Teff: Health Benefits and Nutritional Value

Teff

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is an annual gluten-free crop that belongs to the grass family (Poaceae). The edible seeds of the plant (Teff grains) are very small, so the seeds are not peeled, and teff is always a whole grain. Traditionally, Teff is mainly grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea. But due to the increasing worldwide demand for both authentic ancient grains and alternative, gluten-free grains, teff will be grown all over the world in 2021, including in the Netherlands. Because Teff is an important supplier of complex carbohydrates, vegetable proteins, a lot of fibre, vitamins and minerals, the grain is particularly nutritious. In addition, Teff is gluten-free, which makes this ancient grain a suitable alternative to other gluten-free grains.

What is Teff?

Teff is a crop of the love grass genus (Eragrostis), which is part of the grass family (Poaceae). It is a gluten-free ancient grain with a high nutritional value. Teff has been grown for centuries in the Horn of Africa, mainly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Here Teff is an important staple crop for the population. Teff is an annual plant, which can reach an average height of 150 to 200 cm. Teff is a fast growing crop. The process from seeding to harvesting takes place in approximately 90 days, depending on weather conditions. After the flowering period, very small seeds (Teff grains) appear, which are among the smallest seeds in the world. Teff, which comes in many variations, can contain as many as 10,000 seeds and the seeds can be white, beige, light brown, red or dark brown in color. In 2021, the white and brown variants are the most popular. The crop adapts well and can therefore grow in different weather conditions. Partly because of this and the increasing demand for ancient grains and gluten-free grains, Teff will be grown in India, Australia, parts of the United States and in Europe in 2021. In the Netherlands, Teff has been grown since the beginning of the 21st century. However, the climate risk for the cultivation of Teff in the Netherlands is high.

It should be dry around harvest time and in the Netherlands it is often too wet. parts of the United States and in Europe. In the Netherlands, Teff has been grown since the beginning of the 21st century. However, the climate risk for the cultivation of Teff in the Netherlands is high. It should be dry around harvest time and in the Netherlands it is often too wet. parts of the United States and in Europe. In the Netherlands, Teff has been grown since the beginning of the 21st century. However, the climate risk for the cultivation of teff in the Netherlands is high. It should be dry around harvest time and in the Netherlands it is often too wet.

An ancient grain

Teff is an ancient grain. Ancient grains are ancient grains that have not been manipulated. Because they are less processed, ancient grains contain specific amino acids and many minerals. These authentic grains have been forgotten and eventually largely replaced by wheat in the western world. Due to genetic processing and monoculture (prolonged cultivation of a single crop), important nutrients of wheat have been lost. Partly because of this, ancient grains are making a comeback and Teff is one of these authentic, returning grains.

Gluten-free grain

Teff is known as a gluten-free grain. However, the crop does contain a small proportion of gluten, but this is the so-called glutenin fraction and not the gliadin fraction, the harmful gluten component.

The nutritional value of Teff

The ancient grain Teff contains the following nutrients per 100 grams:

  • Fiber 8.0 (g)
  • Vitamin B1 0.4 (g)
  • Vitamin B2 0.3 (g)
  • Vitamin B3 3.3 (g)
  • Vitamin B5 0.9 (g)
  • Vitamin B6 0.5 (g)
  • Vitamin C 0.3 (g)
  • Calcium 180 (mg)
  • Sodium 12.0 (mg)
  • Potassium 427 (mg)
  • Phosphorus 429 (mg)
  • Iron 7.6 (mg)
  • Magnesium 184 (mg)
  • Copper 0.7 (mg)
  • Zinc 2 (mg)

Teff contains many vitamins from the B group and even a small proportion of vitamin C. In addition, teff is particularly high in fiber and the grain contains many important minerals. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, copper and iron are particularly abundant.

The health benefits of Teff

Suitable for strengthening the gut microbiome

Because Teff is high in fiber, Teff keeps the intestines healthy and prevents both diarrhea and constipation. Teff contains largely insoluble fibers that, because they absorb water, make the stool more flexible and also stimulate bowel movements.
The Health Council’s disc of five recommends a daily intake of 30 to 40 grams of fiber. The proportion of fiber in the whole grain Teff is considerably higher, compared to most other grains. This applies to all varieties of Teff, but the highest proportion is found in brown Teff. Adequate fiber intake can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and colon cancer.

Suitable for diabetics and people who want to lose weight

Teff is an important supplier of slowly digestible, complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) and thus provides the body with energy for a longer period of time. Because Teff contains more polysaccharides, this prevents a high blood sugar level, so that less production of insulin is required. This makes eating Teff suitable for diabetics, athletes or people who want to lose weight.

Suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance

Gluten is a group of proteins found in all grains. However, the grains containing the gliadin fraction, such as wheat and spelt, can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. This occurs in people with a gluten sensitivity or in people with the autoimmune disease celiac disease. Celiac disease, only with minimal intake of the harmful gluten component, causes a serious inflammatory reaction and damage to the small intestine. Improvement only occurs when an absolutely gluten-free diet is followed. Since, for example, corn, rice and also Teff do not contain the harmful gliadin fraction, these grains do not cause physical complaints in people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Suitable for vegans and vegetarians

Our body needs enough protein every day, among other things for the production of muscle mass, certain enzymes and hormones. According to the Guidelines for a good diet of the Health Council of 2015, eating vegetable proteins provides many health benefits. The opposite is true for consuming too much animal protein, especially large amounts of red and processed meat. In 2021, animal proteins are still the most important source of proteins, but animal proteins are increasingly being replaced by vegetable proteins. When animal proteins are completely omitted, such as with vegans and partly with vegetarians, it is important to ensure an adequate intake of B1, B2, B12, iron and calcium. All of these nutrients, except B12, are present in Teff. This makes Teff a suitable plant-based alternative to animal proteins. Especially the high concentration of iron in Teff can contribute to the prevention of anemia. The high proportion of calcium present in Teff, compared to most other grains, is important for various bodily processes. Calcium ensures, among other things, bone building, muscle contraction, hormone metabolism and blood clotting. A deficiency of calcium can lead to osteoporosis (bone loss).

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