Africa is abundant in nutritious wild plants, which you will certainly come across along your travels on the beautiful continent. From papaya to baobab, many of these plants are known to have therapeutic effects and African ‘superfoods’ are now commonly found in cupboards of health food obsessives across the globe. If you are lucky to be travelling in Africa, you will encounter these nutritious foods at their best – perfectly ripe and just harvested meaning that even more nutrition is kept in tact. Here are 5 top African superfood superstars from across the continent:
1. Raw Coconut Water – with its finely balanced mineral content and just-right levels of naturally occurring sugars, coconut water is a great hydrator and energy booster. You will find young green coconuts in market places or roadside/ beach sellers and unlike pasteurized, shop bought varieties, raw coconut water is full of enzymes that help speed up processes in the body i.e. giving your body less work to do.
2. Baobab – the Hausa populations around the continent have long been aware of the nutritious qualities of baobab and use the protein packed baobab leaves in a traditional soup known as ‘miya kuka’. The rest of the world has only recently caught on to the powers of this amazing fruit, with companies such as Aduna stacking healthy shelves with their baobab from London to New York. The bready/sherbet-like pods of the baobab are mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa and are loaded with antioxidants, which we know are vital in helping combat DNA damaging, free radicals. The mineral composition of baobab also means it is a useful hydrator too, so very helpful if you have had a bout of travellers belly. Suck on the seeds straight from the pods, or stir in a powdered pulp formulation into a drink.
3. Avocado – a sweet, buttery African avocado, tastes like food of the gods and nutritionally avocados are packed with protein, essential fatty acids (EFA), vitamins and minerals. The high EFA content in avocados make these true superstars, as EFA are useful to every cell membrane in your body, which helps them to function at their absolute best. Additionally, the high levels of vitamin E contained in avocados, is useful in supporting the healing wounds from sandy beach/ bush walks to healing mosquito bite scars.
4. Papaya – although papaya is not indigenous to Africa, it has been cultivated for centuries on the continent and can be found in many countries. Due to its high antioxidant load, including vitamin C and flavonoids, eating locally grown papaya can be a great immune support, which may help protect against all sorts of infections. Papaya is also known for its digestive properties, as it is packed with the protein digesting papain enzyme.
5. Aloe Vera – found mainly in northern and eastern Africa, aloe vera is a nutritional and medicinal powerhouse. Aloe is highly effective on soothing sunburned skin so if you choose to use the plant topically, cut the gel-rich, older leaves from its base and apply to the skin. As a dietary supplement, aloe is pretty nutrient-dense, containing vitamins A, D, C, E, minerals, enzymes and most of the essential amino acids. The anti-inflammatory, gut-calming actions of aloe vera along with its ability to aid digestion, may be very useful for travellers acclimatising to new foods. However, only eat food-grade versions and stick with the dosage on the label, as it can have a laxative effect in large doses.
*Originally posted on Hip Africa