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Friday, 22 September 2017

African food for thought

BamFibre is a gluten- and lactose-free fibre that lowers cholesterol and blood glucose BamFibre is a gluten- and lactose-free fibre that lowers cholesterol and blood glucose

Food security in Africa need not be a problem as the continent is home to most of the world’s drought-resistant crops.

“Africa is blessed with many unexploited crops (cereals, legumes, tubers, oil seeds, fruits & vegetables). Yet most of these crops are highly tolerant to drought, soil salinity and high air temperature making them climate-smart as well as more relevant to food security in view of climate change,” says Food Technology Professor Victoria Jideani.

Amongst these crops is the Bambara groundnut (BGN), which according Jideani has hitherto unexplored medicinal and nutritional properties.

“BGN is high in protein and low in fat. It also has the highest concentration of soluble fibre compared to other beans. Despite its rich nutritional profile, it is classified as underutilised; it is unknown to consumers and has no place in the national and international food baskets,” Jideani explains.

Her research into BGN has yielded two patents: 1) a process for the production of BGN milk (BGNM) and BGN probiotic yoghurt and (2) BamFibre, a natural, gluten-, lactose- and cholesterol-free fibre, which also assists with detoxification.

The first patent gave birth to BamPro, a great-tasting lactose- and cholesterol-free yoghurt-like drink low in fat and rich in protein, fibre and antioxidants. This probiotic beverage is produced from Bambara groundnut flour fermented with lactic acid bacteria. Consumers reacted positively to this new product in a 2015 study testing consumer sentiment, with 54.2% of respondents rating the drink as very good. Respondents likelihood to purchase BamPro ranged from probably (43.2%) to definitely (42%).

“Professor Jideani is a perfect example of the calibre of researchers at CPUT. Our researchers do work that impact people’s lives directly and in real time and no global challenge is more pressing right now than that of food security,” says Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Chris Nhlapo.

Jideani completed a B.Sc (Honours) in her native Nigeria in 1983. In 2001 she obtained a PhD in Food Microbiology from the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Nigeria, where her dissertation was rated the best doctoral thesis of that academic year. She made her way to South Africa via Botswana, and started as a senior lecturer at CPUT in 2008. In 2010 she was promoted to the position of Associate Professor before becoming a full Professor in 2016. Another feather in her cap is the Green Africa Award she received in 2013 in the Agriculture and Food Security category.


Written by Abigail Calata