Project Title: The potential of chia (salvia hispanica l.) farming in Kenya for improved food security, nutrition and health
SHORTLISTED MULTIDISCIPLINARY AND MULTI-INSTITUTIONAL
PROPOSALS: 2016/2017 Financial Year by National Research Fund (Grant of 19.93M)
Dr Monica Mburu,
PhD Food Science and Technology
Extensive research is being carried out by Dr. Monica Mburu (Ph.D.), a Food Science Researcher, at the Institute of Food Bioresources Technology, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Nyeri. The researcher is investigating the effects of new growing environments and agronomical treatments on chia seed quality and scientific validation on the efficacy and safety of the active ingredients in chia seed and leaves that warrants its health benefits, as well as evaluation of its commercial viability in Kenya.
Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) has a promising future in Kenya for food security, improved nutrition and health. Chia seed and leaves are protein-rich with good balance of essential amino acids making it suitable for malnourished children and adults living in rural areas who need better access to protein-rich food supply. It can enhance the nutrition status of food crop and fit in rotational farming. Chia seeds contain almost of all the essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants and minerals essential for optimum growth and development in good proportions. This is a superior food especially for infant complementary feeding. The high amount of alpha omega 3 is important in lowering the risk of cardiovascular heart disease
There is a high malnutrition rate in Kenya which is a serious public health problem that requires urgent attention from all sectors. Provision of nutritious food should be addressed across the food chain through introduction of novel crops that easily adapt locally and can be grown with the existing ones, like chia that can be an alternative to maize farming to enhance nutrition and supply. Chia is more suitable in the food industry due to its important physiochemical and functional properties. Chia is an excellent agent in food thickening, gel formation, chelator, foam enhancement, emulsification, suspension formation, clarifying agent and as a rehydrating agent. This makes it commercially viable for the development of new products enriched with omega-3, protein, soluble/insoluble fiber and phenolic compounds. Research has shown that, chia seeds are also beneficial to animal feeds, where their addition resulted in a rise of alpha linolenic acid and a reduction of cholesterol levels in eggs and meat.
Salvia hispanica (chia) has limited food applications in Kenya, since it is still being exploited. In the developed countries, it is commonly consumed in beverages, cereals, and salad dressing from the seed or eaten raw and as salad from chia sprout.
Research on Chia Products development will focus on:
- Chia yoghurt
- Chia oil
- Chia dried vegetables
- Chia enriched cookies and cakes
- Chia seeds drink