African dishes: Small Dried Fish

by Cordialis Chipois

Small dried fish also known as Matemba (Zimbabwe), Kapenta (Zambia), Daaga (Tanzania), Omena (Kenya), Janga (Cameroon), Mwanja moto (Cameroon) are high in protein providing more protein than the same amount of beef,chicken or goat meat. Each 100 gram serving contains 59 g protein .  The same amount of chicken has 19 g protein while the beef of the same weight has about 23 g protein.  It should be noted however, that the average person consumes about 50 grams of small dried fish, gleaning almost 30 grams of protein.

Terrific source of calcium and phosphorus

Calcium is abundant in bones and because small dried fish are consumed whole, they are a wonderful source of calcium. Each 100g serving contains 170% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Together with phosphorus, calcium allows for the development of strong bones and teeth. In addition, it is needed for nerve, heart and other body system functions.

Contain Vitamin D

Small dried fish provide vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus.   Recent studies link inadequate intakes of vitamin D  to diseases such as type 1 diabetes and various forms of cancer. While the body is capable of making vitamin D from the sun, people of African descent  are unable to absorb much of it due to the presence of melanin (dark pigment) in their skin. For this reason, eating foods high in vitamin D (like small dried fish) and taking supplements may be beneficial.

Doses of B-vitamins

Small dried fish are a great source Niacin, folate , and Cobalamin (B12), all of which are a part of the vitamin B group.  These vitamins help in the production of energy, cell and blood formation and are an essential component of any healthy eating plan.

Great source of Iron and Zinc

A 100g serving of small dried fish provides  75% of the daily requirement of Zinc  and 50% mg of the iron requirement for  the day. Both of these nutrients help the body fight infection and zinc provides an  extra layer of protection by aiding in the production of healthy skin. It also increases appetite and helps reduce slow growth in children. Iron carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without adequate iron, one is likely to suffer from anemia and experience consistent tiredness.

Cordialis Chipois a registered dietician and graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) African Area Studies Program. She is the chief contributor for the health and wellness blog, The African Pot Nutrition (
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