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African salad reduces heart disease, blindness risk

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
29 September 2016   |   2:41 am
But scientific studies show that a meal of well-prepared African salad could help prevent and treat heart diseases, poor sight, obesity, microbial infections including Staphylococcus aureus, colon cancer and other chronic diseases.
African salad (Abacha)

African salad (Abacha)

• Studies indicate ingredients could easily be contaminated

The much sought after local delicacy, Abacha, was in the news last week for the wrong reasons. Contaminated preparations were believed to have induced cholera, which led to the death of six persons and hospitalization of 39 of others in Isolo, Lagos.

But scientific studies show that a meal of well-prepared African salad could help prevent and treat heart diseases, poor sight, obesity, microbial infections including Staphylococcus aureus, colon cancer and other chronic diseases.

African salad is popularly called “Abacha, Abacha Ncha, Abacha and Ugba” by Igbo tribe of Nigeria. It is an exotic delicacy and a special salad recipe native to Nigeria. The name African salad is thought to have originated from the Igbo’s ideology that salad contains lots of fresh and raw vegetables and some other ingredients consumed without further cooking, therefore it is a salad and of African origin.

African salad is widely accessed for its composition of food ingredients known to be rich in protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. It can be eaten on its own or in combination with other snacks like coconut, palm kernel and groundnut. Though it can be as filling as any other main course meal, African salad is usually eaten as an in-between meal or as a side dish to the various Nigerian rice recipes.

African salad is also regarded as a special delicacy during traditional Festivals. Abacha is processed by harvesting cassava tubers; after which they are peeled, washed and cooked. These are then shredded into fine thin slices, and soaked overnight for fermentation so as to thoroughly reduce the starch and hydrogen cyanide from the cassava. The shredded and fermented cassava is again thoroughly washed the following day before drying it for two to three days.

The preparation of African salad takes great efforts and the ingredients needed to prepare African salad vary according to ones taste and availability. The key to making a good African salad is to make sure that all the ingredients are well incorporated. It can include ingredients such as Ugba (Pentaclethra macrophylla), palm oil, potash, onions, nutmeg, crayfish, salt, pepper, maggi, ogiri (Ricinus communis), garden egg, garden egg leaves, Utazi leaves (Gongronema latifolium), Okazi (Ukazi) leaves (Gnetum africana), Uziza leaves (Piper guineense), kpomo (cow skin), meat and stockfish/fish. These ingredients are mixed thoroughly with the shredded cassava (Abacha). The ingredient added is dependent on one’s choice, purchasing power and availability. African salad can be served with fried fish/meat over a cold drink (palm wine, beer, stout or

Can a meal of Abacha lead to death or cause cholera?
An earlier study published in Journal of Emerging Trends in Engineering and Applied Sciences (JETEAS) had alerted on the possible health dangers of consuming contaminated African salad.

Researchers from the Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and Imo State conducted the study titled “Quality Aspects of African Salad”.

The researchers wrote: “The proximate and microbiological quality of African salad a special salad recipe native to Nigeria was investigated in order to provide scientific, research based information on the nutritional and micro floral composition of this exotic delicacy. Samples of salad were purchased from six food-vending sites, which serve as the major business and residential area in Owerri.

“The predominant bacterial isolates from African salad belong to Bacillus spp, Staphylococcus spp, Escherichia coli, Enterococci and Serracia. The fungal spp isolated include Saccharomyces, Mucor, Rhizopus, Penicillium and Aspergillus.

“The mean total aerobic plate count range from 7.7×10
11 to 4.8×1012, coliform count range from 8.5×1010 to 3.5×1011 and fungal count range from 6.6×109 to 4.7×1010. Based on the specifications by International Commission for Microbiological Specification for Foods (ICMSF), the level of contaminations was unacceptable and could pose health challenge.

“ The chemical composition of the African salad samples consists of carbohydrate (21.07 per cent), protein (4.38 per cent), fat (zero per cent), fiber (3.29 per cent), and moisture (62.72 per cent). Energy value of 169.30 kcal and minerals were recorded.

“African salad as seen from this report is a nutritious food, fit for all age groups. Special care however, has to be taken in its preparation as contaminants could be introduced through the ingredients. Education of food handlers and the general public on food safety measures, effective Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) application and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) implementation is imperative.”

Cassava noodles
A study published in the African Journal of Food Science concluded: “Abacha consumption can only serve as a refreshing snack and should not be taken as main course as some consumers use it. To improve its nutritional quality and contribution to nutrient intake of consumers, it is advisable to consume it alongside other supplements such as coconut and peanuts. Local salad on the other hand, is nutrient dense and of higher nutritional quality than Abacha. The consumption of local salad should therefore, be promoted among the people of Nigeria as a means of combating nutrition insecurity, especially among those living the traditional lifestyle.”

The study, titled “Nutrient composition and contribution of noodles (abacha) and local salad from cassava (Manihot spp) to nutrient intake of Nigerian consumers,” was conducted by researchers from the Department of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Public Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State, and Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State.

Indeed, dietary diversification through indigenous diets as means of ensuring household nutrition security is being promoted. Cassava diets constitute staple food to most Nigerian populace, but their contribution to nutrient intake is not well documented.

The researchers studied the nutrient composition, effect of processing, and contribution of noodles (Abacha) and local salad from cassava to nutrient intake of consumers.

According to the study, proximate and mineral composition of raw cassava, Abacha snack and salad menu were carried out using standard methods of analysis of AOAC. The crude protein, lipid, fibre and ash content of cassava were very low (0.9, 0.3, 0.5 and 0.4/100 g, respectively). Processing cassava to Abacha led to significant reduction in proximate and significant improvement in mineral composition of product (p < 0.05).

Garden egg
Nigerian researchers had demonstrated how a meal of garden egg would be of benefit to patients suffering from raised intraocular pressure (glaucoma) and convergence insufficiency, as well as in diseases associated with hyperlipidemia such as ischaemic heart diseases and arteriosclerosis.

Botanically called Solanum melongena, garden egg or bitter tomato is an economic flowering plant belonging to the family Solanaceae and widely distributed throughout the temperate and tropical regions. Members are mostly herbaceous plants, and the fruit is berry and the seeds have large endosperm and are grown mainly for food and medicinal purposes.