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Healthy eating: nutritious indigenous foods you may never have heard of

Healthy Eating in Senegal

Healthy eating in Senegal. Staff clean niebe, or cowpeas, at a factory in Dakar. Photograph: Seyllou/AFP/Getty


Powered by article titled “Healthy eating: nutritious indigenous foods you may never have heard of” was written by Mark Tran, for on Monday 23rd December 2013 10.23 UTC

The proliferation of the western diet, which is high in refined sugars, fats, processed grains and meat, has been blamed for a rise in global obesity and diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

As awareness of healthy eating has grown in the west, sales of once obscure grains such as quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) have skyrocketed. The ancient ‘superfood’ from Peru has a fluffy texture, and is lauded for its health benefits. Unusual among grains, quinoa is packed with dietary fibre, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It is gluten-free, easy to digest and contains all nine amino acids.

Amid growing concern that unhealthy eating habits are crowding out healthier traditional crops, Food Tank: The Food Thinktank has compiled a list of indigenous fruits and vegetables that should be championed.


Indigenous Foods: Amaranth

Amaranth is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Photograph: Alamy

Amaranth thrives in hot climates and is typically consumed in Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Benin, and Sierra Leone. It is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and essential minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.


Indigenous Foods: Cowpea

Cowpeas, more commonly known as black-eyed peas. Photograph: Alamy

This African legume is one of the continent’s oldest crops. More commonly known as the black-eyed pea, it is drought resistant and hardy and thrives even in poor soil. All parts of the cowpea crop, including the leaves, are consumed as all are rich in nutrients and fibre.

Bitter melon

Indigenous Foods: Bitter Melon

The bitter melon is related to the cucumber. Photograph: LatitudeStock/Alamy

Originally from the Indian subcontinent, this sour vegetable is popular in many Asian countries, where it is sometimes called the bitter gourd or karela. This warty-looking plant thrives in tropical regions and is believed to be the world’s most bitter fruit. The bitter melon has cancer-fighting properties, research shows, and has long been used as a herbal remedy for a range of ailments including type 2 diabetes.


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