The Health Benefits of Teff

Did You Know…that an ancient Ethiopian gluten-free grain alternative offers more healthy, nondairy calcium than any other grain food?

Actually, the impressive super food called teff isn’t a grain at all.  Like quinoa, teff is technically a seed—one that’s been long relied on in Ethiopia for protection against famine and as a source of necessary nutrients and affordable sustenance.

You may have eaten teff in the form of injera, a sourdough risen flat bread with a spongy texture, often served at Ethiopian restaurants.  Until recently, this was the only place you’d likely encounter teff in the United States.  All that’s changing, though, as this ancient food gets recognized for its astonishing nutritional profile.

Teff is…

  • Loaded with more calcium than any other grain—one cup of teff offers about 123 mg of calcium
  • A complete protein—a 2 oz serving contains as much protein as an egg; experts estimate that Ethiopians—including famous long-distance runners—get two thirds of their protein from teff
  • The only ancient seed to contain vitamin C
  • Completely gluten and grain-free
  • Rich in iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, fiber, and protein
Teff Prevents Anemia

Teff originates in the highlands of Ethiopia, a region known to have one of the lowest rates of anemia in the world.  Researchers attribute the absence of anemia in this region to the popularity of teff, with its high iron content. 

Teff’s outstanding nutritional profile even outperforms its South American superfood cousin, quinoa.  And unlike many gluten-free grain options, teff is rich in fiber, which helps improve digestion.  Meanwhile its nutrient profile fights the growth of certain cancerous cells, enhances bone and dental formation, and promotes optimal cardiovascular function.

Teff Facts:

  • Most U.S. grown teff comes from Idaho, where growing conditions are ideal
  • Historians say teff is one of the earliest crops cultivated by humans
  • Teff offers a fantastic source of vegan protein.  Not only does it contain all the essential amino acids, but it’s also more nutrient dense than many proteins
  • The high levels of iron in teff can help control blood sugar levels

An Easy, Versatile Food 

Teff has light and dark varieties; lighter shades are usually milder, while darker strains have a stronger, nuttier flavor.  Teff can be found online and in natural food stores in whole “grain” (remember, it is actually a seed) or flour form.  Teff “grain” can be prepared in a variety of ways, including as a healthy substitute for rice, cereal, or pasta.  Teff flour is as easy to cook with as any other flour and makes a great alternative for breads and baked goods. It can also serve as a thickener for soups and gravies.

If you like teff and find it easy to cook with, then swapping out white flour for this ancient superfood could be a small dietary change that imparts huge health and wellness benefits.