Non-cereal plant foods in the Western Sahel of Africa contribute significantly to the diets of local residents, especially during periods of grain shortages. In this paper, we analyze four such plant foods including diyan kwakwa (nut of coconut palm, Cocos nucifera L.), muricin giginya (young shoot of Borassus aethiopum), tsamiya biri (fruit of the tree, Tamarindus indica), and yari (a mixture of lichens, mainly Rimelia reticulate) that grows on ebony trees (Diospyros mespiliformis). They were analyzed for their content of amino acids, fatty acids, and minerals. Although diyan kwakwa contained the highest protein content (27.1%), its protein quality fell below the WHO standard in 3 of 8 essential amino acid categories. Yari and muricin giginya contained moderate levels of good quality protein. Only diyan kwakwa contained calorically significant amount of total fatty acid (24.7%); however, none of the plants contained useful amounts of the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid, or alpha-linolenic acid. All four plants contained useful amounts of zinc (> 12 microg/g dry weight), while yari contained the most calcium (14.7 mg/g dry weight) and iron (1.41 mg/g), and diyan kwakwa the most copper. All the four plant foods contained lesser amounts of magnesium, molybdenum, or selenium. These data indicate that the four plants contain useful amounts of various essential nutrients that could supplement the diets of populations inhabiting the Western Sahel.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, MSC08 4670, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA