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The role of wild fruits and vegetables in delivering a balanced and healthy diet
- Bvenura, Callistus, Sivakumar, Dharini
- Food research international 2017 v.99 pp. 15-30
- antioxidants, farmers, food plants, forests, fruits, healthy diet, mortality, phytopharmaceuticals, poverty, seedlings, seeds, vegetables, Sub-Saharan Africa
- Without a doubt, fruits and vegetables are important components of a balanced and healthy diet. However, their consumption is very low in the world, with the lowest figures being reported in sub-Saharan Africa. The low consumption of fruits and vegetables means unbalanced and unhealthy diets, which has been linked to various diseases and conditions associated with increased mortality rates in worst cases. Poverty is the major contributor to the low consumption of fruits and vegetables in the majority of cases. However, the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, is endowed with numerous wild fruit and vegetable species which can be exploited and incorporated into the diets and help solve some nutrition related concerns. Therefore, in this review, we explore literature on wild fruits and vegetables with a special emphasis on some of the poorest regions of the world and where the lowest consumption figures are reported; their nutritional compositions; the status of their consumption and their role in the diet with a view to uncover their possible role in delivering a healthy and balanced diet as well as helping lower food and nutrition insecurity. A total of 396 articles were downloaded and analysed but only 213 were considered for this review. The results of the search indicate that wild fruits and vegetables are nutritionally rich and high in phytochemicals, especially antioxidants and therefore can possibly play a significant and positive role in delivering a healthy and balanced diet. However, the major challenge is the acceptability, accessibility as well as a lack of interest in wild fruits and vegetables and sheer neglect. People need to be educated using various forms of media on the nutritional and health benefits of these wild food plants with a view to bring them from the forest to the plate. Researchers need to channel more efforts towards domesticating them for ease of access, among other reasons. Governments need to incentivise the subsistence or commercial production of wild fruits and vegetables in order to encourage farmers to cultivate them. However, seeds and/or seedlings need to be made available and affordable to the farmers. The ‘hidden treasures’ in the forests in the form of edible plants could easily play a positive and huge role in delivering a balanced and healthy diet, especially in poor parts of the world.