Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a special type of beans, locally known as akidi in Igbo. It is relished as a native delicacy and contributes significantly to the meals in the South Eastern part of Nigeria.
Akidi is a small tiny bean seed with two common species – reddish-brown and black. Unlike the common beans, it takes a longer cooking time to become tender. It is sometimes soaked in water after washing, prior to cooking, to save gas or kerosene. The water used in soaking it is often used to boil the akidi to retain the nutrients. It is cooked until it is soft and, depending on the recipe, it is sometimes mashed with a wooden spoon to form a smooth, thick paste when palm oil is added.
Akidi can be conveniently prepared and is an easy recipe. It has a natural and unique taste, hence is usually prepared with just pepper, salt and palm oil to retain the taste; thus, it doesn’t need onion or crayfish.
Akidi is an excellent source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and starch. It provides a high amount of plant-based protein, in addition to many other essential nutrients, which help slow ageing naturally. It has a high concentration of vitamins B2, C, and A, and is high in such minerals as magnesium, iron, folate, and phosphorus. Also, it provides phytonutrients such as saponins, anthocyanins, kaempferol, and quercetin, all of which possess antioxidant properties.
- Akidi aids in cancer prevention. This can be attributed to saponins which prevent cancer cells from multiplying and spreading throughout the body.
- Selenium, a very important mineral found in the plant, plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. It prevents inflammation and decreases tumour growth rates and is associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
- Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.
- Akidi can help manage diabetes. The balance of complex carbohydrates and protein which it contains provides a slow, steady source of glucose instead of the sudden surge that can occur after eating simple carbohydrates.
Acho, B. A., Eke, L. N., Wegwu, M.O., Osuoha, J. O. (2018). Nutritional Composition of Three Selected Traditional Diets: A Case Study of Ngwa People in Abia State, Nigeria, Food Science and Technology 6(1): 1-9, Department Biochemistry, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. (Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321429295)