The provision of cheap, balanced and adequate nutritional composition for growing infants is a major challenge in Africa. Most weaning foods are usually cereal-based gruels fermented by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). The major nutrient they supply being carbohydrate, uncontrolled or inappropriate intake might cause growth retardation and malnutrition in growing children. The nutritional requirement of weaning infants could be supplied by supplementation with protein rich diets. Soybean is a cheap and available source of protein in Nigeria; but it also contain some complex sugars (raffinose) which is associated with abdominal discomfort in children of weaning age. This study is designed to use the probiotics LAB to improve the nutritional composition of weaning food blends. Lactic acid bacteria were isolated from Ogi (a fermented cereal gruel) using standard morphological and biochemical tests; their identities were confirmed with molecular methods. Nutritional and organoleptic attributes of the food blend were determined following Association of Official Analytical Chemist procedures. The data were subjected to statistical analysis at 5% level of significance. Fortification of the gruel with pre-treated soybeans improved the nutritional quality (Protein: 8.4 to 17.8 %; Fat: 3.6 to 12.9 %; Ash: 2.0 to 3.8%; Fe: 6.4 to 10.7mg/100g and Ca: 156.7 to 211.0mg/100g) during fermentation. Utilization of raffinose by probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum from local food sources reduced the complex sugars in soybeans. Nutritional qualities and organoleptic attributes of cereal gruels were improved by fortification with soybeans and fermentation.
Key words: Probiotics, complex sugars, Lactobacillus plantarum, fermentation, nutritional improvement, soybeans.
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