TEFF: The latest ancient grain set to hit the scene

Quinoa is sooo 2014, haven’t you heard of Teff? Brace yourself because there is yet another ancient grain that is about to send health nuts into a frenzy and kick quinoa from its top spot as the latest trending grain. Teff was primarily cultivated in Ethiopia, where it has been used a staple for thousands of years. Thanks to the gluten phobia that is now plagueing society, I predict that Teff’s popularity will rise as people seek alternate grain options, like millet and amaranth.

Teff is quite dense and resembles tiny brown sand particles, similar to poppy seeds. Traditionally teff is ground into flour and fermented to make a spongy kind of sourdough bread called injera. If you have ever been to an African restaurant you may have been served this to eat with the rest of your dishes.

INJERA: Ethiopian flat bread made using teff flour 

INJERA: Ethiopian flat bread made using teff flour 

However you can benefit from the grain simply by cooking it over the stove. For a creamy porridge like consistency cook 1 cup teff with 3 cups water over the stove, to which you can add your choice of toppings.

Teff grains resemble small poppy seeds. It is commonly available in white, red/brown (pictured) and mixed varieties). 

Teff grains resemble small poppy seeds. It is commonly available in white, red/brown (pictured) and mixed varieties). 

 Nutritional benefits: Teff is known for being a great plant derived source of calcium. 1 cup of cooked teff has approx. 123mg calcium, similar to half a cup of cooked spinach. However it also contains phytic acid, a calcium absorption inhibitor, so to reduce this, soak the grain overnight and cook it before eating. Teff’s biggest nutrition benefit is its high amount of resistant starch. Recent research has proven that this type of fibre is an important probiotic, ie food to help keep your healthy gut bacteria levels growing (read more in our previous blog Getting to the guts of it). Dietary fibre has a host of other benefits including appetite suppression that in turns helps with weight management, blood sugar regulation and protects against bowel cancer.

Where can you buy it?

It is not quite as common as quinoa, amaranth and other ancient grains quite yet. Some larger supermarket chains with International sections like Coles and speciality health stores stock Teff. One report found 500g Teff at Coles for $11. A rather expensive choice considering 1kg rolled oats is around $2.

Any downsides?

Apart from its cost, Teff is quite dense and due to its tiny seed-like texture means it sticks together when it’s cooked. So it isn’t as versatile as say quinoa, pearl couscous or rice. If you want to trial Teff it makes a better porridge or soup/stew thickener. If you find it in a flour, mix it with other flours to increase the fibre content of your other flours when baking.

VERDICT:

  • Practicality: 6/10
  • Nutrition: 9/10
  • Cost & availability:2/10 

An interesting grain to watch out for and perhaps sample if you ever see it on a menu. There are no superior grains, just eat a wide variety of wholegrains – you can get the same benefits from much cheaper and easier to prepare varieties.