Move over quinoa, there’s a hot new grain on the menu that you might want to add to your shopping list.
What actually is teff?
Teff (or to give its full name, Eragrostis tef) is a tiny ancient grain and a traditional staple in Ethiopia. There are about 350 varieties varying in colour, with the most common types being white, red and brown. It’s been largely considered a nutritional powerhouse, as a small yet powerful grain that packs in more nutritional value than many other grains, without needing to be fortified.
Here are six reasons why you might want to pick up some teff on your next shop.
1. Fabulous Fibre
Teff is rich in dietary fibre, packing in 7g per cooked cup on average (although this can vary between types of teff), mostly thanks to its bran content. That’s just over a quarter of your daily recommended fibre intake. What’s more, increasing your fibre intake by 8g a day has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
2. Super Starch
Teff flour is also high in resistant starch (making up as much as 70% of its dry weight), a type of fibre that’s quite literally ‘resistant’ to digestion in the small intestine. Instead, it heads straight down into our large intestine, where it feeds our gut bacteria, in turn producing beneficial compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs have been found to be pretty important for supporting our immune system and can also help balance our blood sugars.
3. Plant-based Protein
While the protein content can vary between different types of teff, it can be a great plant-based source of protein (around 10g per cooked cup) with a good balance of essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. However, if you’re eating 100% plant-based (aka vegan), teff isn’t a ‘complete’ protein, so it’s worth pairing with legumes or other plant-based sources to ensure you get all the essential amino acids. One study found brown teff contained higher levels of essential amino acids than white teff, so it might be worth going for the brown varieties where you can.
4. Important Iron
It’s a good source of iron (50mg per 100g in brown teff), a vital mineral that plays a role in a number of important processes within our bodies, yet is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide. In fact, higher consumption of teff is thought to be a factor in the low anaemia rates in Ethiopia. The iron in teff is thought to be significantly more bio-available (meaning it’s more easily absorbed by the body) than in wheat bread. That being said, it’s still important to recognise that its bioavailability isn’t as good as animal sources of iron (known as haem-iron) so it’s a good idea to side with tomatoes or peppers (sources of vitamin c) to help get the most out of it.
5. Greatly Gluten-free
It’s naturally gluten-free, making it the ideal choice for people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity. It’s been formulated into a whole range of coeliac-friendly food products, from breads to biscuits.
6. Powerful Polyphenols
Polyphenols, a fancy word for beneficial plant chemicals we find in many plant-based foods, are found in much higher levels in teff than in other cereals such as maize and wheat (although this can vary depending on the type).
Okay, I’m convinced! So, how can we eat teff?
Teff is super versatile and, even better, it cooks quickly. Teff flour can be used for a whole host of different foods, from sourdough, flat breads, pasta, snack bars, pancakes, cookies, biscuits and more. It’s available as both a flour and small grains, but we much prefer the grains for recipes such as the Banana, Fig and Courgette Breakfast loaf Eat Yourself Healthy & Love Your Gut).
Teff grain flour is widely used to make injera – a fermented pancake-like soft flatbread that’s a staple in Ethiopia. It can even be fermented to make beer, although you might want to leave that to the experts. The flavour of teff can range from a slight bitterness to a sweeter taste with hints of cocoa and hazelnut, so pick up a pack and get experimenting with teff in the kitchen!
How can you get your hands on teff?
Most health foods stores have it, or if you’re living the online shopping life, it’s an easy addition to your next amazon purchase (for the Aussies, online health foods stores will be your best bet, Amazon Aus hasn’t quite caught up yet!).
Nascimento, K., et al., 2018. Teff: Suitability for Different Food Applications and as a Raw Material of Gluten-free, a Literature Review. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research.
Zhu, F., 2018. Chemical composition and food uses of teff (Eragrostis tef). Food Chemistry.