Seasoning cubes are a staple in almost every Nigerian kitchen with hundreds of millions of them sold every single day.
They come in many brands, with several claims to transform your cooking from ordinary to spectacular just by adding a few cubes to your concoction.
Seasoning cubes come in several textures and flavours such as beef, chicken, fish, onion, vegetable flavours and more. There are seasoning cubes created for adding zest to just about every type of meal ranging from pepper soup and jollof/fried rice to egusi soup and afang soup. It has even become so essential in preparing most of our favourite meals, that many people can’t eat food that doesn’t contain seasoning cubes.
This trend is relatively new in human history because, for several centuries, such a food seasoning did not even exist. I will discuss the dangers of seasoning cubes and how to reduce or eliminate them from your diet.
The primary ingredients in most seasoning cubes are salt, sugar, monosodium glutamate (msg), saturated fat, flavouring, preservatives and wheat or maize starch.
The combination of sugar, salt, fat and the flavour enhancer MSG has made our taste buds accustomed to and even crave the taste of seasoning cubes in our meals.
Our brains are naturally wired to seek out these types of ingredients from a biological standpoint, so we don’t quickly know when we have had more than enough to start causing damage to our bodies.
The other main issue is that most people use seasoning cubes and still add table salt or seasoned salt into their cooking pots thereby doubling the amount of our daily recommended allowance of salt.
Over time, we end up needing more and more salt to enjoy the taste of our food.
The recommended total daily allowance of sodium is 2300 milligrams a day or about a teaspoon of salt, yet one cube of the average seasoning cube contains at least 2500 milligrams of sodium!
Excess sodium or salt in our diet affects high blood pressure, water retention, kidney problems and even diabetes. Also, most seasoning cubes contain MSG, a controversial ingredient that has been linked with several health issues ranging from headaches, weight gain and heart palpitations, to anxiety, allergic reactions and even cancer, when consumed in large amounts.
Finally, seasoning cubes contain several additives and chemicals used to preserve and stabilise the seasoning cube. As we all know, preservatives and food additives carry several health risks, varying from heart issues and asthma to an increased risk of cancer.
In summary, the bottom line is this; let us reduce our intake of salt and seasoning cubes and try to go back to the original, pure way we used to season our food in the past. We can even include newly adopted spices such as garlic, thyme, curry, ginger, bay leaves and basil in addition to the locust beans, ogiri, onion and crayfish used in traditional cooking.
To mimic the sweet taste of sugar from seasoning cubes, caramelise onions under low heat and add it your soups and stews. Doing this can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and other health issues from consuming processed foods, which include seasoning cubes.