Let Food Be Your Medicine Amla (Indian Gooseberry)

“Load yourself with Vitamin C and not Stress”

By Anusha Mishra, M Salman Chukkan, Prof. Uday S. Annapure

Micronutrient deficiencies affect more than two billion people of all ages in both developing and industrialized countries.  Indian Gooseberry/Aonla/Amla scientifically named as Emblica Officinalis, is the richest source Vitamin C/ Ascorbic acid (an essential water-soluble micronutrient) among a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They work together with enzymes and other substances for sustaining a healthy life. The harvesting period of amla is November to December, however, fruits may remain on the tree until February until fruit drop.  Amla is native to India and is also grown in tropical and subtropical regions of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, China and Malaysia. In India, as per National Horticultural Board Data (2017), Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of Amla followed by Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The fresh fruits are generally not consumed due to their high astringency but it has got great potential in processed forms. Recommended Daily Allowance of 40 mg is met by consuming an average-sized amla. Even after prolonged heating or drying conditions, amla is highly stable. It contains a high percentage of polyphenols that prevents the oxidation of ascorbic acid. It has a special mention in Ayurvedic and Unani system of Indian medicines.  Various kinds of phenols like gallic acid, ellagic acid, flavonoids like quercetin, kaemferol and hydrolysable tannins Emblicanin A and B are largely present in amla. Total tannin distribution of fruits accounts for 28% of the entire plant. Amla is an exception among fruits, not only because of its high initial ascorbic acid content but also it contains polyphenols, leucoanthocyanins, tannins and antioxidants which protect the ascorbic acid destruction.

SNo. Composition Amount per 100g edible

portion

1. Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) 252mg/100g
2. Moisture 87.02
3. Protein 0.34 / 100G
4. Ash 0.34
5. Total Fat 0.16
6. Total Dietary fibre 7.75
7. Carbohydrate 4.39
8 Energy 99 KJ

                                                                     As per Indian Food Composition Table 2017

This comprehensive vitamin plays several important functions in the body. It is an essential micronutrient for the synthesis of collagen (major structural protein of connective tissue. Vitamin C is essential for hydroxylation for collagen formation. It is required for the formation of bones, teeth and capillaries and faster healing of wounds. Iron is best absorbed in the body as a ferrous ion. Therefore, vitamin C acts as a reducing agent to prevent the conversion of ferrous form into ferric and facilitate absorption. It also helps in the storage of iron in the liver as ferritin. It helps in the synthesis of carnitine, which aids the transport of fatty acids into mitochondria. It helps in the activation of hormones like oxytocin and calcitonin in the body. Vitamin C even reduces heavy metal concentration in the body, prevents the risk of cataract formation. It is the source of natural antioxidants. It combines with and scavenge free radicals and excrete them out of the body. Regular consumption inhibits the growth and spread of various cancers like breast, uterus, pancreas, stomach and liver cancers. Vitamin C helps in calcium absorption by preventing the formation of insoluble complexes. It helps in controlling several conditions like diabetes, cough, asthma, bronchitis, eye-related disorders, dyspepsia (Indigestion), colic, flatulence, hyperacidity, peptic ulcer, skin diseases, leprosy, inflammations, anemia, emaciation, liver disorders, jaundice, diarrhoea, dysentery, hemorrhages, leucorrhoea, menorrhagia, cardiac disorders, intermittent fevers and greatly prevents greying of hair. It even leads to healthy and glowing skin.

Deficiency Disorder due to Vitamin C

The most severe form of deficiency is Scurvy, which is rare throughout the world. The symptoms include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, pain in bones and joints. Other clinical features include gingivitis (bleeding gums and spongy swelling of the mucous membrane), small hemorrhagic spots, arthralgia (pain in the joint) and anemia. Lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet and faulty cooking practices are the major responsible factors.

Other Sources

It occurs widely in plant foods particularly in fresh fruits and vegetables especially green leafy vegetables. Guava, orange, lime, Barbados cherry are the other good sources.

ICMR Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin C in the body

Group Vitamin                 C

(mg/day)

Man 40
Woman

Pregnant

Lactating

40

60

80

Infants (0-12 months) 25
Children

Boys

Girls

 

40

40

 

Patients with kidney stones or renal insufficiency are advised to restrict Vitamin C rich food. They need to consult a nutritionist and doctor for the appropriate amount that can be consumed.

A wide range of value-added products are prepared from amla. The dominant ingredient of the bioactive formula called Chawanprash (a potent antioxidant paste, prepared through the blending of around 50 herbs and spices) is composed of Amla. An extremely popular traditional product known as amla preserve, which is also known as amla murabba in India, has been consumed since time immemorial. Amla Candy/Fruit candies have gained popularity because of its high acceptability, minimum volume, higher nutritionally value and longer storage life. These have an additional advantage of being least thirst provoking and ready to eat snacks. Amla Jam is prepared from fruit pulp (50%) and 67% sugar. Other fruits can also be added to it. This nutritionally rich jam attracts adults as well as children. Amla Sauce can also be prepared and enjoyed with various delicacies without guilt. Amla Pickle and chutney can be freshly prepared and consumed as part of our daily diet without adding any preservatives. Amla powder can be added to various dishes or consumed directly with water. Ready To Serve beverages (RTS) are prepared with Amla in combination with other fruits to enhance its vitamin C content.

Therefore, Amla as a potential source of Vitamin C plays a crucial role in overcoming micronutrient deficiency, called “hidden hunger”, as enough calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat alone won’t help for smooth physiological and metabolic functions of the body. Nutritional deficiencies can be minimized by consuming an optimal and balanced amount of food and improving our day to day lifestyle and adequate physical activity.

Author:

Anusha Mishra, Research Scholar, Department of Food Engineering and Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai

Muhammad Salman Chukkan, MTech, Final Year, Food Engineering and Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai

Prof. Uday S Annapure, Head, Department of Food Engineering and Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai

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