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Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) in a refugee context in East Africa: Kitchen gardening helps with mineral provision

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Kitchen gardening is considered a way to reconnect with agriculture and complement the cereal-based relief food offered to refugees in East Africa. This work aimed at profiling mineral content of okra in four refugee camps and settlements located in Ethiopia and Uganda and its contribution to adequate intake (AIs) or recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for young children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW). The study also evaluated the applicability of portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) as compared with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for mineral profiling of okra powder samples. The contents of minerals (mg kg−1) from the ICP-MS readings were in the following ranges: K (14,385–33,294), Ca (2610–14,090), P (3178–13,248), Mg (3896–7986), Cu (3.81–19.3), Fe (75.7–1243), Zn (33–141) and Mn (23.1–261). Regardless of geographic origin, at low-end consumption probability (17 g day−1 for young children and 68 g day−1 for PLW), okra could contribute ˂ 15% (2.7–12.9%) AI for macro-minerals (K and Ca). In addition, the contributions to RDA values for Fe and Zn, elements of known public health interest, ranged from 4.5 to 34.7% for young children. Interestingly, regression lines revealed strong agreement between ICP-MS and PXRF readings for Mn and Zn, with R2 values > 0.91. This information is useful in support of nutrition-sensitive kitchen gardening programs through scaling culturally important crops in refugee settings. © 2021, The Author(s).

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