Indigenous foods and their contribution to nutrient requirements
CITATION: Mbhenyane, X. G. 2017. Indigenous foods and their contribution to nutrient requirements. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 30(4):5-7.
The original publication is available at http://www.sajcn.co.za
Indigenous plants grow spontaneously in natural ecosystems and have been serving human kind as food and medicine in almost all societies for generations.¹´² It is recognised³ that indigenous foods and dietary diversity within an ecosystem can be powerful sources of nutrients and thus are better for health. It has been proposed that indigenous foods can play a major role in enhancing quality of diets and improving food and nutrition security.⁴ Despite this assertation, the use of indigenous foods has declined due to the nonavailability of these foods in modern commercialised and industrialised markets and lack of investment in research and development. The indigenous crops have been largely ignored by commercial farming, research and development, thus becoming less competitive than well-established major crops, and losing gradually their diversity and the associated traditional knowledge.⁵ The new South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines emphasise the food value of indigenous crops by the message they impart “must be realistic, do-able, promoting indigenous and traditional foods”.⁶