Melon Seed (Egwusi ): Health Benefits and Side Effects You Need to Know
Melon seed (egusi) is a popular food ingredient consumed mostly by Africans. It is botanically known as Citrullus vulgaris. In Nigeria it goes by the following names ‘egusi’ (Yoruba), ‘ogili’ (Ibo), ‘ogi’ (Benin), and ‘iguana agushi’ (Hausa) and ‘dènde’ (Fulani).
The shelled seeds of egusi are usually coarsely ground and used in preparing soup, stew and snacks. It is used to make robo, a defatted fried cake obtained after oil has been extracted from the melon seed . The seeds can also be fermented, boiled and wrapped in leaves to form a favorite food seasoning ‘Ogiri’.
The nutritional benefits of egusi comes from its high nutritional constituent. The seed contains about 50% oil, 30%protein, 10% carbohydrate, 4% ash, and 3% fiber. Melon seed is a rich source of amino acids like arginine, methionine and tryptophan. It also contains high amount of phosphorus, followed by potassium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Health Benefits Melon Seed (Egusi)
Egwusi contains antioxidants and niacin which makes skin healthy and young and also helps prevents aging. The alpha-tocopherol found in egusi is a component of vitamin E that helps in maintaining smooth young skin and good fertility. Vitamin E is active compound that participate in mopping up free radicals and also take part in oxidative stress .
Good for the heart
Egwusi is made up of 78% unsaturated fats which is good for the heart. The seeds consist of 10 to 16% oleic acid, 9 to 12% palmitic acid, 67 to 73% linoleic acid and 5 to 8% stearic acid. 3 These fatty acids are important in protecting the heart. The high linoleic acid and low linolenic acid content of egusi melon oil indicates that it is a good source of table oil, cooking oil and frying oil, making it good for the fight against CHD. 4
Provide Essential amino acids
Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body hence it has to be obtained from food sources. Amino acids along with proteins form the building blocks of life. Egusi is an excellent source of some of these amino acids like arginine, methionine, tryptophan, Lysine and threonine. Arginine helps in regulating metabolism and improves the cardiovascular system. Lysine helps in the formation of collagen and connective tissues in the body. 5
The nutritional constituent of melon seed makes it a veritable tool in the fight against malnutrition. Thus Egusi could thus be a vital tool against marasmus, kwashiorkor, and other debilitations.6 Egusi-seed meal is compacted into patties that serve as a meat substitute for those that can’t afford meat. The egusi can also be an important supplementary baby food, helping prevent malnutrition. Blending the seeds with water and honey produces a milky liquid that can be used as formula if breast milk is unavailable. 7
Loaded with vitamins and Minerals
Egusi seed is packed with plenty vitamins and minerals. Daily intake of these seeds is equivalent to taking vitamin supplements. They contain B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin and folates, vitamin C and Vitamin E. The minerals in the seed include phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc. These nutrients carry out several roles in the body which include encouraging good blood flow, strengthening the immune system etc.
There are some many health benefits associated with egusi as has already been enumerated above but it should be taken in moderation to avoid the following
Excessive weight gain
Egusi is made up of 50% fat and can easily lead to weight gain if taken in excess. The basic Egusi soup with stock fish and two meat will contain roughly 700calories per serving. 8 Egusi soup can be made healthier by Including plenty vegetables which will increase the amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals while decreasing the amount of egusi you consume.
Omega 6 fatty acids disease
The highest fat group in Egusi is linoleic acid( 67 to 73%) which is an omega 6 fatty acid. Excessive amounts of these vegetable oils, or linoleic acids , can contribute to inflammation and result in heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression, which is one reason you need to keep your consumption moderate. 9
If Egusi is not properly stored, it may be infested with fungi. Consumption of fungi infested seed may lead to food poisoning with aflatoxin. Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops.
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