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Volunteer in children's nutrition and learn about healthy foods in Ghana, West Africa

#VolunteerTakeover Ghana's Superfoods

Date Posted: 31/08/2018

Volunteer Lydia explains all about some of Ghana's best superfoods for #VolunteerTakeover

#VolunteerTakeover Ghana's Superfoods

In Ghana, nutrient deficiencies are relatively common. Some children struggle to get enough calories, and many more do not consume adequate protein. Additionally, many children are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals due to the food being generally low in nutrients and variety. The main vitamins and minerals of concern are iron, vitamin A and iodine. Vitamin C is also important for uptake of iron in the body. Thankfully, Ghana has some unique and nutritious “superfoods” available! One of these foods is agushie seed, which is relatively similar to pumpkin seed. Agushie can be mixed into soups or stews to add protein and essential fatty acids. Protein is critical for adequate growth and development and essential fatty acids for heart health. With Iron Deficiency Anaemia affecting the majority of Ghanaian children, I was excited to discover another highly nutritious food called turkey berries. These green spherical berries are a great source of iron and other minerals. They can also be added to soups, or can be ground and mixed with water as a beverage.     

There are a variety of leaves and herbs that are also potent sources of nutrients. One type of such leaf is kontomire. Kontomire is a dark green leafy vegetable somewhat comparable to spinach. It can be added to soups and contributes substantial vitamin A and C as well as iron. Vitamins A and C play an important role in the immune system to help prevent illness. Waakye herb is another nutritious plant food used in a Ghanaian dish with rice and beans. Waakye provides antioxidants, which may also help prevent disease. Moringa is another local plant that’s leaves and seeds have excellent health benefits. It can be purchased in the whole leaf or powder form, and be added to soups or taken as a drink. Moringa’s abundance of health benefits includes antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Considering the children’s relatively small intake and variety of fruits and vegetables, it would be beneficial to incorporate some of these leaves into their diet. Iodine is another nutrient of concern, and the best source is iodized salt. The need can generally be met by utilizing iodized salt in cooking.

Nutrition is a major concern for Ghanaians, especially the children. When children have a chronically low intake of one or more essential nutrients, it can negatively affect their short-term and long-term health. It has been beneficial for me to learn about the food here in order to help people make relevant and sustainable nutritional improvements. There is still so much to learn, and I am excited to keep teaching others what I know while learning about the things in Ghana I do not know.      

Author: Lydia - PWA Volunteer

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