Wild Himalayan fruits provide nutritional and nutraceutical opportunities: Study

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The wild fruits studied compared favourably to those commercially available in the region. ©iStock
The wild fruits studied compared favourably to those commercially available in the region. ©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

A study of wild edible fruits found in the Himalayas indicates they are a rich source of antioxidants, with researchers concluding they can help meet the nutritional needs of the local population and play a crucial role in nutraceutical development.

Researchers at the National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development in Uttarakhand, India, noted a lack of detailed studies of the health-promoting bioactive compounds and antioxidants in Himalayan wild edible fruits.

“In spite of the fact that a number of initiatives are ongoing to enhance the productivity of a few domesticated crops, nutritional security remains a concern,” ​they pointed out.  “In this regard, use of under-utilised wild edible fruit species have been suggested as an alternative.”

“However, Himalayan plants, in spite of their proven potential as natural antioxidants, have not received [much] attention,”​ they added.

So they took ten fruits: berberis asiatica (commonly known as kilmora), celtis australis (khareek), ficus palmata (bedu), fragaria indica (kiphaliya), morus alba (sahtoot), myrica esculenta (kaphal), phyllanthus emblica (anwla), prunus armeniaca (chuli), pyracantha crenulata (ghingaroo) and terminalia chebula (harad), and analysed their bioactive compounds and antioxidant potential.

The study revealed that terminalia chebula, phyllanthus emblica and myrica esculenta were the richest source of total phenolics; pyaracantha crenulata, terminalia chebula and berberis asiatica for flavonoids; phyllanthus emblica, morus alba and ficus palmata for ascorbic acid and anthocyanins; and morus alba for beta-carotene.

The fruits were found to compare favourable against commercially available dried fruits in India and other fresh fruits.

Furthermore, the values of total phenolics and ascorbic acid content was comparable to some leafy vegetables found in the country.

Supplement diets

 “This suggests that the use of these species can complement or supplement dietary food need of the mountain people and thereby prevent from different degenerative diseases,” ​the study, to be published in Food Chemistry​, stated.

In addition to the consumption of these wild edible fruits fulfilling the nutritional requirement of the Himalayan people, they could also play a significant role in nutraceutical development.

“Food and flavour industries are demanding new food ingredients for developing food supplements, therefore, these fruits can be a better alternative as they contain high-value bioactive compounds,” researchers state.

The authors hope the outcome of this study will help in developing baseline data on the nutraceutical potential of wild edible fruits in the region, “which can further be utilised in the preparation of dietary supplement and functional food or processed food products.”

“Therefore, large scale plantation of these plants in forest/wasteland should be promoted so as to fulfil the nutritional requirement in addition to regular food,”​ they conclude.

Source: Food Chemistry

Published online ahead of print.doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.07.143

Nutraceutical potential of selected wild edible fruits of the Indian Himalayan region

Indra D. Bhatt, et al

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