Dietary change in Micronesia has led to serious problems of vitamin A deficiency and other nutritionally-related health problems. It is essential to identify nutrient-rich indigenous foods that may be promoted for health improvements. Giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii) is important for food and culture on atoll and mountainous islands of Micronesia. There are many Cyrtosperma cultivars, but few have been analyzed for nutrient content. Samples were collected in the Federated States of Micronesia (Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap) and the Republic of Palau, assessed for corm flesh color and other attributes, and analyzed for carotenoids (β- and α-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene) and minerals (including iron, zinc, and calcium). Of 34 cultivars analyzed, β-carotene concentrations varied from 50 to 4486 μg/100 g. Yellow-fleshed cultivars generally contained higher carotenoid concentrations. Of the ten cultivars analyzed for mineral content (wet weight basis), substantial concentrations of zinc (5.4–46.1 mg/100 g), iron (0.3–0.8 mg/100 g) and calcium (121–305 mg/100 g) were found. All cultivars were acceptable for taste and production factors. These carotenoid- and mineral-rich cultivars should be considered for promotion in Micronesia and other areas for potential health benefits.
Journal of Food Composition and Analysis (2008) 21 (2) 93-106 [doi: 10.1016/j.jfca.2007.09.007]