I like to think that I keep on top of things as far as the health world goes, but every once in a while, something will come up that I’ve never even heard of, much less looked into. Teff is the latest thing to make it onto that short – yet ever growing – list. Interested in learning more about it, I started googling. And now that I know a little more about this (pretty spectacular) grain, you will too by the time you get to the end of this article (handy how that works, isn’t it?).
What Is Teff?
Teff is a super tiny grain (one of the smallest in the world, actually) that’s grown natively in Ethiopia. Still, it’s so adaptable that it can be grown virtually anywhere (which is why I’m considering possibly planting my own in the spring).
It’s generally used to make injera (which is a pretty tasty sourdough flatbread/tortilla type thing), but the nutritional punch this grain packs makes it so much more than that! It’s a great source of iron, fiber, calcium, protein, calcium, manganese, B vitamins, and much more.
It’s also gluten-free (because it’s actually a grass) and low carb – which makes it absolutely perfect for anyone that’s Celiac or on any sort of low-carb diet. It’s also a wonderful alternative grain for diabetics (for a complete rundown, click here for the nutritional value of the grain when it’s uncooked or click here if you’d like to know the nutritional value of cooked teff).
The grain ranges in colors from dark red to white – That’s what determines their flavor. It’s got a grainy, nutty texture (kind of like poppy seeds, but nuttier) that can add a ton of dimension (and nutrition!) to your favorite dishes. Darker varieties of the ancient grain have a more hazelnut, earthy flavor (which is definitely not a bad thing in this case), while white varieties have a milder, chestnut-like flavor.
You can get it in either grain or flour form, and it’s stocked at most health food stores. After a brief look around, I couldn’t find a grocery store in my area that carried it, but I imagine places like Whole Foods probably would (any grocery store in the city probably does, too). If all else fails, it can be found online.
It can be boiled, steamed, baked, or raw and is great for making cereal, pancakes, breads, cookies, cakes, snack bars, pies, and more.
Supported In A Wide Variety Of Diets
If you’re a vegan, you know just how important (albeit sometimes difficult) it is to get enough protein in your diet. Teff may be exactly your answer – Not only does it taste great, but it’s versatility should up your protein levels in no time.
If you have gluten sensitivities, teff may become your favorite gluten-free alternative to flour (and cereal). The other great thing about teff is that it’s chalked full of fiber, which is actually pretty hard to find in gluten-free grain alternatives.
Diabetics could actually benefit from working this grain into their diets as well – It has a relatively low glycemic index, and contains between 20 and 40% of resistant starches. Eating teff will help you stay fuller longer and keep your blood sugar stable. Those on low-carb diets will find the same benefits.
A Heart Healthy Choice
The vitamins and minerals, high fiber, and low sodium in teff make it a great addition to your diet if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. For best results, make sure that you’re investing in the unprocessed version of the grain – The preprocessed variety often has additives, preservatives, and a much higher sodium count. You should be able to see what you need to do when reading the label; when in doubt, just ask.
Wards Off The Common Cold
Another unique trait of this grain is that it’s got Vitamin C in it. Cold and flu season is officially here, and if you’ve got small children in school it’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon and you’re going to want to have everything on hand that you possibly can to keep it at bay. Add the Vitamin C to all of the other nutritional value you get in teff, and you’ve got a pretty decent defense.
Makes Your Gut Happy
And – as the world is finally beginning to understand – a happy gut will equal a happy life. That wonderful fiber that helps your body’s blood sugar stay stable and makes you feel full longer also helps food move along your digestive tract so that you can “go” easier.
Could Help Prevent Anemia
Although I can’t find a study to back any of this up, it’s said that the Ethiopian Highlands (where the grain is natively grown) has one of the lowest rates of anemia in the world. They seem to attribute this to eating teff, which kind of makes sense when you look at the high iron content found in it.
Could Help You Lose Weight
Because teff helps you feel fuller longer, you’re less likely to overeat at meal time or snack in between the meals. The clearing of your digestive system will also help you get rid of any excess bloat you’ve been experiencing, which can not only slim your waistline but help you feel better overall.
A Great Choice For Your Post-Workout Meal
A two ounce serving of teff has the same amount of protein in it as one egg, which makes it an absolutely perfect choice for snacking on after lifting or going for a run (or whatever it is you prefer doing when you’re at the gym). And since it can be used in so many different ways, it’ll be a while before you go through all of your options (and by then who knows? We may discover a new grain to try out by then).
10 Different Ways To Try Teff
As I mentioned before, there are a whole bunch of ways that you can enjoy the ancient grain. To save you some time and energy, I’ve compiled a couple of recipes for you. You may still have to experiment a little bit to find something that suits your personal palate, but this list should get you off to a pretty good start
It only makes sense that we’d start the list out with the trtraditional teff flatbread. There are a ton of different recipes online for it, but this is definitely the easiest to put together I found. Enjoy your homemade injera with soup, stew, curry, fruit, by itself…. The possibilities are endless (it’s can also be a great fill-in if you don’t live near your favorite Ethiopian restaurant)!
Recipe: Vegan Richa
Teff Porridge With Apples, Dates, And Pecans
Really, is there anything better on a freezing cold morning than a hot bowl of porridge? I don’t think there is. This recipe is pretty seasonal, but if you don’t like the extra ingredients or you don’t have them on hand, feel free to add your own personal favorites. With a bowl of this before work, you’ll definitely have no problem at all staying focused and energized all the way through lunchtime.
Are you one of those people who loves all things pumpkin flavored regardless of what time of year it is? You’re going to absolutely love this recipe if that’s the case – Not only is it gluten-free and vegan-friendly (and super tasty), but the nuttiness of the teff flour pairs beautifully with the pumpkin and ginger. Great for any time of the day, and a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving spread.
Recipe: Pumpkin Loaf
Healthy Homemade Fruit Cereal Bars
You know those cereal bars that you can buy for your lunches at the grocery store? They’re not nearly as good for you as you might think – Not only are most of them made with bleached flour (which has little to no nutritional value), but they’re also absolutely chalked full of sugar. If you (or your kids) love cereal bars and want a healthy, vegan friendly, and gluten free alternative, try this recipe out (and let me know how it goes if you do – They’d be great to make when my nephew comes to visit if they taste as good as they look like they do).
Recipe: Tessa, The Domestic Diva
Vidalia Onion Teff Salad With Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
In the summertime, I think that this would be an absolutely perfect main course, but it will certainly do just fine as a side dish to almost anything you serve this winter. If you’re not a big onion lover, don’t use as much of it (is it just me, or does this recipe call for a lot of onion?). Tweaked to your personal tastes; you’ll want to make extra so that you can take it for lunches during the week (just remember to not put the dressing on it until you’re ready to eat it unless you find soggy messes palatable).
Easy Pizza Crust
Even if you’re not vegan or gluten-free, you might want to seriously consider trying this crust out (Seriously, I made it last night, and it’s good. Better than any vegan or gluten-free crust I’ve ever tried). It’s super easy to make and very adaptable (I added herbs to mine for extra dimension and flavor).
Recipe: 86 Lemons
Gluten Free Brownies
Love that brownie taste and texture but wish that there was a healthier alternative? Then this is definitely the recipe for you. Since the brownies are whole grain, they’re definitely healthier than the boxed version. You’ll also get the pleasure of knowing exactly what goes into them (a privilege lost when it comes to the boxed counterpart). If you’re got little ones at home and you’re planning to start your holiday baking soon, this is definitely something you’re going to want to add to your “must make” list.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Chocolate zucchini bread is a healthy choice all on its own, but substitute most of the regular flour you usually use for teff flour (and the rest for gluten free) and you’ve got yourself a healthy loaf that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime in between. Protip: When you make this, you might want to whip up a couple of them to freeze as well (they probably won’t be in the freezer for very long, but it beats having to make a new loaf every couple of days).
Recipe: Petite Allergy Treats
Gluten-Free, Vegan Homemade Bread (That Doesn’t Suck)
If you’ve never tried grocery store gluten-free bread before, don’t – Most of them taste like Styrofoam. If, however, you have the patience to make bread (which can sometimes be incredibly tricky), you’ll definitely want to give this one a try. Full disclosure – I’ve never made it myself, so I can’t speak to the difficulty level, but I have had it, and I promise you that if it’s don’t right, it tastes better than any gluten-free bread out there.
Recipe: 86 Lemons
Gluten Free Graham Crackers
Gluten free graham crackers are another thing that seem to taste horrible no matter where you get them from. No worries – Wherever there’s a food problem, there’s a blogger out there that’s willing to tackle and solve it. Even if you’re not restricting gluten in your diet, you might want to consider working these into your diet for some extra nutrition as well as the experience of tasting a graham cracker that’s so much better than anything you’ve ever purchased before.
Recipe: Fork and Beans
While I think that the term superfood is certainly overused (especially lately), I would definitely say that teff is a super grain. Even if it doesn’t replace the flour you’re using now full time, it’s definitely something that every household should have on hand.