Waakye reduces risk of obesity, heart disease for over 22 Percent


… fiber content fights hemorrhoids, and stomach ulcers.

Studies have found that ingredients used in waakye tend to reduce your risk of obesity, and heart diseases for over 22%.  Though white rice used in waakye is believed to have a high glycemic index, it is curtailed by the sorghum leaves. Additionally, studies have also established that the Ghanaian diets are not eaten alone but with other accompaniments. The accompaniments reduce the glucose response than consuming that particular food alone(Yeboah et al. 2019).  Previous studies have confirmed this position (Wolever et al.  1996). Sorghum leaves are also loaded with high amounts of potassium and magnesium, key ingredients needed to support cardiovascular health and help to lower blood pressure, diabetes, etc.  Other studies have also established that sorghum leaves help to lower your risk of cancer. Now let’s examine the article in detail. 



Waakye is a Ghanaian dish of cooked rice and beans, commonly eaten for breakfast or lunch. However, others prefer to eat it for supper. The rice and beans, usually black-eyed peas or cow beans, are cooked together, with red-dried sorghum leaf sheaths or stalks and limestone.

It is understood that the word waakye comes from the Hausa language, which means rice and beans, or “shinkafa da wake,” which also means rice and beans.

In Ghana, some also eat their waakye in banana leaf which brings some medicinal properties as well.  The other accompaniments which go with the waakye are “Wele,” stew, boiled eggs, garri, shito, vegetable salad, spaghetti (called talia in Ghana) or fried plantain, onions, and tomatoes. Since these accompaniments are optional, this article will not focus on them.

However, the article will only focus on the waakye ingredients; sorghum, rice, and beans. The sorghum leaves and limestone give the dish its characteristic flavor and a red appearance, and the sorghum is taken out before consumption. 


White Rice

White rice has some negative images. This negative image attached to this is the fact that it’s highly processed and missing its hull (the hard protective coating), bran (outer layer), and germ (nutrient-rich core). Meanwhile, brown rice only has the hull removed. Due to this, white rice lacks many vitamins and minerals that are present in brown rice. It may also contain high amounts of arsenic and could be linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. On the other hand, it is easy to digest, gluten-free, and often enriched with important nutrients. However, there are some instances where white rice is a better option than brown rice.

Nutritional Contents

Unlike brown rice, which maintains the entire whole rice grain. Brown rice contains fiber-rich bran, nutrient-packed germ, and carbohydrate-rich endosperm. One study by Roy et al.(2011)  established that white rice is stripped of its bran and germ, leaving just the endosperm. It’s then processed to improve taste, extend shelf life and enhance cooking properties. 

It has been found that white rice contains empty carbs since it loses its main sources of nutrients.

Two studies (Guerrero et al. 2009; Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Use of Dietary Reference Intakes in Nutrition Labeling, 2003) found that in countries such as the US and others,  white rice is improved with added nutrients, including iron and B vitamins like folic acid, niacin, thiamine and more.


One article by Ryan Raman, (2018) outlined the nutritional contents of white rice as enshrined in Nutrition Data, 2018).

Nutrients White rice, unenriched White rice, enriched Brown rice, unenriched
Calories 123 123 111
Protein 2.9 grams 2.9 grams 2.6 grams
Carbs 30 grams 26 grams 23 grams
Fat 0.4 grams 0.4 grams 0.9 grams
Fiber 0.9 grams 0.9 grams 1.8 grams
Folate 1% of the RDI 20% of the RDI 1% of the RDI
Manganese 18% of the RDI 18% of the RDI 45% of the RDI
Thiamine 5% of the RDI 14% of the RDI 6% of the RDI
Selenium 13% of the RDI 13% of the RDI 14% of the RDI
Niacin 12% of the RDI 12% of the RDI 8% of the RDI
Iron 1% of the RDI 10% of the RDI 2% of the RDI
Vitamin B6 8% of the RDI 8% of the RDI 7% of the RDI
Phosphorus 6% of the RDI 6% of the RDI 8% of the RDI
Copper 4% of the RDI 4% of the RDI 5% of the RDI
Magnesium 2% of the RDI 2% of the RDI 11% of the RDI
Zinc 2% of the RDI 2% of the RDI 4% of the RDI

Source: Ryan Raman, (2018)


White rice is naturally gluten-free, which makes them a great carb option for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

White Rice, Glycemic Index

One key negative image of white rice is that it has a higher glycemic index,  which makes them unsuitable for diabetics and those concerned with reducing their risk of getting diabetes. With regards to any foods, a higher Glycemic Index Score may be linked to increased diabetes risk. 

The Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast your body converts carbs into sugars that can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

The score ranges from 0 to 100 with the following labels:

  • Low GI: 55 or less
  • Medium GI: 56 to 69
  • High GI: 70 to 100

Two studies (Radulian et al. 2009; Yalçın et l. 2017) found that  Foods with a lower GI are good for type 2 diabetes, as they cause a slow but gradual rise in blood sugars. Higher GI foods may cause rapid spikes.  Concerning white rice, the GI is 64, while brown rice has a GI of 55.  Due to this, when one eats white rice without cooling to break some of the carbohydrate content to increase its resistant starch, white rice can quickly increase blood sugar as compared to brown rice.  This reason accounts for the reason researchers linked a higher risk of type 2 diabetes to white rice and higher consumption of brown rice linked to a significantly lower risk.

For instance, one large study by Hu et al.( 2012) on over 350,000 people, found that those who ate the most white rice had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least. 

However, the higher GI index in white rice still does not mean that diabetics and health enthusiasts cannot eat white rice.  The high GI of white rice can be reduced by cooling it for some time before eating. This was demonstrated in one study by Brand et al.(1985) which found that cooling affects starch breakdown and in turn affects glycemic response and glycemic index figures. Additionally, the cooling, which occurred at the end of cooking could have resulted in retrogradation and this could have introduced some amounts of resistant starches which are not normally susceptible to digestion by the digestive enzymes.

Additionally, because white rice is not eaten alone in waakye remedy, the GI value reduces. For instance, Yeboah et al. (2019) further opined that when a particular food is consumed with other accompaniments, the glucose response to this meal is normally different than consuming that particular food alone without any accompaniment.  This support the position by Wolever et al. (1996) that fat, carbohydrate, protein, and other nutrients when consumed together with other test food affect both glucose and insulin responses. 

White Rice, Metabolic Syndrome risk

Three studies (Murakami et al. 2006; Ahn et al. 2013; Krittanawong et al. 2017) found that people who frequently eat large amounts of white rice have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, especially Asian adults. 

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that tend to increase our risk of health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

These risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • High triglyceride levels
  • A large waistline
  • Low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol

Two other studies (Krittanawong et al. 2017; Muraki et al. 2015) also found a link between heart disease and white rice mixed.  On the other hand,  Aune et al. (2016) found that brown rice consumption is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The study further established that adults that consume the most amount of whole grains may have up to 21% lower risk of heart disease than adults eating the least amount. 

Adolphe et al.  (2010) study also found that Brown rice contains lignans, a plant compound that has been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of fat in our blood and reduce arterial stiffness. 


White Rice, Weight Loss

White rice is classified as a refined grain because it’s stripped of its bran and germ. Though numerous studies have linked diets high in refined grains to obesity and weight gain, the research appears mixed for white rice. For example, four studies(McKeown et al. 2010; Kim et al. 2012; Kolahdouzan et al. 2013; Jackson et al. 2014) linked diets high in refined grains like white rice to weight gain, belly fat, and obesity, though other studies have found no correlation. 

On the other hand, three studies ( Cunha et al. 2010;  Sichieri, R, 2002; Shi et al, 2012) also linked diets related to white rice to promote weight loss, especially in countries where it’s everyday food.  Due to the conflicting report, one article by Ryan R,( 2018) had this to say: ” In short, white rice appears to be neither detrimental nor favorable for weight loss”.

Unlike brown rice where the studies have been consistent to promote weight loss and help maintain healthy body weight ( Karl et al. 2017; Sichieri, R, 2002; Shi et al, 2012). 

Hence, for weight loss, Brown rice is more nutritious, contains more fiber, and provides a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants.


White Rice, Arsenic levels

Rice grown in certain parts of the world is contaminated with arsenic,  according to Ryan R,( 2018).

Some four studies (Tapio and Grosche, 2006; Balakumar and Kaur, 2009; Chen et al. 2007;  Nahar et al. 2014) found that the rice plant accrues more arsenic than most other food crops. This becomes a problem when soil or water sources are contaminated with arsenic. High consumption of arsenic is linked with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it is toxic to the nerves and may affect brain function.  This is a huge challenge, especially as we eat more rice-based diets, especially for children. Professionals advise parents to avoid feeding young children high amounts of rice or rice-based products.

Certain types of rice contain lower amounts of arsenic than others. These include jasmine and basmati rice, as well as rice, grown in the Himalayan region.

For instance, two studies ( Zhu et al. 2008; Sun et al. 2008) found that arsenic tends to accumulate in the bran. As a result, brown rice contains higher amounts of arsenic than white rice.  Heartburnnausea, and vomiting or those recovering from medical procedures that affect the digestive system may also find a low-fiber diet beneficial.

White rice is often recommended in these cases, as it’s low in fiber, bland, and easy to digest.



One article by Levy, J(2021) explained that sorghum is loaded with nutrients such as a good dose of plant-based protein, iron, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. The flour is loaded with antioxidants, including phenolic compounds, tannins, and anthocyanin, which help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

A quarter cup (about 35 grams) of sorghum flour contains roughly:

  • 130 calories
  • 28 grams carbohydrates
  • 3 grams protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 1 milligram iron (6 percent DV)
  • 124 milligrams potassium (2 percent DV)

One ounce of sorghum grains (about 28 grams) roughly has

  • 94.5 calories
  • 20.9 grams carbohydrates
  • 3.2 grams protein
  • 0.9 grams fat
  • 1.8 grams fiber
  • 80.4 milligrams phosphorus (8 percent Daily value DV)
  • 1.2 milligrams iron (7 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams thiamine (4 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligram niacin (4 percent DV)
  • 98 milligrams potassium (3 percent DV)

Sorghum, science

Higher fiber

Sorghum is loaded with high fiber content. It is the most significant aspect of eating whole grain sorghum as you get all the retain dietary fiber, unlike the refined grains processed to do away with the bran and germ. As a result of the absence of the inedible hull like some other grains, so even its outer layers commonly are eaten. This provides more fiber with other important nutrients such as iron and the added advantage of its lower glycemic index (Abdelhalim et al. 2019).


Diverse types of sorghum plants have been found with high antioxidant potential.  The high antioxidant contents have been linked to decreased risks of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and some neurological diseases. For instance, one review by Dykes, L(2019) found that sorghum is loaded with diverse plant compounds such as tannins, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, phytosterols, and policosanols. Hence, eating sorghum and sorghum flour could provide the same health benefits as eating Whole Foods such as fruits.

Also, a previous study by  Hussain et al.(2016) found that consuming a diet rich in these antioxidants can lower oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Another study by Awika et al.(2004) found that anthocyanin antioxidants are found in black, brown, and red sorghum grains. Antioxidant activity and pH stability were found in sorghum at levels three to four times higher than certain other whole grains.

Though Black sorghum is especially regarded as a high-antioxidant food and had the highest anthocyanin content of all in the study, white-grained sorghum has been found to have a high polyphenol content (Wu et al. 2017). Another review by Varady et al.(2003) also found that Sorghum grains are under a natural, waxy layer that covers the grain and contains protective plant compounds, such as the type called policosanol, and has positive repercussions for cardiac health, and lowering cholesterol.

Finally, Xiong et al. (2019) study found that the phenolic compounds found in sorghum aid arterial health.  The study notes that the phenolics result in the plant having substantial antioxidant properties and non-enzymatic processes that avert pathogenesis at the root of many diabetic complications and cell mutations that may contribute to cancer.

Balances Blood sugar

The longer the digestion of food the better for your health. I have issues with dieticians who kick against longer food digestion. Some claim that because our local foods take longer to digest, they have dire consequences for our health. This is not true. For instance, sorghum flour is low on the glycemic index, because it takes longer than other flours to digest. This slows down the rate at which glucose (sugar) is released into the bloodstream, which is particularly helpful for anyone with blood sugar issues, such as diabetes. Farrar et al.(2008) study found that some varieties of sorghum brans that have high phenolic content and high antioxidant status inhibit protein glycation. This means they can affect serious biological processes that are significant in diabetes and insulin resistance. Finally, half a cup of sorghum provides more than 7 grams of fiber, which is about 25% of the recommended daily fiber intake. A diet rich in fiber aids weight, lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent constipation.



Heart Health, Cancer, and Inflammation


One study by Baaij et al.(2015) found that sorghum is loaded with magnesium,  a mineral that’s significant for bone formation, heart health, and over 600 biochemical reactions in the body, such as energy production and protein metabolism.

Also, another study by Awika and Rooney (2004) found that eating Sorghum may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in humans, mostly colorectal cancer, compared to other cereals. This is due to the high concentration of anti-inflammatory phytochemical antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids, found in this grain.

Another clinical trial by Anunciação et al.(2019) found that Sorghum contains tannins to reduce caloric accessibility and avert obesity, weight gain, and metabolic complications.  The study found that eating sorghum decreased fat percentage and increased dietary fiber intake juxtaposed to wheat consumption.

Sorghum phytochemicals also help promote cardiovascular health, which is critical considering that cardiovascular disease is currently on the increase in Ghana.



Not all grains, even whole grains, are best for everyone. For many people, eating grains (and beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds too) is an issue when it comes to digestion and can contribute to gastrointestinal issues.

Levy, J(2021) explained that one reason is that all grains naturally contain “antinutrients” that block some of the grain’s minerals and vitamins from being absorbed and utilized properly.

Levy further asserts that one can avert this issue by sprouting grains. “A major benefit of sprouting is that it unlocks beneficial digestive enzymes, which make all types of grains, seeds, beans, and nuts easier on the digestive system”.

It further aids beneficial flora levels in the gut, in other to experience less of an autoimmune type of reaction when you eat these foods.

She added: “Even after sprouting grains, it’s best to have them in small amounts and to vary your diets, such as by including plenty of vegetables, fruits, grass-fed animal products, and probiotic foods”.

For those with celiac disease or a severe gluten allergy, be sure to check that any flour you purchase is labeled gluten-free.



Black-eyed peas


Weight loss

Two studies  (Bloom et al.2006;  Lomenick et al.2009 ) found that the protein in waakye reduces levels of ghrelin, a hormone that’s responsible for stimulating feelings of hunger.

On the other hand, as a soluble fiber, Lattimer and Haub’s (2010) study found that this fiber is a type of fiber that forms a gel-like consistency and goes into your digestive tract slowly to make you full. This account for why most people like eating waakye to keep them for the day. Eating beans, therefore, helps to manage your weight.

For instance, one large study of 1,475 people by Papanikolaou and Fulgoni(2008) found that people who ate beans frequently had a 23 percent lower risk of increased belly fat and a 22 percent lower risk of obesity, compared with non-consumers.

Another study’s (Kim et al.2016) review of 21 studies found that consuming black-eyed peas, in your diet (waakye) could be an effective weight loss strategy and may help reduce body fat percentage.

Digestive Health

Yang et al.(2012) demonstrate that when we eat more waakye, the soluble fiber can help promote regularity and increase stool frequency in those with constipation.

Anderson et al.(2009) also found that the fiber in waakye may avert digestive disorders, such as acid reflux, hemorrhoids, and stomach ulcers. Another good news is that one study by Carlson et al.(2019) found that the soluble fiber found in black-eyed peas and other plants can also act as a prebiotic, which helps the growth of the beneficial bacteria in our gut to help foster a healthy microbiome.

Heart health

Eating waakye also reduces your risk of heart disease. Bazzano et al. (2009) review of 10 studies found that frequent eating of legumes was linked to lower levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which could add to heart disease.

Alizadeh et al. (2014) study of 42 women found that when we eat a low-calorie diet enriched with 1 cup of legumes per day for 6 weeks drastically decreased waist circumference and triglyceride and blood pressure levels, juxtaposed with a control group. Three studies (Esmaillzadeh and Azadbakht, 2012; Hosseinpour-Niazi et al. 2015; Golia et al. 2014) found that frequent consumption of legumes is linked to lower markers of inflammation, and therefore reduces your risk of heart disease.


Take Home

In conclusion, studies have demonstrated the numerous benefits of eating waakye and its impact on our health. The results have been demonstrated in the specific ingredients used in making waakye. One would expect that white rice, which is also part of the ingredients has some negative image on our health, especially for diabetics, but that is not the case. The high glycemic index in white rice is curtailed by the sorghum leaves and black eye pea combination.  Besides, waakye which is gelatinized and cool before eating appears the best. This is because Brand et al.(1985) found that cooling affects starch breakdown and in turn affects glycemic response and glycemic index figures. Additionally, the cooling, which occurred at the end of cooking could have resulted in retrogradation and this could have introduced some amounts of resistant starches which are not normally susceptible to digestion by the digestive enzymes.

Besides, Sorghum is rich in various nutrients, including B vitamins, which play an essential role in metabolism, nerve cell development, and healthy hair and skin. The phenolic profile is particularly distinctive and more abundant and diverse than other common cereal grains, plus it offers other antioxidants like tannins and anthocyanins. This grain offers health-protective properties, with the ability to lower cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress. It may help fight heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Finally, Links(2018) also notes that Legumes, such as beans, are rich in resistant starch. Plus, they’re also high in protein and fiber to help improve heart health, maintain muscle mass and boost regularity. For instance, beans or legumes contain around 1–5 grams of resistant starch per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) after they’ve been cooked. Thank you all, and I hope this review helps you. 



Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups.  My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies. 


The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: collegeofholisticmedicine@gmail.com.   For more information, contact: Stephanie(PRO)on 0244433553




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