UNAIR researchers find underutilized local crops in Bangkalan has potential to improve nutrition

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Illustration by Feri Fenoria

UNAIR NEWS – The research team from UNAIR Faculty of Public Health together with SEAMEO-RECFON conducted a study on the potential of underutilized local crops nutrition. The aim is to improve children’s nutrition.The research was conducted in Bangkalan, Madura.

From that study, there were at least 25 crops that were identified. For this potential study for children, researchers only chose 9, including sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor ), canna ( Canna edulis ), taro ( colocasia esculenta ), black potato ( Plectranthus rotundifolius ), suweg ( Amorphophallus paseoniifolius ), Moringa (Moringa oleifera ), kawista ( Limonia acidisima), mango gedong ( Mangifera indica ) and bligo (Benincasa hispida ).

Annis Catur Adi, a member of the research team, said that the study of nutritional potential was focused on 6 micronutrients which are still considered a problem for children. They include zinc, iron, calcium, niacin, folate and vitamin A. In that study, protein and phytate were also studied as protein is the main nutrient related to child growth. In addition, phytate is a non-nutrient that plays a role in inhibiting absorption of nutrients in the body.

“The results of the study showed that all of these crops are rich in at least 3 important micronutrients whose fulfillment is still often a problem for children in developing countries. In terms of protein content, in quantity, 4 of these foods have a low protein content, while the other 5 are quite protein dense, and have a good amino acid composition, “Annis said.

The weakness of protein from vegetable sources, continued Annis, is its lower digestibility compared to animal sources. The digestibility of vegetable protein by the body is generally around 70-80 percent, while animal protein, for example from eggs and milk, has a digestibility of 95 percent and 97 percent, respectively.

Therefore, Annis suggested to obtain optimal nutritional benefits from these foods, so that they are combined with other local crops sources that are reasonably priced protein. Either from vegetable, such as beans, tempeh, tofu, or from animals, like eggs or fish.

Through the research, Annis and team suggested that for the improvement of children’s nutrition, molar ratio between minerals (iron, zinc, calcium) and phytate should also be calculated and considered because, at an improper ratio, phytate can inhibit the absorption of these minerals by the body. In his research, only taro (fruit and leaves) and bligo that meet the molar ratio of phytate to minerals.

“Efforts to reduce phytate can be done at the pre-food processing stage. For example collision, germination, fermentation, soaking and then disposing of the water, as well as by modifying the menu for example combining with food that can help the absorption of minerals, such as vitamin C and animal foods, “said Annis.

“Interestingly, most of the 9 crops studied in this study, are also rich in vitamin C,” he continued.

The research was conducted by Annis and the team considering Indonesia still need to do a lot in reducing stunting rates. In some areas, the prevalence of Stunting reaches more than 40 percent, including in Bangkalan District, Madura.

The characteristics of the dry Madurese region, especially with high poverty in some areas, make it an area that is at risk of experiencing food and nutrition insecurity. However, behind this deficiency, there are actually many potential local crops that are not optimally utilized to meet children’s nutrition. (*)

Author: Binti Q. Masruroh

Editor: Khefti Al Mawalia


Andrias DR, Fahmida U, Adi AC. Nutritional potential of underutilized food crops to improve diet quality of young children in food insecure prone area of Madura Island, Indonesia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2019;28(4)

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