Nutritional Significance of Cowpea Leaves for Human Consumption
Greener Trends in Food Science and Nutrition
Cowpea is a legume whose grains are widely consumed as rich sources of protein and other nutrients in some parts of the continent. Recent surveys have also shown that cowpea leaves are relished as vegetable in Southern and Eastern Africa as well as Middle belt areas of Nigeria. Protein, calorie and mineral deficiencies such as marasmus, kwashiorkor and anaemia are reported to characterize malnutrition in many parts of Africa. For instance, amongst the health benefits of cowpea leaves, low
... a leaves, low glycemic index carbohydrates and vegetable-derived nutrients are known to prevent or combat cancer, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, insomnia, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, anencephaly, rickets and could enhance cardiac health and metabolic wellbeing. However, in eastern Nigeria, consumption of cowpea as leafy vegetable is largely non-existent probably due to dearth of information on its nutrients composition and possible health benefits amongst other factors. As part of efforts to create awareness to stimulate and warrant its adoption, utilization and consumption as leafy vegetable in eastern Nigeria, this study aims to document the nutrient composition of cowpea leaves grown in the area; and to highlight the potential human health benefits attendant from consumption of these nutrients. The study was carried out in the University greenhouse, with cowpea variety IAR-48 grown in heat sterilized topsoil contained in 20 cm pots arranged in completely randomized design replicated four times. The whole experiment was repeated twice. At 8 weeks after planting, tender leaves of the crop were harvested from the mid section of the crop, enveloped and later used for nutrient analyses. Chemical and nutrient profiling of the cowpea leaves tissues were done based on analytical and standard spectrometric methods and was carried out in triplicate determinations. Findings from this study indicated that cowpea leaves contained protein (34.91%), low glycemic index carbohydrates (31.11 %), prebiotics (19.46 %), fat (5.42 %), iron (65.21 mg), calcium (1.62 g), phosphorus (0.56g), magnesium (1.66 g), potassium (13.445 g) and sodium (2.22 g). Based on literature, these amounts of nutrients were sufficient to offset most of the recommended daily intakes (RDIs) of these nutrients in human diets. Though the anti-nutrient factors were not conducted in this study, previous investigators have shown that cowpea leaves contain low amounts of anti-nutrient factors, hence, findings from this study therefore support the adoption, utilization and consumption of cowpea leaves as vegetable in eastern parts of Nigeria.