Fatty acid, amino acid, mineral and antioxidant contents of acha (Digitaria exilis) grown on the Jos Plateau, Nigeria.
Digitaria exilis (Kippist) Stapf (also known as acha, hungry rice) has been cultivated for millennia in the dry savannahs of West Africa, but much remains to be learned about its nutritional properties. Acha was collected in four villages in Northern Nigeria and analyzed for fatty acids, minerals, amino acids and antioxidant content. Fatty acids accounted for 1.91% of the dry weight, with 47.4% linoleic acid and 30.5% oleic acid. The content of the essential minerals, copper, magnesium, molybdenum, zinc and calcium averaged 4.88, 1060, 0.23, 23.0 and 172 µg/g, respectively. The protein content was 6.53% and the essential amino acid pattern, except for lysine, compared favorably to a World Health Organization (WHO) reference protein. The total polyphenolic content of methanolic extracts of acha matched that of common cereals (for example, maize, rice, wheat) and the extracts contained substantial amounts of free-radical scavenging substances. Thus, acha is a source of many nutrients critical to human health.