been processed out. This means that cornflakes is not good for people who are trying to reduce sodium intake and by so doing control blood presure.
-Some cornflakes varieties are very high in sugar. This is very bad for adults and children alike, Short and longterm health problems could include dental caries (rotten teeth), obesity, insulin resistance, etc.
-The nutrients in cornflakes are artificial minerals and vitamins which are added during the manufacture of the flakes (this is after the natural ones have been lost during processing). It is very diificult to add trace elements like selenium and zinc. The former is a powerful antioxidant and the later is very important in some metabolic processes in the body.
Cornflakes is eaten with milk and sugar unlike corn pap that is accompanied with bean pudding or cake, Sugar is optional and rarely used by the older generation. Honey is used by the health conscious. There is no sweet water with cornflakes as this would have long gone down the factory drains!!