, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 57-69

Nutrient content of the edible leaves of seven wild plants from Niger

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Abstract

Wild plants play an important role in the diet of the inhabitants of Niger. These plants tend to be drought-resistant and are gathered both in times of plenty as well as times of need. Used in everyday cooking, famine foods may be an important source of nutrients. The goal of this study was to investigate the nutritional role of wild plants in the nigérien diet. To this end, leaves of seven plants species were analyzed for their mineral, amino acid and fatty acid contents: Ximenia americana, Amaranthus viridus, Corchorus tridens, Hibiscus sabdarifa, Maerua crassifolia, Moringa oleifera, and Leptadenia hastata. Ximenia americana} contained large amounts of calcium. Large quantities of iron were present in Amaranthus viridus. All seven plants contained significant amounts of selenium and phosphorus. Corchorus tridens contained the most protein (19–25% dry weight), and its composition compared favorably to the World Health Organization's standard for essential amino acids. Moringa oleifera contained 17% protein and compared favorably with the WHO standard. Corchorus tridens contained the largest amounts of the two essential fatty acids linoleic and α-linolenic acids. These results reinforce the growing awareness that wild edible plants of the Western Sahel can contribute useful amounts of essential nutrients, including amino acids, fatty acids and trace minerals, to human diets.