Vegetables are just one part of healthy living with diabetes. But sometimes, people wonder which may be the best option for good blood sugar level control. Utazi leaf comes to mind without mincing words
Research proves that Gongronema latifolium was the best of the 12 common leafy culinary vegetables consumed in Nsukka, South-eastern Nigeria to help improve blood-sugar control and cuts the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Good blood sugar control can help prevent or slow the progression of some of the main medical complications of diabetes. The risk of complications of diabetes directly increases with increased sugar and fat blood levels.
The researchers had compared such vegetables as Gongronema latifolium (Bush buck or utazi in Ibo), Pterocarpus santalinoides (gbengbe in Yoruba and Uturukpa in Igbo), Ocimum gratissimum(scent leaf), Pterocarpus mildbraedii (oha in Ibo), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf) Gnetum africanum (0kazzi) and Piper guineense (Guinea pepper).
The use of green leafy vegetables for the preparation of soups cuts across different cultures in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa with similar cultural and socioeconomic background.
Vegetables are included in meals mainly for their nutritional value; however, some are reserved for the sick and convalescence because of their medicinal properties.
Nigeria is endowed with a variety of traditional vegetables and different types are consumed by the various ethnic groups for different reasons. The nutrient content of different types of vegetables varies considerably, but they contain vitamins, essential amino acids, as well as minerals and antioxidants.
Traditional leafy vegetables have a proven nutritive value in terms of having more protein, minerals, carbohydrate and vitamins than some exotic vegetables. Leafy vegetables are said to be an invaluable substitute for meat and therefore form an important part of daily diets of rural communities in particular.
The results of this study revealed that the blood sugar lowering effect of Gongronema latifolium, Pterocarpus santalinoides, Ocimum gratissimum, Pterocarpus mildbraedii and bitter leaf was comparable to that obtained for glibenclamide (standard anti-diabetic drug) while Gnetum africanum and Piper guineense did not show significant ability to lower blood sugar.
The study entitled “Comparative hypoglycaemic potentials and phytochemical profiles of 12 common leafy culinary vegetables consumed in Nsukka, South-eastern Nigeria” was published in the edition of the Journal of Basic Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology.
It involved Patrick Emeka Aba and Ifeanyi Ronald Udechukwu from the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
For the study, a total of 75 albino Wistar rats assigned to 15 groups of five rats per group were used for the study. Their fasting blood sugar levels were determined at three hours, six hours and 24 hours in diabetic rats.
Moreover, the experts found that some traditional diets with vegetable components could serve as effective substitutes for plantain with beans, often recommended by some health caregivers.
The researchers had selected garri with afang soup, pounded yam with edikang ikong soup and ekpang nkukwo, all traditional Nigerian diets, and compared their efficacy with plantain with beans porridge(reference diet), for use in the management of diabetes mellitus.
Afang soup contains these ingredients and a major vegetable, Gnetum africanum as well as water leaf while in edikang ikong soup, fluted pumpkin (ugwu in Ibo) only replaces Gnetum africanum. Ekpang nkukwo is a porridge made from cocoyam tubers and the leaves, with the listed soup ingredients.
The 2011 study was published in the European Journal of Food Research & Review. It involved Ime F. Ani; Item J. Atangwho; and Regina I. Ejemot-Nwadiaro from the College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar.
It was entitled “Hypoglycaemic Effect and Proximate Composition of Some Selected Nigerian Traditional Diets Used in Management of Diabetes Mellitus.”
Fasting blood glucose results was significantly reduced upon feeding garri with afang soup (25.61 per cent) and pounded yam with edikang ekong soup (25.19 per cent) relative to the diabetic control (5.19 per cent). These reductions compared well with the reference diet, although its extent of blood sugar control was higher (37.22 per cent).
Body and relative liver weight changes over the period animals received the traditional diets were not significantly different from that of the reference diet.
The proximate composition components including crude proteins, fibre, ash and carbohydrate of these three traditional diets were not significantly different compared to the reference diet.
Indeed, creating a diet for diabetes is a balancing act. The trick is ultimately choosing the right combination of foods, including vegetables, which will help keep the blood sugar level in the target range and avoid big swings that can cause diabetes symptoms.