The matter of oil invariably comes up in the Nigerian diet. If you are a child, you probably crave a generous helping of fried plantain. If you are a parent, providing that plantain—and other necessities—may turn out to be a minor obsession. For the pride a child excellent in schoolwork brings home to his parents, most people will agree that well-proportioned portions of well-fried dodo is minor compensation. The converse is also true: most children put in their best in class if they are convinced their parents have done their best for them. It may seem slight, but little things do matter to both parents and children. It is the way of the world.
An enlightened parent, however, knows that dodo is insufficient to bring about the best in a growing child. He recognises the need for that extra entity to take the child past his peers. Psychologically, this may take the form of clean uniforms for boosting a child’s morale, purchasing textbooks before term starts and attending PTA meetings. In terms of diet, and specifically, the enjoyment of quintessentially Nigerian meals as fried plantain, the discerning parent looks at the transformation of the raw food into an edible meal. In other words, he looks at the oil in which slices of plantain are somewhat immersed to yield what is presented on the dining table. The commonly used oil for this process is Olein (popularly called ‘Groundnut oil’), even though it is produced from the pressing of Palm Fruits.
Nevertheless, what is commonly used does not always equate what should rightly be used. Sometimes the difference between the common and the correct can be remarkably marked. While the common oil for plantain is indeed Olein based oils(‘Bleached’ red oil) which can also pass for Refined Bleached Deodorized Oil (RBDO), the correct and healthier oil for frying plantain, as well as for most other cooking, is Soybean oil.
It is necessary to posit a fact here. The enlightened parent may be aware of this fact; yet it is necessary that they be stated or repeated as aide-de-memoire. And for parents not in the know, the following should prove instructive: Soybean oil has less saturated fat than common cooking oil, and contains a higher percentage of unsaturated fat than same.
Furthermore, soybean oil is a veritable source of vitamins. It is an adequate source of Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant effective in combating oxygen-free radicals. It is also a rich source of Vitamin K, which is useful for bone formation, a self-evidently important component of children’s physical growth. Commercially available products of Soybean oil include Vitamin A thereby increasing a child’s uptake of the vitamin that is very important for eyesight.
What is perhaps excellent is that these advantages are not restricted to children alone—soybean helps in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The enlightened parent will use soybean oil above common cooking oil, but it is hoped that children do receive generous helpings of fried plantain.