Gnetum africanum has numerous common names and is grown in various countries across Africa, including: Cameroon (Eru, okok, m’fumbua, or fumbua), Angola (KoKo), Nigeria (ukazi leaf, okazi leaf or afang), Gabon (KoKo), Central African Republic (KoKo), Congo (KoKo), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (m’fumbua or fumbua). Gnetum africanum has also been referred to as a form of ‘wild spinach’ in English.
It is a green leafy vegetable used in preparing various delicacies, cusines and recipes her in Nigeria and other African countries such as Congo, Gabon, Angola, Asia and South America.
The health benefits of ukazi (afang) also known as Gnetum Africanum include the treatment of enlarged spleens, sore throats, and nausea. Ukazi also eases constipation and helps to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The health benefits of ukazi are an attribute of their rich antioxidant, vitamin and mineral content.
Gnetum africanum (eru or African jointfir) is a vine gymnosperm species found natively throughout tropical Africa. Though bearing leaves, the genus Gnetum are gymnosperms, related to pine and other conifers.
Ukazi, botanically known as Gnetum africanum is a shade-loving plant that grows in dense equatorial forests. It is native to Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Nigeria. Both the seeds and leaves of this plant are edible.
Nutritional Value of Ukazi (Gnetum Africanum)
Per 100g of dry leaves, afang provides 44g of carbohydrates, 12.8g protein, 37.8g fibre, and 2.4g fat. They also provide 249mg calcium, 39mg magnesium, 121mg iron and 0.8mg of zinc.
The leaf is an excellent source of aspartic acid, fiber, cysteine, proline, vitamins, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, copper and so many more.
Due to its antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic properties, it can be used as a remedy for certain ailments.
Possible Health Benefits of Ukazi (Gnetum Africanum)
(1) Healthy Heart
The fibre in ukazi can reduce bad (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, thereby supporting heart health. Eating fibre regularly also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, and helps to slow the progression of heart disease in individuals who are already affected with it.
Ukazi is a great source of quality proteins since they provide the essential amino acids we need for growth and tissue repair. Replacing meat with ukazi as a source of protein can help to reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in the diet. This can also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Ukazi is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps to decrease blood pressure.
(2) Improved Digestion and Weight Loss
Fibre keeps you fuller for longer and helps to reduce appetite, both of which can promote weight loss. The high fibre content of afang also prevents constipation. Ukazi leaves have a laxative effect if you eat a large amount of it.
Leaves older than 12 months have a greater laxative effect than those between 2-3 months of age.
(3) Improves Bone Health
Ukazi is a rich source of calcium especially for people who are intolerant to dairy or those who eat a vegan diet.
Calcium is important for bone and teeth health, especially for adults over the age of 50 who have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
(4) Used to treat Enlarged Spleens, Constipation and Sore Throats
In Nigeria, ukazi leaves are used to treat enlarged spleens, constipation and sore throats. It is also a means to relieve emotional distress. The plant is a remedy for nausea and an antidote for certain types of poisons.
(5) Used to Treat Boils and Warts
It is also a dressing for warts, haemorrhoids, and boils. Ukazi leaves are also used to brew teas that soothe labour pains, and to control blood sugar in diabetic patients.
(6) Treats Malaria
Afang leaf helps in combating diseases as it has anti-bacterial and anti-parasite properties that are needed to cure malaria.
(7) Treats Skin Diseases
Afang leaf heals and cures common skin diseases, such as eczema, and rashes, just by squeezing the leaves and applying the juice and paste on the affected parts.
(8) Controls excess urination
The seeds can be chewed raw for controlling excessive urination in kids and adults as well and used in the treatment of overactive bladder.
I therefore encourage you to consider eating ukazi leaves regularly to enjoy its health benefits.
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