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10 Surprising Health Benefits of Eating Shawarma

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Health Writer | Medical Researcher
Health benefits of shawarma

Shawarma is a kind of sandwich that comprises meat (of any type), vegetables, and sauce wrapped in a loaf of pita bread. It is rich in nutrients and can serve as a dish or a snack. Indulge in the flavorful world of Shawarma—a delectable sandwich bursting with meat, veggies, and sauce encased in pita bread. Beyond its taste, Shawarma offers a nutritional punch, making it a versatile dish or snack.
Q: Is Shawarma healthy?
A: Yes, Shawarma is a balanced meal, providing essential vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. However, moderation is key, as excess consumption may contribute to elevated sodium, saturated fat, and calorie intake. Homemade options allow for healthier ingredient control.


  • Shawarma contains many ingredients that not only make it delicious but also rich in nutrients.
  • The health benefits of eating Shawarma include Vitamin A for good eyesight and healthy skin.
  • Vitamin C – promotes many body functions and helps to protect the body against infection.
  • Vitamin B3 – helps keep the skin and nervous system healthy.
  • Vitamin K – supports blood clotting, which is essential for wound healing.
  • Folate helps the body produce healthy red blood cells and promotes a healthy pregnancy.
  • Iron helps increase energy levels.
  • Magnesium – improves bone health, enhances quality of sleep, and lowers high blood pressure.

Nigerians love snacks and grab-and-eat foods, commonly known as fast food. Most foods sold at fast food joints are snacks with a reputation of being grossly unhealthy because they are high in calories, saturated fat, and salt. This makes getting healthy food or snacks from most fast food joints difficult. But then came the famous shawarma.

Types of Shawarma

Although the process of making shawarma and the sauce are the same in Nigeria, the type of shawarma depends on the type of protein used in the filling. Types of shawarma are:

  • Beef shawarma
  • Chicken shawarma
  • Turkey shawarma
  • Sausage shawarma
  • Vegetable shawarma 
  • Goat meat shawarma
  • Lamb shawarma

Ingredients for Shawarma Recipe

Is sharwarma healthy?
Credit: FreePik

Preparing shawarma requires many ingredients that not only make it delicious but also rich in nutrients. The ingredients for preparing shawarma include:

  • Meats, which is a good source of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals: An essential part of the filling, shawarma consists of one or two kinds of meat:  chicken, beef, turkey, goat, or lamb. Some may include one or two sausages. The meat is either cut into small bite sizes or shredded, while the sausages may be left whole or cut into small sizes too.
  • Vegetables and spices: There is always a mix of different vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and lettuce, and spices like pepper, ginger, and garlic powder. This vegetable mix makes shawarma a rich source of fiber, vitamins such as Vitamin A, B6, C, and K; minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and folic acid, and also a source of antioxidants.  All these can help promote health and boost immunity.
  • The sauce: There are different types of sauces used for shawarma. The sauce used for shawarma in Nigeria is a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, and pepper. This sauce is a source of calcium and sodium.
  • Shawarma wrap: These are flatbreads such as pita bread and tortilla wraps made of whole-grain flour. They are high in calories and rich in carbohydrates, which makes them a sustainable source of energy.

Health Benefits of Eating Shawarma

1. Providing essential vitamins and minerals for well-being:

Our body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly and stay healthy. The vitamins and minerals you can get from eating shawarma are:

  • Vitamin A – Vital for good eyesight, maintaining a healthy immune system, and promoting healthy skin.
  • Vitamin C – The carrots, tomatoes, and cabbage in shawarma are a source of vitamin C, which promotes many body functions. It acts as an antioxidant; helps to reduce stress, protects the body against infection, and slows down the process of skin aging.
  • Vitamin B3 – helps keep the skin and nervous system healthy.
  • Vitamin K – supports blood clotting, which is essential for wound healing.

2. Folate:

Folate helps the body produce healthy red blood cells and promotes a healthy pregnancy by reducing the risk of birth defects in unborn babies. 

3. Iron:

Iron helps increase energy levels and promotes a healthy pregnancy. Iron deficiency may lead to anemia and fatigue.

4. Magnesium:

Magnesium is essential for the regular function of the muscles. It can help to improve bone health, improve the quality of sleep, and lower high blood pressure. A lack of magnesium in the body can result in muscle spasms and cramps. 

5. Sodium and potassium:

As electrolytes, they help regulate the fluid and blood volumes in the body. Sodium helps regulate blood pressure while potassium is necessary for proper muscle function. Both minerals are vital for keeping the heart healthy. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Health benefits of eating shawarma
Credit: Flipick

6. Calcium:

It helps promote the formation of bones and healthy teeth. It also helps in regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeats, and ensuring normal blood clotting.

7. Source of Protein:

The meat in shawarma is an excellent source of protein, which is an important macronutrient. It helps build and repair tissues, thereby speeding up the healing process of wounds. It helps to promote the growth of muscle and prevent the loss of muscle mass, which is great for bodybuilders, athletes, and those trying to lose weight.

8. Source of Fat:

For a healthy, balanced diet, fat must be included. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids. The body needs fat to absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Fat is high in calories, providing the body with a steady supply of energy. Shawarma is a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These types of fats help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation, thereby promoting heart health.

9. Carbohydrates:

Carbs are a good option for active Nigerians who need an extra boost of energy. The Shawarma wrap or bread is a rich carbohydrate source, which when converted to glucose, serves as the main source of energy the body needs to function.

10. Source of Dietary Fiber:

Fiber helps promote the function of the digestive system, preventing constipation and bloating. Fiber can help reduce the risk of obesity as it can help to keep you fuller for longer, so your calorie intake is reduced as you eat less. It also helps to control blood sugar levels as it slows down the rate at which sugar is released into the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.


Shawarma as a Balanced Meal Option 

The nutritional benefit of your food or snacks is one thing you must always consider when making a healthy decision about your diet. Is your meal nutritionally balanced? Does it contain all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy? Compared to most fast foods in Nigeria, shawarma can be considered a balanced and complete meal as it contains carbohydrates, protein, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals. It can also be filling.

Is Shawarma Healthy?

Is sharwama healthy?
Credit: FreePik

Although shawarma has a lot of health benefits, that does not mean you should overindulge or turn it into your daily meal. Shawarma has its downside too, such as being high in:

  • sodium.
  • saturated fat (which can increase your blood cholesterol and your risk of heart disease).
  • calories (contributes to unhealthy weight gain or obesity).
  • carbohydrates (which likely elevates blood sugar levels). 

The possibility of increasing blood cholesterol and sugar levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease, makes shawarma a bad food option for diabetics and those with heart conditions. One way to enjoy shawarma without the fear of the high salt content, saturated fat, and calories is to:

  • Eat it as an occasional snack
  • Prepare it at home. That way, you can decide the ingredients to use like adding more vegetables and reducing salt and sausage. 

Tips for Preparing Healthier Homemade Shawarma

When you prepare shawarma at home, you have control over the ingredients you add to it. Here are some tips that can help you prepare a healthier shawarma:

Choose High-Quality Ingredients for Authentic Flavor:

  • Choose fresh and leaner meat to reduce saturated fat.
  • Reduce the quantity of salt in your shawarma. Build flavor by using natural spices such as garlic powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, nutmeg, chili pepper, and onions. 
  • Instead of frying your meat, boil, grill, or bake it to reduce the amount of saturated fat.
  • If you must use oil, use 100% vegetable oil such as pure olive, soybean, sunflower, and groundnut oil. Avoid using margarine, butter, and oils that contain saturated fat.
  • Skip the sausages, they are high in salt. Instead, increase the vegetables.

Tips for Marinating Shawarma for Better Taste and Tenderness

 To marinate your meat, you need to prepare a marinade that consists of:

  • An acidic liquid like citrus juice, vinegar, and red or white wine to soften the meat. 
  • Oil to add moisture and flavor to the meat (optional).
  • Mix the acidic liquid and oil in a ratio of 3:1. Add in your preferred herbs and spices.
  • Let the consistency of the marinade be thin so that it can easily penetrate the meat.
  • Use a ziplock bag or a plastic or glass bowl for mixing the meat and the marinade. Avoid using a metallic bowl, as the acidic liquid may react with the bowl.
  • Place the meat in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for 2 hours or more before cooking.

Shawarma and Special Dietary Considerations in Nigeria

People may avoid certain foods for different health reasons, such as:

  • Allergic reaction to certain foods
  • Trying to lose weight
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes 

There is a need for fast food joints and street shawarma vendors to consider those who want to enjoy Shawarma but cannot do so for health reasons. Special provisions should be made for such individuals like preparing shawarmas with reduced sodium (salt) options for health-conscious Nigerians and those with heart conditions.

Final Thoughts

Shawarma is a delicious and nutritious snack that can serve as a complete and satisfying meal. It contains all the nutrients you need for a healthy body. Its protein content can help you build muscle mass as it contains a good source of protein, while carbs and fat increase the energy level in the body. It contains several vitamins and minerals that can promote the proper function of your body’s systems.

Always remember that shawarma is like a coin. It has both good and bad sides. It is not what you should be eating often because of its high calories, salt, and fat. Also, if you have a health condition you think maybe worsened by consuming shawarma, Consult our Dietician for professional advice. 

How Telemedicine Can Help

For people who want to incorporate shawarma into their diets while managing health concerns, this is where telemedicine comes into play.

Shawarma is indeed a healthy dish, however, those who struggle with high blood pressure, heart disease, or obesity can benefit from telemedicine services. With telemedicine, you can get access to dietitians and nutritionists who will provide professional guidance on when and how to eat shawarma.

Without having to commute to a hospital, you will get personalized recommendations on portion control, selecting leaner protein options, limiting condiments high in salt or fat, and complementing shawarma with other nutritious foods for a balanced meal.

So, whether you have a busy schedule or need quick medical advice, telemedicine allows you to get expert advice that are tailored to your dietary needs and goals while still enjoying shawarma.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does shawarma do to the body?

Shawarma contains protein which increases muscle mass, repairs tissue, lowers blood pressure, and improves bone health. Therefore, shawarma naturally enhances your immunity and keeps you in good shape.

Is Nigerian shawarma healthy?

Shawarma (even the Nigerian one) contains so much nutritional value, making it an actual balanced diet. It is packed with fresh vegetables, lean protein, and antioxidants. So, feel free to enjoy the Nigerian shawarma without any guilt.

What makes shawarma special?

Shawarma offers a unique experience when eating it. It is so meaty and has undeniably great taste. Additionally, the meat in shawarma is grilled so well and the shawarma itself can be eaten in different ways.

Can shawarma increase blood sugar?

This traditional delicacy healthily contains vegetables, shaved layers of spiced grilled meat, and sauce. Shawarma as a dish is healthy but when eaten excessively and frequently, it can cause a quick spike in blood sugar even in non-diabetic people. Additionally, it reduces the glucose levels in the body and that is why you may feel tired after eating it too much.

Is shawarma a fat or protein?

In terms of its nutritional value, shawarma provides both fats and proteins. Depending on the type of meat being used, there will be fat content and on the other hand, meat also contains essential components and significant amounts of proteins.


National Health Service. (2020). Vitamins and minerals

National Health Service. (2023). Fat: the facts

National Institute of Health. (2022). Magnesium. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

Bahadoran, Z. et al (2015). Fast Food Pattern and Cardiometabolic Disorders: A Review of Current Studies. Health Promotion Perspectives 

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1 comment

October 18, 2023 - 8:03 pm

[…] Health Benefits of Eating Shawarma […]

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Blessing Amaka

Ms. Blessing is a health writer and freelance researcher with special interest in healthcare and lifestyle improvements.

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