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Can Spices Provide Essential Minerals for Refugee Communities in East Africa?

Micronutrient deficiency is an enormous problem in refugee settings. Transforming refugees’ food systems through the scaling up of kitchen gardening and fortifying relief food with nutrient-dense spices can help improve the nutritional quality of staple foods.


Photograph of Curry powder and Turmeric powder
Samples of Turmeric and Curry Powder were analysed in a lab

Globally, spices are indispensable in the daily diet and play an important role in the socio-cultural setting of different communities. In new research by a group of academics, including Re-Alliance mentor Andrew Adam Bradford, forty turmeric and curry powder samples were collected from markets in East Africa to assess the potential of spices for providing micronutrients. The samples were analysed to determine the levels of micronutrients including potassium (K), calcium (Ca), zinc (Zn) and strontium (Sr).


Photograph of Kale and other green vegetables growing in the soil
Kitchen Garden in Nakivale Refugee Camp (Uganda) with thanks to yiceug.org

The study aimed to determine if a small portion of spices of between 4 and 5 grams would contribute to an adequate intake (AI) or recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for selected minerals. The results showed a range of contributions of turmeric and curry powder to AI/RDA for Potassium, Calcium and Zinc of between 0.48 and 4.13% while turmeric was identified to contribute more than 20% AI/RDA for manganese (Mn) and iron (Fe).


The report suggests that turmeric and curry powder from East Africa are good, low cost sources of minerals and that turmeric in particular should be more widely popularised and recommended as a contribution to nutrition in refugee populations.


Read the full report here:

f09015ee-2f4a-4ffb-a579-66604964ed70 (1)
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