Kapenta is a small fresh water sardine that originated from Lake Tanganyika.
Two species are known to exist; the Limnothrissa miodon and the Stolothrisssa Tanganicae. Both these species are planktivorous and pelagic. It has several other names in countries where it is found.
A recent chemical composition analysis of kapenta by the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) shows a great variation in the nutrient composition for the dry and fresh fish.
NFNC principal nutritionist Mr Musonda Mofu says dry kapenta contains 209 calories of food energy compared with 85 calories of food energy in fresh Kapenta.
In addition, dry Kapenta contains 63 grammes of protein and only 16 grammes in fresh Kapenta.
Overall this shows that, per portion, there are more benefits in dry kapenta than in fresh Kapenta.
The nutrition problems of iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency can also be addressed by consuming kapenta as it has a high content of these minerals.
Overall, 8.5 miligrammes (mg) of iron can be derived from dry Kapenta and 2.1 mg from fresh Kapenta.
In general, Kapenta is a healthy food and very rich in protein. It also has low levels of saturated fat and is a rich source for omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
As a result of this chemical composition, Kapenta, like other fishes, may reduce the risk of disease including prostate cancer, depending on the frequency of consumption.
Kapenta is also rich in Vitamin B12, which is important in the promotion of cardiovascular well being since it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance.
Homocysteine can damage artery walls and elevated levels could be a risk for atherosclerosis.
Allergic reactions can occur from virtually any food. A number of allergic reactions to kapenta have been reported.
Oral allergies in which the mouth itches or tingles after eating kapenta are common in some individuals.
Other reactions have been linked to anaphylaxis which is a severe systemic reaction in which the body releases large amounts of histamine.
When allergies are observed, it is recommended to see a doctor for assessment and advice.
Kapenta is key on the menus of many Zambians. It can be used to promote protein consumption especially among the poor.
Consumption of whole kapenta is also helpful as the intestines of kapenta provide a rich source of micronutrients.
[Zambia Daily Mail]