By Richard Komakech
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is an herbaceous food legume belonging to the plant family Fabaceae. It can either be short and bushy or a vine climbing supports or trailing along the ground. It shows considerable adaptation to warm climates with adequate rainfall and is cultivated across Southeast Asia, Africa, Southern United States and Latin America. In Uganda, Cowpea is grown throughout the different regions especially in the North, East or North Western part of the country. The seeds and leaves are sold in nearly every market in the country. The Acholi call it “Boo”, Ateso call it “Eboo” and the Baganda call it “Ggobe”.
The plant is used in many parts of the world as a source of high-protein seeds and the edible leaves are also nutrient-rich. In fact, this plant is not only versatile and delicious but also important for human health, offering a number of benefits. Cowpea has recently gained popularity among consumers and researchers worldwide as a result of its immense health beneficial properties including; anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive properties. Among the mechanisms that have been proposed in the prevention of chronic diseases, the most proven are attributed to the presence of compounds such as soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, phytochemicals, and proteins and peptides in cowpea.
Cowpeas are a rich source of fiber hence very important for digestive issues such as constipation. This is due to the fact that these fibers can help absorb water and loosen up the stool, bulking up one’s bowel movements and stimulating peristaltic motion.
Cowpeas is important for weight loss. It is low in calories and cholesterol, which is always beneficial for weight loss. The dietary fiber in them not only enhances optimization of digestion to make sure that you are absorbing nutrients, rather than storing fat or waste in your body, but also makes you feel full for longer.
The impressive levels of antioxidants found in cowpeas, as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, and protein, make it excellent for improving the appearance and keeping the skin healthy. The antioxidants eliminate signs of aging, soothe irritation, heal scars, and protect the skin against the effects of Ultra Violet radiation.
Regular cowpeas consumption is not only important for maintaining cholesterol levels in the body but is also regulating blood pressure, hence helping one to avoid hypertension; the risk of stroke, and heart attack could be reduced significantly.
Cowpeas is known to be very essential in management of diabetes due to the very high level of magnesium in it. The magnesium plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates in the body and can help the body maintain balanced levels of blood sugar regardless of the food one eats. Just like all types of legume, cowpeas is also packed with calcium which is essential for bones. Besides calcium, cowpeas is loaded with phosphorus, magnesium and iron which are responsible for bone density.
Cowpeas is rich in vitamin B1 (thiamine) which is important in protecting the heart. Furthermore, the antioxidants found in cowpeas seek out and neutralize free radicals within the body, which cause chronic illness and cellular mutation. The vitamin C and A found in cowpeas are important for boosting the immune system. Also, the significant level of tryptophan in cowpeas is important in enabling the body to relax and ease into better sleep patterns. In fact, regular eating of cowpeas is one of the best ways of managing insomnia condition or restlessness at night.
NB: Information given in this article should not be used for self-medication purposes. Always consult a physician or herbalist before using any medicinal plant remedy for given health related conditions.
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