Nutritional content of Indigenous leafy vegetables and their use in human nutrition in South-Kivu, DR Congo
Bahati, Amin Diana
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Many indigenous food species are nutrient dense; with nutritional potential to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Ethnic communities in South Kivu province (Eastern DR Congo), especially in Walungu territory, know a numerous species of indigenous vegetables. Consumption of these vegetables has been associated with local nutritional and medicinal benefits. However, limited scientific evidence on their nutritional profile and potential contribution has led to their underutilization and devalorization. This study assessed the nutritional content and the use of indigenous leafy vegetables known and consumed by households in Walungu territory in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A cross-sectional and descriptive study including households’ interviews and laboratory analysis of eight selected indigenous leafy vegetables was employed. The results revealed that 20 species of Indigenous Leafy Vegetables (ILVs) were commonly known and consumed in Walungu District. Majority of respondents claimed that these ILVs were consumed because they were available, tasty and nutritious. Washing vegetables with clean water before boiling was the common (98.8%) pre-processing treatment while boiling was the predominant (93.2%) preparation and cooking method used. In addition, cooking was done for one hour in the majority of households (58%). Air drying was the predominant (32.7%) preservation technology applied on vegetables in Walungu. Other alternatives included sun drying (26.2%) or no preservation at all (40.1%). Results further indicated that out of the 20 AILs commonly known and consumed in Walungu, Mushaka (Cleome schimperi), Lushenda (Capsicum frutescens) and Bishogolo (Phaseolus vulgaris) leaves were the most nutritious due to their protein content (5-28%), dietary fiber (8-38%), Iron content (81-177mg/kg), carotenoids (29.9-132.1µg/g) and vitamin C (42.2-56.8mg/100g) concentration. These results suggested that indigenous leafy vegetables consumption and utilization should be promoted for their availability and nutritional value. Further investigations should be undertaken to establish the impact of a daily consumption of these ILV on the health status of individuals across different age groups and gender; and to assess the nutritional value of varieties among species of indigenous leafy vegetables and the effect of processing patterns of them.