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An Indigenous Plant Food Used by Lactating Mothers in West Africa: The Nutrient Composition of the Leaves of Kigelia Africana in Ghana

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Although the leaves of Kigelia africana are used to make a palm-nut soup which is consumed mainly by lactating women in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, little is known about the nutrient qualities of this underutilized and underappreciated plant food. Leaves of Kigelia africana, called “sausage tree” in English and “nufuten” in the Twi language of Ghana, were collected in Kumasi and analyzed for their content of nutritionally important fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, and trace elements. The dried leaves contained 1.62% fatty acids, of which α-linolenic acid and linolenic acid accounted for 44% and 20%, respectively, of the total. Protein accounted for 12.6% of the dry weight and, except for lysine, its overall essential amino acid profile compared favorably to a World Health Organization protein standard for school children. Kigelia leaf contained considerable amounts of many essential elements, including calcium (7,620g/g), iron (161g/g), magnesium (2,310g/g), manganese (14.6g/g), zinc (39.9g/g), and chromium (0.83g/g); selenium, however, was not detected. These data indicate that Kigelia africana leaf compares favorably with many other commonly-consumed green leafy vegetables such as spinach and provides a rational basis for promoting the conservation and propagation of the plant and encouraging its wider use in the diets of populations in sub-Saharan Africa.
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Keywords: Ghana; Kigelia africana; amino acids; fatty acids; leaves; minerals; nutrients; protein

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Advanced Study of International Development, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 2: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana 3: Department of Biochemistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana 4: Genome Center Proteomics Core Facility, University of California, Davis, Davis, California, USA 5: Department of Biotechnology, Yuanpei University, Hsin Chu, Taiwan 6: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 7: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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