Is It Safe To Eat Ekpang Nkukwo During Pregnancy?


Ekpang Nkukwo, or Ekwang, is a traditional Nigerian nutritious meal typical of the South-South, particularly the Efik and Ibibio people of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, respectively. This dish is known for its finger-licking tendency and is also notable for being packed with nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and iron.



 It is incredibly delicious and known as a porridge for royals because of its richness. It is made with either a freshly grated cocoyam, water yam or a mixture of both. The paste is rolled into cocoyam leaves or spinach and afterwards garnished with seafood, spices and other ingredients before being left to steam in a base of palm oil under low heat.



Nutritional components of ekpang nkukwo


Ekpang nkukwo is a nutritional powerhouse. Each ingredient used embodies its nutrient.


  • Magnesium
  • Iron 
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A and C
  • Folate
  • Potassium 
  • Thiamin 
  • Riboflavin 
  • Niacin 
  • Zinc



Health benefits of ekpang nkukwo in pregnancy


The health benefits of ekpang nkukwo rely on its rich nutritional components:


  • Contains essential minerals and vitamins: Cocoyam and water yam are good sources of carbohydrates, which can provide the energy needed during pregnancy. The cocoyam leaves are rich in vitamin A, which is necessary for your baby’s development. The meat and other seafood added to the dish provide protein, and palm oil enriches your system with essential vitamins.


  • Regulates the sugar level: Cocoyam contains resistant starch, which helps to keep your glycemic index at a moderate level, meaning it won’t cause a spike in insulin while still keeping you full. It is also ideal for pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. 


  • Aids bowel movement: Constipation is a common occurrence during pregnancy. The fiber in cocoyam helps in the secretion of digestive enzymes, aiding digestion and easy passage of stool.


  • Controls weight: The dish is also low in calories, so it can be a healthy choice for weight management during pregnancy. 


  • Prevents anaemia: Ekpang nkukwo is notable for its richness in iron, which aids in carrying oxygen in the blood and also prevents anaemia during pregnancy.


  • Reduces inflammation: The spices like ginger, garlic, and chilli pepper contain anti-inflammatory properties. Also, the effect of Omega-3 present in cocoyam helps to reduce inflammation.



How to make ekpang nkukwo


Ekpang nkukwo is relatively easy to make. To prepare this sumptuous delicacy, you will need the below ingredients according to preference:


  • Slices of water yam 
  • Slices of cocoyam 
  • Young cocoyam leaves ( You can use ugwu leaves) 
  • Shredded scent leaves or uziza (Optional)
  • Properly washed unshelled or shelled periwinkles (According to choice)
  • Assorted meats (Beef, chicken, ponmo) 
  • Assorted Seafood (Smoked fish, dry fish, stock fish, fresh prawns, crabs)
  • Palm oil
  • Scotch bonnet pepper 
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground crayfish
  • Water


 Method of preparation


Due to differences in choices, individuals may have an alternative way of preparation, but below is the general way to prepare ekpang nkukwo:


  • Start by preparing your periwinkles. If unshelled, carefully chop off the ends for easy sucking and wash vigorously in salty water to remove dirt and sand.
  • Prepare your other ingredients and set aside.
  • Wash and grate already peeled cocoyam and water yam, mix thoroughly with a spatula, sprinkle some salt and set aside to rest.
  • Oil the dry pot to be used to prevent it from burning. You can also choose to lay the periwinkle as a base instead.
  • Carefully wash your leaves by wrapping them in clean water to remove any sand particles. 
  • Spread the leaves used in wrapping, scoop in bits of the grated cocoyam, and water yam into it, and neatly arrange it in your already oiled pot. 
  • Place the pot of wrapped cocoyam and water yam paste over a burner, add the periwinkles and meats together with the stock and other ingredients like onions, pepper, seasoning cubes, and crayfish and allow to boil in medium heat for about 30 minutes before stirring gently.
  • Add palm oil in bits after each simmer, and also water. In case it is beginning to dry up without having been adequately cooked.
  • Add in scent leaves or whatever vegetable you will be using. Turn it off after 10 minutes and serve it hot.
  • Try the option of moulding it directly into a pot instead of first folding it into a leaf during cooking.



Ekpang nkukwo contains many health benefits, making it suitable for consumption even during pregnancy. There is yet no study to prove that ekpang nkukwo may be hazardous. However, as we would always advise, consume in moderation and case of any allergic reaction, do well to speak to your doctor.



  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


  • Can I eat cocoyam during pregnancy?

Yes, it is healthy and safe to consume cocoyam during pregnancy. It supplies the proper nutrients needed during pregnancy, such as manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, copper, vitamin C, phosphorus, and magnesium. As with other meals, always ensure that you cook your cocoyam appropriately.



  • Can eating ekpang nkukwo during pregnancy cause a miscarriage?

Ekpang nkukwo does not cause miscarriage. The primary factor that makes ekpang nkukwo a controversial meal during pregnancy is the cocoyam leaves used in preparation. This is because cocoyam leaf, despite its healthy benefits, is said to possibly contain oxalic acid and high levels of arsenic, which may be problematic during pregnancy when taken in excess. 



  • Is it compulsory to add periwinkles when cooking ekpang nkuwko?

It isn't compulsory, but it’s a significant ingredient that gives ekpang nkukwo a unique flavour. 



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