In the western Sahel, indigenous plants become important staples when cereal harvests are inadequate to support populations inhabiting that region of Africa. The purpose of this study was to assess the nutrient content of several of these edible wild plants. The leaves of the following seven plant foods were analyzed: Ziziphus mauritiana, Cerathotheca sesamoides, Moringa oleifera, Leptadenia hastata, Hibiscus sabdarifa, Amaranthus viridi, and Adansonia digitata. The fatty acid, vitamin E, carotenoid, selected mineral and amino acid contents of these plant foods were determined. These same analyses were performed on the fruit of the Adansonia digitata. In quantitative and qualitative terms, Amaranthus viridis was found to be an excellent source of protein. Its amino acid composition compared favorably to that of a World Health Organization (WHO) protein standard. It also contained considerable amounts of the two fatty acids that are essential in humans (linoleic and α-linolenic) and a number of minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc. The leaves of Hibiscus sabdarifa contained an appreciable quantity of protein the composition of which was comparable to the WHO standard. The mineral content of the leaves of this plant was also exceptionally high; noteworthy was its high zinc content. H. sabdarifa also contained significant quantities of the two essential fatty acids. Ziziphus mauritiana was an excellent source of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid and several of the metals including iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Its content of other essential nutrients, however, was rather low. In general, Adansonia digitata leaves were nutritionally superior to the fruit of the tree; however, the fruit did contain useful quantities of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and α-linolenic acid. The Leptadenia hastata leaves were an especially good source of lutein and β-carotene. These data should be useful to the people who inhabit the western Sahel in helping them devise healthy diets during times when cereal staples are in short supply.
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Sena, L., VanderJagt, D., Rivera, C. et al. Analysis of nutritional components of eight famine foods of the Republic of Niger. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 52, 17–30 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008010009170
- Amino acids
- Essential fatty acids
- Famine foods
- Trace minerals
- Vitamin E
- Western Sahel