Pumpkin leaf is a dark green leafy vegetable found in the tropics, rich in water, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium, vitamins A, K and folate. It is used for various soups in the West African sub-region.
Pumpkin leaves contain a lot of vitamin A which slows down the degeneration of certain parts of the eyes which could occur with age leading to a condition called Age-Related–Macula-Degeneration (ARMD).
Pumpkin leaves contain plenty of soluble fibre; high intake of soluble fibre reduces absorption of cholesterol and bile acid (which are also rich in cholesterol) from the small intestines, thereby reducing blood cholesterol level. When soluble fibres are broken down by bacteria in the intestines, some fatty acids released are said to reduce the production of cholesterol by the liver. By lowering blood cholesterol, fibres help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Pumpkin leaves also contain plenty of potassium which helps to prevent irregular heart beat and to reduce risk of stroke.
Apple is a fleshy fruit of the apple tree called malus domestica. It can be domesticated where it is grown in orchards or grows in the wild as mostly seen in Central Asia where it has its origin. The tree grows up to 3 to 12 metres with long leaves.
China, United States of America, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Italy are the greatest producers of apples.
Apples contain water about 85 percent, carbohydrates (fibre and sugar), potassium and vitamin C. Apples have no cholesterol but little quantity of calcium is present. The health benefits of apples are therefore due to the presence of water, fibre, vitamin C and potassium.
Pawpaw, also called Carica Papaya is a tropical fruit said to have originated in Central America but now grows throughout the tropical world. The trees are cultivated in small and large farms but can grow widely. They grow quite tall and bear large spherical or pear shaped fruits. When ripe, the fruit is amber coloured and the surface could be slightly depressed with finger pressure. The inside is hallow with small seeds enclosed in the fleshy edible part which is light yellow in colour.
Pawpaw contains a lot of water and is rich in carbohydrates (mainly soluble fibre while low in sugar), vitamins A, C, E, B1 (Thiamin), B2(Riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine) and Folates and Minerals such as Calcium, Iron and Potassium.
4. Bitter Leaf
Do you know that the common African plant, bitter leaf, which you can conveniently grow in your backyard, can cure a lot of ailments? In Nigeria, different tribes have names for this leaf.
The botanical name for bitter leaf is Vernonia which is a genus of about 1000 species of forbs and shrubs in the family Asteraceae. Some species are known as Ironweed. Some species of Vernonia, including V. Calvoana, V.amygdalina, and V. Colorata, are eaten as leaf vegetables and are of economic value. They are known for having intense purple flowers. They are common in most West African and Central African countries. The leaves have a sweet and bitter taste. They are sold fresh or dried, and are a typical ingredient in egusi soup. They are also one of the most widely consumed leaf vegetables of West Africa.
The leaves are exported from several African countries to Europe and North America and can be purchased inexpensively in grocery stores aiming to serve African clients.
The leaves are relatively inexpensive and rich in several nutrients especially β-carotene and vitamin C which are essential for human health. It is also rich in minerals like iron, phosphorus, calcium and potassium. Bitter leaf is also rich in carotene, proteins, ascorbic acid, iron, folic acid, dietary anemia factors
Banana is one of the most widely eaten fruits in the world, which
is readily recognized because of its distinctive shape and bright colours.
So often, many people overlook banana when it comes to providing
nutritional and medicinal value. Bananas in fact have a lot to offer us,
both nutritionally, as well as in relieving the symptoms of a myriad of
physical complaints. It abounds in hundreds of edible varieties that fall
under two distinct species: the sweet banana (Musa sapienta, Musa nana) and
plantain (Musa paradisiacal).
Bananas like apples have proven health benefits but bananas have more
nutrients and vitamins than apples. Its consumption can help people live
healthier and more active lives through taking advantage of the energy and
health benefits it can provide.
Like most fruits, the banana is a healthful food that can be eaten without
any problem but it contains some sugar; diabetics should consult with a
physician or dietician to determine if bananas should be included in a diet
that aims to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates. However, plantain has
very little sugar and therefore good for diabetics
Anyone with an allergy to bananas should also avoid the fruits to minimize
the risk of an allergic reaction.
6. Cashew nuts
Cashew nuts are kidney shaped seeds grown in several parts of the world. It is native to Brazil along its coastline but history has it that Portuguese explorers took the plant from Brazil to South East Asia and Africa. Today, India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria are the biggest producers worldwide.
Cashew nut is marketed in bottles in supermarkets across Nigeria though relatively expensive. If exposed, cashew nuts absorb moisture and can become stale, consequently cashew nuts must be stored in tightly sealed containers (bottles) and kept in the fridge; they could last for six months or in a freezer where they would last for about one year. However the container would be kept in a dry location, but they may not remain wholesome for more than one month.
Together with ground nuts/peanuts, cashew nuts are the most popular nuts in Nigeria.
Cashew nuts contain the following Nutrients – Protein, Fats (omega-3, sterols), magnesium, phosphorus copper, manganese, zinc, vitamin E, Potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, and Carbohydrate (including fibre).
The nuts can be used in place of other fats for energy source as they contain the “good” fat.
From the nutrients contained in the nuts, it is easy to understand the health benefits.
Oats have plenty of soluble fiber which lowers the risk of heart disease.
Oats are carbohydrates but the release of the sugar in them is slowed by the fiber which also slows down the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.
Oats also have 10 grams of protein per serving, a serving bowl.