I was lucky to visit Ghana earlier this year, a long overdue trip to my mothers birthplace and where I hadn't been back to since I was a child. I was overwhelmed not only by the immense beauty of the land, the cuisine, the people, and the energy of the place, but from a nutritionist perspective, I was reminded just how many important nutritional power plants have come from Africa.
Up in the hills of Aburi, there is a herbal medicine research centre that has been going since 1970's to study, and harness the healing powers of the indgenous plants. The locals, have of course, been using this bush medicine for centuries, and we have in recent years added Ghana's moringa, baobab, cacao and coconut to our shopping lists along with rest of the groceries.
On a first childhood trip to Ghana, I remember my mother breaking open the large dusty brown pods that came from the beautiful baobab tree that grew in gardens where we stayed in East Legon. My sister and I had been missing or usual treats of rhubarb and custards/cola cubes/space dust etc. for the weeks that we had been in Ghana but the sweet, sherbet-like, fluffy seeds that we pulled from the baobab pods, seemed to taste pretty good to us. I never knew back then that this powdery fruit was baobab, a native fruit of Africa, packed with nutrients and was to be introduced to the northern hemisphere decades later as the super food that it is known as today.
The iconic baobab tree is found extensively in sub Saharan Africa. It is now cultivated in large farms for a now a thriving global wellness industry, feeding the global obsession of health and longevity. However, in Africa, The Baobab tree has long been used as food and known as a medicinal plant used to treat diarrhoea and heal coughs. Many locals use baobab leaves as a main ingredient in miya kuka – a traditional soup. The leaves contain an almost complete amino acid profile and a wide range of minerals at useful levels such as iron, potassium and zinc. Baobab pulp is how the west has adopted its use and it is sold as a powdered nutritional supplement that contains a full amino acid profile, vitamins and digestive supporting prebiotic soluble fibre. Baobab powder is usually scooped into smoothies and juices for additional benefits, or added to salad dressings as it has a sharp acidic bite to it too.
Top benefits of Baobab
1. Immune support – our immune systems rely on adequate levels of vitamin C, and Baobab is rich in this vitamin. Just 2 tablespoons provide 12mg of vitamin C.
2. Hydration – the mineral composition of Baobab means that it is a highly useful hydrator and great to take in place of hydration salts after illness. A clinical study in Dakar, showed that baobab solution after diarrahea was almost as effective as the WHO standard soloution that is administered.
3. Antioxidant – protect youself from free radical damage caused by environmental pollutants, stress and UV rays. A study on African super fruits carried out in Burkino Faso, showed that baobab had a higher antioxidant load than oranges.