n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Indigenous African foods plants : vehicles of disease or sources of protection?




The impact of recurring droughts and endemic poverty-related chronic diseases reduces the ability of poor rural households to cope with the demands of providing health-sustaining food for the family. The dietary safety and health-supporting qualities of tradi-tional staples are important factors in consumer health. Because all crops are subject to fungal infestation, mycotoxin contamination of food has become a global problem. Home-grown foods of rural communities are not evaluated for consumer safety, and data pertain-ing to their health benefits are limited. This study determines the mycological quality of traditional leafy vegetables, commonly referred to as morogo, and investigates the folate content of such crops, as well as the antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic potential of indigenous rooibos tea and other traditional food and medicinal plants. Results showed that a notable number of fungi isolated from morogo belonged to genera with known toxigenic species. Morogo plants were shown to be relatively folate-rich, and varying degrees of antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activity were demonstrated for extracts from white and black Bambara groundnut, rooibos, cancer bush and devil's claw. Possible health-injuring impacts associated with chronic dietary exposure to certain mycotoxins, as well as health-supportive qualities of some functional foods and medicinal plants, are discussed.


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