n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Health benefits and omega-3-fatty acid content of selected indigenous foods in the Limpopo Province, South Africa




The article is based on a study that aimed at identifying indigenous foods in the Limpopo Province that are believed to have health benefits and to analyse the omega-3-fatty acid content of the selected identified foods. The objectives of this study were to identify the indigenous foods believed to have health benefits with possible functional properties, to determine the different ailments that these foods were used for, and to analyse the omega-3-fatty acid content of the identified indigenous foods.

The study population consisted of 46 women whose ages were above 60 years old. The participants were recruited from four districts in the Limpopo Province namely Waterberg, Vhembe, Mopani and Sekhukhune. Focus group discussions were held, wherein an interview schedule was used to lead the discussions. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. The fresh raw food samples were collected and taken to the CSIR for chemical analysis of bioactive compounds.
The results of the study revealed that some indigenous green leafy vegetables have a high content of omega-3-fatty acids per fatty acid content. Indigenous foods were taken for their functional properties. Food items like Mormodica balsamina were identified to treat and prevent hypertension and diabetes mellitus. The food item is known as Mokhutsega in Northern Sotho, Nkaka in Xitsonga and Tshibavhi in Tshivenda. Some of the food items that were mentioned to treat diseases were Amaranthus thurnbergii and Cajanus cajan for the prevention of constipation. Donkey milk was taken to treat whooping cough. Of the seven indigenous foods analysed, six of them were green leafy vegetables and one was a fruit. The samples were analysed for omega-3-fatty acid content. The green leafy vegetables were found to contain omega-3-fatty acids. Linolenic acid, which has 18 carbon chains and three double bonds, was found to be the most abundant omega-3-fatty acid found in plant foods. The omega-3-fatty acids are said to be a factor in HDL concentration, thereby confirming the lowering of coronary heart diseases by green leafy vegetables.


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