African oil bean seed is a nutrient-packed food condiment native to Eastern Nigeria. It is popularly known as “Ukpaka” or “ugba” in Igbo land, “apara” in Yoruba land, and is called “Ukana” by the Efiks in Southern Nigeria. The botanical name of African oil bean is Pentaclethra macrophylla.
This traditional food condiment generally produced by local fermentation. It has many uses but is mainly used for its culinary purposes. Ukpaka seeds are sliced and used to prepare nkwobi, abacha, soups, and vegetable with yam.
Nutritional Value of African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba)
Some of the key nutritional properties contained in African oil bean seed include – sodium, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also a good source of phytochemicals like tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, sterols, glycosides, and saponins – all of which are beneficial to human health.
However, some studies also showed that the seeds contain some anti-nutritional factors which included cyanide, phytate, tannin and oxalate. But this anti-nutrients can be reduced by proper processing and cooking.  
Health Benefits of African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba)
Without wasting much time, here are some health benefits of African Oil Bean Seed:
1. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in human blood. It plays a significant role in the building of healthy cells in the body. However, if the level of cholesterol in your body is higher than required, it may trigger excess fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which may further increase your risk of serious diseases like chest pain, heart attack, stroke, among others. Some of the common causes of high cholesterol levels include unhealthy diet, hereditary factors, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, aging, and diabetes.
On the plus side, African oil bean seed is a good source of saponins, phytochemicals that have been proven severally to be effective in keeping the cholesterol levels in check. Part of the ways saponins reduce cholesterol levels is by increasing the excretion of bile acids and forming an insoluble complex with cholesterol so as to prevent it from being absorbed in the intestine. A study by Monago et al. (2004) also reaffirmed this health benefit of ugba.
In addition to the above, it will please you to know that African oil bean seed also contains unsaturated fatty acids and Manganese, both of which regulate cholesterol levels in the body. The Manganese, for instance, helps in lowering cholesterol levels simply by enlarging the veins so as to ensure adequate and efficient blood flow in the body.
2. Reduces the Risk of Cancer
Cancer is considered one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It is an umbrella term for diseases accompanied by abnormal cell growth with the potential of spreading to other parts of the body. One thing about this disease is that it can occur/invade almost anywhere on the body, including the skin, breast, lung, mouth, colon, prostate, to mention but a few. Abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, sudden weight loss, change in bowel movements are some of the symptoms of cancer, while the common causes include smoking, heavy alcohol intake, obesity, lack of exercise, unhygienic practices, poor nutrition, etc.
More importantly, some studies suggest that African oil bean seeds might help reduce the risk of cancer and tobacco-related diseases as it contains phytonutrient like flavonoids.
Flavonoids are chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, seeds, cereals, and there are legions of research studies that establishes the relationship between the compounds and certain cancer types like aerodigestive tract cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer, and colorectal cancer.
3. Reduces the Risk of Cataract
Cataract is a degenerative eye condition that ultimately leads to total loss of vision. It is often characterized by blurred vision, difficulty with seeing at night, high sensitivity to light, double vision in a single eye, and lots more. Some of the major causes of this vision disease include aging, excessive exposure to sunlight, heavy smoking, eye injury or inflammation, hypertension, excessive alcohol intake, and lots more. It might also interest you to know that there are various types of cataract – nuclear cataracts (affects the center of the lens), cortical cataracts (affects the edges of the lens), posterior subcapsular cataracts (affects the back of the lens), and congenital cataracts, which is genetically transmitted.
Above all, if you are looking for a good way to prevent developing cataracts, then take a moderate amount of African oil bean seeds. This superfood is said to contain some active compounds that are very effective in lowering the risk of degenerative diseases like cataracts.
4. A remedy for skin-related diseases
This is yet another reason you should consume African oil bean seeds regularly. It is packed with some potent anti-inflammatory properties, and this is why some countries use both the bark and seeds in producing traditional ointment for treating itches, cuts, wounds, and insect bites. Again, there are certain tribes in Nigeria (Yorubas) who use the burnt pods alongside shea butter for treating boils and inflammations. Those who grew up in the village will understand better.
Additionally, African oil bean seeds are also an excellent source of anti-bacterial agents for combating bacteria, while its content also helps in promoting the skin’s elasticity and appearance. 
5. Solution to Insomnia
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder accompanied by difficulty in falling or staying asleep. African oil bean seeds might help you regain your sound sleep. To use it for insomnia, all you need do is to extract and mix the liquid of the fermented seed with pure honey and ingest one spoon each day for complete two weeks. You will surely feel the effect provided you consume it moderately. The physiochemical composition of African oil bean seed might suggest that it helps in treating insomnia.
6. Promotes healthy heart and prevents cardiovascular diseases
African oil bean seeds contain a high amount of potassium and some other potent properties that play a significant role in boosting the overall functioning of the heart and shielding it against related diseases.
Part of the benefits of consuming potassium-rich foods like African oil bean seeds is because they are considered to be effective in lowering blood pressure (a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension).
What potassium does in the body is to remove excess sodium therein so as to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. Not that alone, the potassium content of African oil bean seeds also helps in regulating heartbeats and blood flow, aids digestion, promotes nerve function, stimulate the contraction and expansion of the lungs, among other intriguing benefits.
Another reason why African oil bean seed is good for your heart health is the fact that it has a low amount of fat, not forgetting that it is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that promote overall well-being.
7. Promotes weight loss
Are you finding it difficult to shed some fats off your body?? Let’s talk about African oil bean seed!
The African oil bean seed is an excellent source of phytochemicals called phytoestrogen, which contributes largely to weight loss. To start with, people with excess weight or obese can use it for weight loss by taking it both as a nutritional and vitamin supplement. It also promotes weight loss by stimulating the production of estrogen in the body.
That’s not all; the phytoestrogens in African oil bean seed is again considered ideal for weight loss as it reduces the life cycle of adipocytes and fat accumulation while also increasing fat-free mass in humans. Some studies further revealed that this same phytochemical found in African oil bean seed could help reduce a significant amount of inflammation caused by obesity due to its antioxidant properties. 
Other Health benefits of African Oil Bean Seed (Ukpaka or Ugba):
- Combats Gonorrhoea
- Remedy for Convulsions
- May be useful in treating epilepsy
- Contains Antihelminthic Properties
- Reduces the risk of Anemia
Ukpaka and Pregnancy
Is Ukpaka or Ugba safe during pregnancy? Many Nigerians have been asking if this local food condiment is safe to be consumed during pregnancy. African oil bean seed is an affordable source of protein and minerals for pregnant women and lactating mothers. There’s no medical research that suggests it to be harmful during pregnancy.
Possible Side Effects of African Oil Bean Seed
Please note that African oil bean seeds or Ugba are found to contain a poisonous alkaloid called “paucine” and a growth depressant called “caffeoylputrescine.” In a bid to reduce the effects, experts suggest cooking and fermenting the oil bean seeds before ingesting it at all. The unfortunate thing is that most of the aforementioned minerals and vitamins become lesser immediately you ferment the African oil bean seeds.