KAMPALA - Cassava is one of the staple foods in the diet of many Ugandans. Although not common, some communities eat the leaves.
Sharon Naluwende, a nutritionist at Mulago Hospital says young smooth cassava leaves are preferred, not only due to their good taste but also because of the nutritional values.
She adds that cassava leaves contain flavonoids, saponins, essential oils, linustatin (vitamin B17), vitamin C, phosphate, calcium, follic acid, chlorophyll, and magnesium.
Naluwende says the saponins bind with bile salt and cholesterol in the intestinal tract to reduce the cholesterol in the blood, as well as its absorption, hence protecting people from cardiovascular diseases.
She says since plants use saponin to fight infections caused by parasites, in the human body, saponin protects against bacteria germs (diarrhoea) and viruses (flu), hence boosting immunity.
"Vitro experiments (animal experiment) provide evidence that the vitamin B17 have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killer) that relieve pain, especially associated with arthritis," she notes.
Naluwende adds that the antioxidant have cyanide content, which kills ring worms and cancer cells, leading to cancer regression. She says the foliate is important in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects.
Nuruh Nalwanga, a senior nursing officer at Kawempe Referral Hospital, says the phosphorus in the cassava leaves helps in brain functioning.
She says it has fibre for satiety, which is used to manage weight and prevents constipation.
"The vitamin A in the cassava leaves protects the skin from damage," she adds.
However, Nalwanga warns that cassava leaves have goitrogen compounds that block the uptake and use of iodine that may result in goitre. So, iodinated salt should be added to the cassava leaves.
The leaves may also contain potentially toxic cyanogen (the sour taste) because they contain glycosides from which cyanide may be released by enzymatic hydrolysis.
She says this can be reduced by washing them with clean water so that they are dust free. Cut into small pieces and if possible, pound in a mortar before cooking.
Sauce made from cassava leaves can be eaten with matooke, posho and cassava.
How to cook cassava leaves
Wash the leaves with clean water.
Place them on a clean table and cut into small pieces.
Put in a clean saucepan and add water.
Cook to boil
While still boiling, add lake salt - this helps the leaves cook faster and makes them tender.
Add onions, tomatoes, and other spices. Frying is optional, but the leaves taste better boiled
Did you know the values of cassava leaves?