Originating from the fertile agricultural regions of Ethiopia and Eritrea, in eastern Africa, teff has an exquisite, refined taste, providing high nutritional properties, and is currently enjoying a wave of popularity outside of its native land, winning over professional athletes and health-conscious individuals who prefer to fashion their own special diet.
The main motivation for teff’s growing popularity lies in its nutritional profile. Teff offers consumers a gluten-free alternative, constituting an excellent source of thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6. In addition, it is above all a great source of protein, amino acids and fiber. For instance, a 50 gram portion of teff contains 7 grams of protein, the equivalent of a large egg. The calcium and iron content in teff is higher than in wheat, rice, oats and millet.
A daily intake of 100 grams of teff (less than half a cup) provides more than 10% of the recommended allowance of many minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, while also providing 143% of our daily requirement of manganese.
As teff is a ‘whole’ grain by definition, given the seed’s tiny size and the fact that it is entirely ground when processed into flour, it is thus an excellent source of fiber. Teff has several times the amount of calcium, potassium and other essential minerals found in an equivalent quantity of commonly used cereals. Furthermore, when teff is used to make Injera – the traditional ‘bread’ of Ethiopia – the brief natural fermentation and leavening process allegedly generates even more nutritional content.
In Ethiopia, it has been estimated that the absence of anemia appears to be correlated to areas of teff consumption, presumably due to its high iron content.
The nutritional values of different varieties of teff – mainly ivory varieties and dark varieties – do not significantly alter its properties. However, among many Ethiopians consumers, ivory teff is considered more prestigious than darker (reddish brown) varieties, although the latter have a nutty, more pronounced flavour.
-Lost Crops of Africa: Volume 1, Grains. (Cap. 12, Tef; pag. 215-236) National Academy Press, Washington D.C., 1996.
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