Kombucha is great and all but nothing beats our very own African kombucha, mageu. Whether you consume it because it is a family tradition, because you have lost your appetite or are in need of a quick filling fix, mageu is truly Mzansi’s golden girl, says Johannesburg cooking dietitian Reabetjoe Mokoko.
Mageu is a fermented maize and sorghum non-alcoholic drink that is a staple in the homes of many South Africans. It is also gluten free and dairy free and goes by many names in our communities.
For Charity Ndhlovu, also from Johannesburg, mageu is not only her favourite drink but it also sparks many childhood memories.
“I love them [all mageu flavours] but not as an everyday thing. I enjoy them once in a while but most of all they remind me of my late grandmother who used to make them for us. We’d always find amageu when we got back from school growing up,” she says.
Source of energy
While Marcia Zali from Johannesburg says mageu recently came to her rescue when she had gum problems and couldn’t chew properly.
“I drink mageu when I am sick, and sometimes I drink it because I am craving it. I know it comes highly recommended by nurses at the clinics. When you are in labour, they advise you to drink mageu to boost your energy because we all know how labour can be intensive. And they also recommend it for people who are sick, to get their energy back,” Zali says.
Mokoko is a registered dietitian and explains that the drink is a liquid blend of maize and sorghum that has been fermented. “This would mean the main nutrient in mageu is carbohydrates and the main function of carbohydrates is to supply the body.”
Mokoko is also the founder of Plates and Scales, a catering business that offers nutritional meals to its clientele. She too remembers drinking mageu at an early age, but also recalls that it was included in care packages for sick people in hospital.
“As early as five years old, I recall mageu being the go-to drink if someone in the house was sick and could not chew. I think in most African households mageu has been that drink that is commonly bought, especially when someone was not feeling well.”
Nutritional value of ingredients
Makoko adds that African indigenous ingredients, like sorghum, tend to be healthier in comparison to the processed foods we buy in the shops.
According to Makoko, the main benefit of mageu is that it is an energy dense drink and works well for people who require extra energy during the day or for certain activities.
“For example, marathon runners who need the extra energy while running can use mageu to give them the boost of energy they require. I would however warn against mageu being used for the sickly, especially those who have diabetes as it can cause the sugars to rise due to its high carbohydrate content,” she advises.
Zali shares that she has introduced mageu to her oldest daughter who seems to be enjoying it.
“I think most brands that manufacture mageu are moving towards making it more fun and modern with the different flavours they now make. Even making versions that have added nutrients such as vitamins. My suggestion to increase its nutritional value – maybe use it as a smoothie ingredient by adding fruits and vegetables,” Makoko suggests.
As much as this is a traditional drink that we all know and love, Makoko advises that it shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement.
“Mageu is a traditional drink that most of us are familiar with from a young age. My biggest take-home about it would be: please note that it has low nutritional value so it should not be used as a meal replacement.”