Maize-Meal is the most eaten staple food/ starch in South Africa followed by breads & flour goods. Pap is a traditional dish that is native to South Africans; the dish is made from softly grounded maize, which is then cooked to the chef’s desired idea of the meal that they have in mind. However grounded maize may be found in other parts of the world as well, and just differs in name. In the West, pap is better known as polenta or grits, and in East Africa it is known as Ugali.

The word pap is Dutch (similar to South Africa’s Afrikaans language), and simply means “porridge” in English. 

The types of “Pap” or maize meal cooking variations are: 

  • Crumbled maize meal  porridge – Uphuthu
  • Stiff maize meal porridge – Pap ( Vhuswa/Bogobe/ ipapa) 
  • Soft maize meal porridge – Breakfast porridge

For the purpose of reference in this article, I will be using a collective name “Pap” – Maize Meal Porridge 

1. “Pap” has not nutrients

  • This statement is not true, Pap is made from maize meal which in South Africa by law it is fortified with vitamins & minerals. This means that there are added vitamins & minerals which are lost during the milling process of maize
  • This automatically makes Pap high in vitamins and minerals which is good for our health

2. “Pap” has not fibre

  • True, Fibre is lost during the milling process of maize to make maize meal – Unlike vitamins and minerals, fibre is not added back to the maize meal. This means that Pap is significantly low in fibre.  This is not a problem as the advice just like any starchy foods is to complete it with other food groups so that it’s a complete meal. For example, it could be paired as follows E.g. Pap + Protein e.g. Chicken Feet + Vegetables e.g. Spinach & Carrots

3. “Pap” is high in Carbohydrates

  • Well, Pap is categorized as a carbohydrate, hence it is a carbohydrate rich food item

4. “Pap” is high energy and fattening 

  • True,   maize meal products are high in energy.  However, normal intake which is about a fist size/ a cup of “pap” at a meal fits into the recommended intake of Carbohydrate at meals for men and women
  • Weight loss is based upon two principles:  Energy control (we must be able to burn the energy we put in) and sugar control as high sugar levels can cause high insulin levels which in a long run contributes to weight gain. 
  • Pap is high energy and high in sugar so that means just like any high energy food one can enjoy them in moderation as part of the healthy eating plan and still lose weight 
  • Other foods such as high sugar containing foods & drinks, Take away foods etc., these contribute greatly to weight gain and often contain empty calories.   

5. “Pap” is  not suitable for diabetics

  • False, This is a common staple in most South African households –  for diabetics the control of overall carbohydrates intake a meals or snack is crucial to help control blood glucose levels
  • Diabetics cannot consume high amount of carbohydrates at meals or snack time. Diabetic guidelines clearly stipulate the quantity of these e.g. 1 Cup Soft porridge, Crumbled porridge or stiff Pap is suitable quantity at a meal for a diabetic
  • Some advisors recommend that diabetics cool down their “Pap” which helps lower the glycaemic Index (GI)  – which is the rate at which the carbohydrate/ sugar  is absorbed in the blood. This may be true, however, as people we eat food hot not cold so the quantity is crucial without the fuss of eating a meal cold.

6. “Pap” cannot be eaten daily

  • False, it can be eaten daily 
  • Just like any food item, we advise that one adopts a variety & balanced eating approach, since each food item contains a unique nutritional profile 
  • With the right quantity and paired with other food groups to help complete a meal one can eat “Pap” daily in any form  just like any other starchy items e.g. Rice, couscous  
  • “Pap” is not food for the poor, it is an original African food item that we love and eat often 

How to Pair your “Pap”


  • Bowl soft porridge + add peanut butter/ margarine+ some sugar or sweetener + fresh fruit  on side
  • Fist size pap (stiff or crumbled)  + Amasi + fruit on side
  • Leftover Pap  ( Fist size Pap + chicken livers curry + Cabbage + Carrot)

Lunch/ Dinner:

  • Street meal: Single serving Pap + Salads (coleslaw/ beetroot/ beans)  or Green leafy vegetable + Protein (Chicken Piece / Beef stew/  Beef Marrow)
  • Fist Size Pap (Crumbled or stiff)  + Chicken feet + spinach + Mixed vegetable
  • Fist Size Pap (Crumbled or stiff)  +  Tinned fish (pilchards ) + Coleslaw + butternut
  • Fist size pap (stiff or crumbled)  + Amasi
  • Fist size Pap + Chicken Stir-fry +  Roasted vegetables + Beetroot
  • Pap + Grilled sausage + Tomato relish +  Spinach 

Yours in health 



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