One significant tree I have seen around the Gambia is the Baobab. Apart from the Gambia, Baobab is a tree native to certain regions of Africa, Arabia, Australia, and Madagascar. Adansonia is the scientific name and, can grow up to 98 feet (30 meters) tall and produce a large fruit that is commonly consumed and appreciated for its delicious citrus-like flavor.
The pulp, leaves, and seeds of the baobab fruit — which is also available in powdered form — have been associated with many health benefits and are a staple in various recipes and cuisines.
One such recipe is Nan Mburu, made from the fruit of the giant baobab trees, this pale brown, non-alcoholic drink is delicious for you, being full of vitamins, calcium, and fiber.
Nan Mburu is a special dessert in The Gambia that is prepared during special events like Good Friday, picnics, birthday parties, and other ceremonies. Good Friday is also known as Nan Mburu day since all Christian families are preparing this dish and share it amongst family and friends
Nan mburu, scientific benefits
Baobab used to make Nam Mburu is a good source of diverse vitamins and minerals. Studies have been espoused to confirm that the nutritional content of baobab can differ based on where it is located and between different parts of the plant, such as the leaves, pulp, and seeds. For instance, one study(Muthai et al. 2017) found that the pulp is high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and many significant key minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Two other studies(Chadare et al. 2009; Rahul et al. 2015) found that the leaves are rich in calcium and high-quality proteins that can be simply digested. The same authors held that the seeds and kernels of the plant contain many fibers, fat, and micronutrients such as thiamine, calcium, and iron. However, the powder is mostly available in regions without fresh baobab. This notwithstanding, the powdered baobab has diverse significant nutrients especially high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, iron, and potassium.
For instance, the US Department of Agriculture notes that two tablespoons (20 grams) of powdered baobab can give you:
o Calories: 50
o Protein: 1 gram
o Carbs: 16 grams
o Fat: 0 grams
o Fiber: 9 grams
o Vitamin C: 58% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
o Vitamin B6: 24% of the RDI
o Niacin: 20% of the RDI
o Iron: 9% of the RDI
o Potassium: 9% of the RDI
o Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
o Calcium: 7% of the RDI
From the review, powdered baobab and fresh parts of the plant are extremely nourishing.
Nan mburu, science
One study by Garvey et al. (2017) used 20 people and found that drinking a smoothie with 15 grams of baobab extract drastically decreased feelings of hunger compared to a placebo drink.
The US Department of Agriculture further notes that the fiber content in baobab is high, especially found in many powdered formulations providing about 4.5 grams of fiber in each tablespoon (10 grams).
One randomized controlled trial found that the fiber content in baobab goes through the stomach slowly and then keeps the stomach at bay and makes one feel fuller for a longer time( Yu et al. 2014).
A previous review(Howarth et al. 2001) found that the more fiber we eat by 14 grams per day reduced calorie intake by up to 10% and decrease body weight by an average of 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) more than a four-month duration.
One randomized controlled trial by Coe et al. (2013) found that baking baobab extracts into white bread decreased the amount of rapidly-digested starch and slowed down the increase of blood sugar levels in the body.
Another human trial used 13 people and found that when we add baobab to white bread reduced the amount of insulin required to convey sugar from the blood to the tissues to help control blood sugar levels(Coe and Ryan, 2016).
A previous study(Lattimer and Haub, 2010) found that due to the high fiber content, baobab could slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This could avert spikes and bangs in blood sugar and stabilize levels for a long time.
The lower the Glycemic Index (GI) of food, the slower the rise in blood glucose levels will be when the food is consumed. Researchers at Oxford Brookes University in the UK demonstrated that consuming Baobab Fruit Powder helps regulate blood sugar – which is particularly good news for those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Baobab is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, compounds that protect our cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation in our bodies. For instance, Hunter P( 2012) found that chronic inflammation may predispose one to several medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and diabetes.
Some animal studies have found that baobab could reduce inflammation in the body. For instance, Ghoneim et al. (2016) study found that baobab fruit pulp decreased multiple markers of inflammation and could protect the heart from damage.
Another mouse study by Adeoye and Bewaji(2018) found that baobab extract reduced oxidative damage to cells and decreased levels of inflammation. We still need more human studies in this area.
Baobab is loaded with fiber, and powdered could have about 18% of the daily recommended value in about one tablespoon (10 grams) according to the US Department of Agriculture.
On the other hand, Otles and Ozgoz(2014) found that the fiber in baobab goes into the gastrointestinal tract undigested and benefits digestive health. Another review(Yang et al. 2012) of five studies found that eating more fiber improved stool frequency in those with constipation. This is not all. Slavin J(2013) believes that the fiber in baobab is a source of prebiotics and feeds the beneficial bacteria in our gut, enhancing the health of the gut microbiome.
Three studies(Satoh H, 2010; Pituch-Zdanowska et al. 2015; Alonso-Coello et al. 2006) found that the more we consume fiber in baobab could also protect against conditions like intestinal ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, and hemorrhoids.
The Hadza tribe of Tanzania, often referred to as the “last true hunter gatherers in the world,” eat Baobab Fruit Powder daily. Recent study(Schnorr, et al. 2014) has shown that the Hadza have an exceptionally healthy and diverse gut microbiome – far superior, in fact, to the US and European populations studied. It is regarged as the Hunter-Gatherer Diet
Finally, S. Manfredini, (2002) study found that its effectiveness as a prebiotic has been proven both in research and its traditional use in Africa. Italian researchers have discovered that Baobab Fruit Powder has a positive prebiotic effect on key groups of probiotic gut flora. Compared to controls, they found Baobab Fruit Powder promoted significant increases in the production of two of the three key bacterial groups; Bifidobacteri and Lattobacilli.
Adaptogens are naturally occurring, non-toxic substances that can help protect your body from stress by stabilizing and optimizing a host of physiological functions. The name comes from their ability to adapt to whatever your body specifically needs to restore you to peak health.
When your body is stressed, it produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Too much of these hormones, too often, can degrade your health; chronic inflammation, depression, mood swings, digestive problems, heart disease and insomnia. What makes adaptogens so remarkable is they can help defend against these damaging effects of stress by regulating the release of stress hormones and protecting your adrenals—no matter the underlying cause of said stress.
Baobab Fruit Powder is known to help boost the immune system. At 140,000 ORAC Baobab has an extremely high antioxidant profile. Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells in your body from free radical damage that can occur from exposure to certain chemicals, smoking, pollution, radiation, and as a byproduct of normal metabolism. Dietary antioxidants include selenium, vitamin A and related carotenoids, vitamins C and E, plus various phytochemicals such as lycopene, lutein, and quercetin. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants may be good for your heart health and may also help to lower your risk of infections and some forms of cancer.
With six times more vitamin C than oranges, Baobab Fruit Powder is a rich source. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin. We can’t store it in the body, which means we need it from our diet every day. Vitamin C helps protect cells and keeps them healthy. It is also involved in the production of collagen, which is important for the support and structure of all connective tissues in the body. It can help with wound healing. It increases our ability to absorb Iron. And of course vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that may protect against free radical damage.
Baobab has double the iron of spinach. Iron has a role in creating energy from nutrients. It also contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses — the signals that coordinate the actions of different parts of your body. If you have more iron than is needed, it’s stored in your body for future use. Without healthy levels of iron, your red blood cells cannot effectively provide oxygen to your cells and tissues. Symptoms of anemia include: fatigue, weakness, dizziness and difficulty concentrating.
Other essential minerals that Baobab is high in are Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc. Potassium deficiency can generate psychological effects and can contribute towards our stress inducing conditions such as mood swings, depression and lethargy. Magnesium is considered by many doctors to be the most critical and vital mineral needed for managing and coping with stress. Low levels of zinc can exacerbate stress levels. Taking your daily allowance of zinc can help reduce your stress.
While exercising we lose electrolytes through our sweat, mainly sodium, and potassium. Ingesting potassium in combination with water helps the body to rehydrate more efficiently. Baobab Fruit Powder has potassium values ranging between 1800 mg and 2400 mg/100g; which is six times higher than bananas, the fruit most commonly recommended by nutritionists for its potassium content. The fact that it is over 80% soluble makes it ideal for hydrating powdered drink mixes and sports beverage applications.
Blood Alkalinity is believed by many to be the key to greater overall health, lowering illness, and promoting longer living. For our bodies to function optimally, we should make sure that we have an alkaline pH blood level. How do we do this? By eating highly alkaline foods.
The PRAL rating (potential renal acid load) is a measure of the alkalizing properties of foods. With a PRAL Rating of -52, Baobab Fruit Powder is one of the most blood alkalizing foods on the planet!
From studies, Nan Mburu made from baobab has many benefits such as supporting digestive health, weight loss, blood sugar, hemorrhoids, and many more. You can add brown sugar instead of white sugar.
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul. E. mail: [email protected]+ 2207452652(for more information)