Teff chips and snacks are increasingly becoming a popular healthy food option. The reason? The main ingredient, teff, is nutrient-dense and gluten-free.
The tiny grain, native of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and a few other Eastern Africa countries, is seeing a renaissance of its kind in the west. Given its numerous health benefits, sustainability, and versatility, it’s not difficult to see why.
However, if you’re like me (and most other people), you may be wondering: What is teff, and how come I’ve never heard about it?
Well, worry, not. You’re in the right place. We’ll tell you all about teff, and the health and sustainability qualities that make it a superfood.
What is Teff?
Teff is a small fine grain – about the size of a poppy seed. Its grains come in different colors, such as white, mixed, or red, with white fetching a higher price compared to the red variety.
The ancient grain from Ethiopia and Eritrea is a staple in those countries, accounting for about two-thirds of the daily protein intake. It’s used in making different kinds of injera (a pancake-like flatbread), porridge, and animal feed.
While teff predominantly grows in these African countries, it has been introduced in other regions and countries. Idaho in the U.S., for example, produces some of the best quality teff in the world.
If you’re wondering, teff is used in a similar way to millet and quinoa, other popular super-foods. The growing interest in the grain reflects a trend of consumer desire for ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth, among others, because they are natural (Non-GMO) and nutrient-dense. Teff’s small size also means that you can cook it rapidly, while using lower energy.
The grain packs a serious nutritional punch and has a mild nutty flavor.
Teff Sustainability and Health Benefits
A Small Grain with Immense Health Benefits
Teff has been called a superfood. It’s densely packed with essential nutrients that promote health and well-being. Here are some of the top health benefits.
Gluten-free and easy to cook & digest
For people who have Celiac disease, teff is a healthy gluten-free alternative. Even for the gluten-tolerant people, you’ll find it easier on your digestive system.
Its small size makes it easier to prepare, and it you can enjoy as a snack, chips, porridge, or additive to shakes etc.
Rich in essential vitamins & minerals
Teff is famous for its dense calcium content. A cooked cup of the grain contains 123mg of calcium, which is equivalent to about a cup of cooked spinach.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health, and can also help relieve PMS symptoms in women.
It also has an unusually high iron content. Not surprisingly, it’s usually commonly recommended for patients suffering from anemia that can come from iron deficiency.
Other essential nutrients in the grain include magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, among others.
Full of healthy fiber
Fun fact: Teff contains five times as much fiber as regular wheat flour. An ounce of teff flour has about five grams of fiber compared to only a gram in the all-purpose wheat flour.
Fiber helps improve digestion by easing pressure on the intestines. It also helps clear out accumulated waste and toxins. As such, it promotes digestive regularity and reduces constipation.
Rich in protein
Uncooked teff contains 13.3g of proteins per every 100grams. As such, teff can deliver substantial growth support to our bodies since they require protein to create and repair cells.
It also provides a healthier alternative to animal proteins that take more energy to break down, and have been blamed for contributing significantly to carbon and methane emissions.
A Sustainable Grain
Even before the current rush to grow and consume teff, the U.S National Research Council had flagged it as an excellent grain for sustainable development in the U.S. and abroad by 1996.
It’s a particularly efficient crop. Just a single pound can sow an entire acre, sprouts in only 36 hours (shortest time-span for any grain), and yields up to a tonne of grain in about twelve weeks.
Furthermore, it can survive in a range of climatic conditions. Teff is relatively immune to drought, and flooding compared to many other kinds of cereal. Surprisingly, it grows well in both dry and waterlogged soils.
While it reproduces in plenty, teff flourishes with lower or no pesticides, require less irrigation, and far fewer inputs overall.
Apart from the grain itself that can be used as food and fodder for animals, the plant’s stalks can be used for basic construction and as fuel.
Teff is undeniably a super food and super grain. It’s not only nutrient-dense and good for your health, but also has a small carbon footprint. It grows pretty fast and produces plenty.
Now you know. If you haven’t already had a taste, it’s time you considered adding teff and its products – like teff chips – to your diet. You won’t regret it.