Food, Healthy Living, Oil & Spices

Healthy living: Is suya good for you?

You’re not Nigerian enough if you don’t know about “suya” (pun intended). The grilled meat is spicy, delicious, and everyone’s favorite. But how does it affect you? Read the post to find out.

You’re not Nigerian enough if you don’t know about “suya” (pun intended). The grilled meat is spicy, delicious, and everyone’s favorite. In this article, we’ll explore the health benefits of grilled meat. 

How to prepare suya

Suya is prepared by grilling red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb. It’s so named because the meat is red when raw. Before grilling, the meat is seasoned with blends of vegetables and spices to make it spicy. Suya is also a common delicacy during Eid al-Fitr, the post-Ramadan feast

The ingredients used for making suya are; 

  • Any red meat of your choice.
  • Groundnut or vegetable oil.
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered chili pepper, otherwise called “suya spice.” 
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika spice.
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger.
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
  • 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
  • Skewers

N.B: You can order red meat (ram, beef, and mutton), spices, and vegetables in bulk from Pricepally.

Prices of meat you can use for suya of Pricepally
Prices of meat you can use for suya of Pricepally

How to make suya

  • Cut the meat into thin slices. 
  • Mix the chili pepper, paprika, ginger, garlic, white pepper, salt, and seasoning in a bowl. 
  • Thread the meat onto the skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before use. 
  • Mix the meat with the spices. Make sure the spices fill every part of the meat. Mix the meat with vegetable (or groundnut) oil. 
  • If you’re using an oven, preheat for a few minutes before adding the spice-filled meats. Then heat it for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, use an outdoor grill to heat the skewered meat as desired.

Health benefits of suya 

1. Boosts muscle and bone health

Red meats are rich sources of proteins, the macronutrients that manage the growth and repair of muscles. Proteins increase the production of the growth hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which improves bone health. As a result, high protein intake lowers the risk of bone fractures and weak bones (osteoporosis), especially for postmenopausal women. 

2. Boosts immunity and iron deficiency

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most common form of anemia—the abnormal concentration of hemoglobin (the iron-containing protein in blood vessels). IDA affects people of all ages, especially children and pregnant women, causing pregnancy complications and high mortality rates in pregnant women. 

However, red meats are rich in iron. For instance, a single serving of beef provides 12% of the recommended daily iron intake.  

Besides, red meats contain high amounts of zinc and vitamin B12. Zinc improves the body’s immune system against bacteria and viruses. It’s also an essential mineral that improves body growth during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. Vitamin B12 boosts the nervous system. It also helps the body produce healthy red blood cells to prevent fatigue. 

3. May provide antioxidants

Antioxidants prevent cell damage. Glutathione is a “master antioxidant” produced in the body, and it improves the immune and respiratory systems. It also removes harmful materials from the liver and lungs. Red meat, especially beef, is a rich source of selenium and other amino acids that produce glutathione in the body. 

What’s the beef with suya? 

Despite suya’s delicious taste and benefits, it comes with health concerns. 

1. May cause cancer

Grilling, especially when it’s done in high heat or over an open flame, exposes meats to harmful chemicals—heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—that may cause cancer. 

“Eating suya can cause cancer,” Ngozi Nnam, Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, said in 2019. She also noted that it comes from the “reaction of meat and smoke during suya preparation, which results in a toxic compound that can cause cancer.”

Similarly, the National Cancer Institute suggests that PAHs and PCAs from smoked or grilled meat may cause cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” explaining that it causes bowel (colorectal) cancer. 

But garnishing grilled meats with vegetables, onions, and fruits may lower the cancer effect. Ms. Ngozi noted that fruits and vegetables supply antioxidants that will “react with the toxic substances produced by smoke to prevent cancer.”

2. Increases the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D)

T2D, the abnormal behavior of the body toward insulin, affects over 4 million people in Nigeria. Genetic history, lack of physical exercise, and diet choices (e.g., high consumption of red meat) promote T2D. 

In a 2018 study, Diabetes Care explained that high-heat cooking methods, such as grilling, produce PAHs and PCAs that may interfere with insulin production or promote insulin resistance in the body. “Our research suggests that not only the amount and types of meat but also the cooking methods can make a difference in diabetes risk,” Gang Liu, lead author of the study, said. 

3. May promote heart diseases

Red meats are rich in heme iron, saturated fats, and dietary by-products—trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO)—that contribute to heart diseases. Research from the Cardiovascular Health Study showed that red meat digestion elevates heart disease risks.  

The gut produces TMAO during the digestion of red meat. How TMAO negatively affects the heart is more complicated than the documented effects of saturated fats. A possible explanation is that TMAO increases cholesterol deposits in the artery wall. The dietary chemical may also interact with blood cells and platelets to cause strokes and heart attacks.  

It’s tempting to cut suya from your diet because of the potential risks. But you can still enjoy the spicy skewered meat delicacy by following the tips below. 

  1. Shorten the grill time.
  2. Reduce exposure to flames. Constantly flip the meat to avoid the accumulation of smoke. 
  3. Add vegetables and fruits. Cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and peppers supply nutrients and antioxidants that neutralize harmful substances. 
  4. Don’t eat too much within a short period. It makes it difficult for your body to break down nutrients. 



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