Tiny teff is the latest super grain to grab the imagination of the health conscious. Farmed in Ethiopia, it’s packed with nutrients and is versatile to boot…
Originating in North Africa, teff is sure to grab a few headlines in the coming months, and, while it’s available in some health food shops, we’re betting it won’t be long before it’s more prominently displayed between the brown rice and lentils on supermarket shelves.
It ticks all the boxes a trendy alternative grain should – gluten-free, vintage (it’s from ancient agricultural stock) and packed with enough health benefits to make quinoa green with envy. Tobia Teff have been distributing the grain since 2010, but owner Sophie Sirak-Kebede has been enjoying the benefits of teff all her life.
"I was consuming teff before I came to earth, in my mother’s womb," she says. "It’s the smallest grain in the world, about the size of a full stop. This makes it very hard to damage and therefore much of the nutrition inside stays intact."
So what of these nutrition credentials? Here are some key reasons to make teff a part of your daily diet:
Teff’s biggest claim is its impressive calcium content. With 17 times more calcium than whole wheat or barley, it’s the perfect dietary addition for those undergoing heavy training to help protect joints and bones and support muscle growth and function.
I won’t preach to the converted, we all know a low-GI diet is key for keeping blood sugar levels steady and sustaining energy throughout the day. Sophie recommends eating teff first thing to keep your energy up, ‘’You can eat teff as a breakfast cereal or prepare as a porridge with milk.
It’s particularly good for athletes because of its slow releasing energy.’’ To bolster taste she recommends adding dried fruit as her children do, which will also provide some immediate energy if you’re planning to exercise in the next 30 minutes - two hours.
The amino acid composition of teff is similar to that of egg protein (apart from a lower lysine content). Like quinoa, teff is a complete protein and therefore is an excellent option for vegetarians. Experiment baking with teff to make healthy banana breads or muffins for the perfect after exercise snack, as it’s also high in carbohydrates, yet low in calories.
Magnesium, potassium, B vitamins AND vitamin C
You’re probably getting the picture that we could extol the virtues of teff’s nutritional content long after you’ve lost interest. Full of vitamin B1, 2,3 and 6 – these water-soluble vitamins play crucial roles in energy production, making them vital for all athletes.
Exercise can deplete magnesium and potassium stores in the body so making sure you’re getting your daily dose is important. Finally, vitamin C is key in many biochemical pathways, supporting the immune system and aiding the absorption of iron - all vital to keep you performing at your best.
Read more about teff and other alternative grains at bbcgoodfood.com
Roxanne Fisher is bbcgoodfood.com’s health editor. You can find more health and nutrition tips at www.bbcgoodfood.com/health-nutrition