We continue our Blog series of Plant Based Eating from around the world and if the diversity in native wildlife is anything to go by, Africa has much to offer in terms of uniqueness and variety when it comes to plant based eating and foods. Cereal based crops are predominant sources of food in many countries throughout the continent, although the types of foods produced in Western Africa are very different from those produced in Eastern Africa(1) considering the vast geographical differences. Generally speaking foods we associate as native to Africa include rooibos tea, coffee, millet, tiger nut and cassava (tapioca).
Whether you are looking for more variety when it comes to your plant based eating or gluten free eating, seeking out foods that are nutrient rich or incorporating more plant based foods into the diet for weight management and disease prevention, Africa’s bounty will help you thrive. The increase in popularity of gluten free alternatives means that crops like Teff and Sorghum are becoming more mainstream, while the demand for food sources that have antioxidant properties like Baobab shows us what Africa has on offer for the modern day diet.
Sorghum is commonly consumed as a flour, found in gluten free baked goods – and is the main ingredient in Gluten Free Weetbix. Interestingly, Sorghum is the third largest crop produced in Australia.(2) In various studies evidence showed that the consumption of sorghum attenuated blood glucose responses and decreased the expression of markers of oxidative stress.(3) Further research demonstrates it has potential to combat common nutrition-related diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity.(4)
The implication is that sorghum may have attributes superior to those of other staple grains.(3) These findings give good reason to consider it as an addition to your gluten free flours on rotation for baking or to try cooking the whole grain as a rice alternative.
Teff is becoming popular as a gluten free source of flour in bread, pasta and cereal mixes. This is due in part to its nutritional profile including high dietary fibre and protein content and polyphenols(5) as well as vitamins and minerals. It contains substantial levels of Vitamins A and C, as well as niacin (B3) and the minerals Iron, Calcium, Zinc and Magnesium.(6)
The Iron content is found to be 16mg per 100g – considerably high for a plant based food and researchers identified that teff consumption positively increases iron levels and therefore prevents anaemia in consumers.(6) At 147mg of Calcium per 100g the concentration of this mineral is by far higher than other cereals.(6) If you get stuck on ideas of what to make with Teff, we suggest to find a traditional recipe like injera (flatbread) or try it as porridge.
The baobab fruit is found throughout regions of Africa and is becoming increasingly recognised for its high nutrient and polyphenol content.(7) Baobab pulp is particularly rich in vitamin C.(8) A study conducted on the fruits ability to increase satiety implicated that baobab may be useful for reducing appetite, possibly having a positive effect on weight maintenance.(9)
It is thought that both the dietary fibre and polyphenols may be the factors that increase satiety. In Australia it is typically found in powder form and can be a great addition to smoothies, yoghurt or even bliss balls. Keep it raw to ensure nutrients like Vitamin C are not destroyed by heat.
Something old, something new. Foods from Africa offer us some of the oldest crops in the world – WHY not try something new by seeking out these ancient plants at your local health food store. Enjoy the hunt and gather!