Nutritional diversity of leafy amaranth species grown in Kenya
Objectives: Despite the availability of many species of amaranth in Kenya, there is inadequate information on their nutritional diversity and how they can be best used in mitigation of malnutrition. Hence, this study was aimed at investigating the nutritional diversity of five leafy amaranth species grown in Kenya.
Methodology and results: Amaranth vegetables were harvested 5-6 weeks after planting. They were analyzed for their nutritional and phytochemical content using standard methods. Moisture content was lowest in A.cruentus (79.29±1.26%). A.cruentus had the highest protein (4.37 ±0.02%).The fat content of A.hybridus (2.53±0.06%) and A.hypochodriacus (2.63±0.11%) was significantly higher than the other species. The crude fibre content (3.01±0.29%) was similar in all the species. A.dubius had the highest calcium (336.47±0.9mg/100g) and iron (18.64±0.23mg/100g) while A.cruentus was highest in zinc content (1.67±0.03mg/100g).The total phenols content was highest in A.cruentus (3.59±0.01GAE/100mg).Catechins were highest in A.cruentus (7.15±0.63CE/100mg) while quercetin was highest in A.cruentus (14.28±0.86QE/100mg).
Conclusion and application of results: More than 50% of the Kenyan population live below the poverty line and lack access to adequate food. The food available food is of poor nutritional value, this causes malnutrition and other nutritional disorders. There is therefore a need to identify nutrient-rich foods that can be produced inexpensively to meet the nutrient requirements of everyone and especially the vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, children and the elderly. Amaranth is drought tolerant, grows fast and is easily cultivated. This study indicates that the Amaranth species found in Kenya are a good source of key nutrients, which can be used in mitigation of malnutrition. A.dubius is a superior source of calcium and iron and can help curb the micronutrient deficiencies in Kenya, while A.cruentus is a superior source of protein and phytochemicals which are important in reducing the risk of chronic diseases which are so rampant in Kenya today.
Keywords: A. dubius; A. hybridus and A. cruentus; A. albus and A. hypochondriacus; Nutrients