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Powerhouse grain is gaining ground

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – We see so-called “ancient grains” everywhere — in cereals, breads and even tortillas. But one grain you’ve probably never heard of is gaining ground — teff, a tiny whole grain used as a staple of traditional Ethiopian cooking for thousands of years.

“I first learned of teff when I was researching for an article on the diets of African runners and ever since that time I just became intrigued,” says Jackie Dikos, a registered dietitian in Indianapolis and elite level runner.

Teff is the smallest grain in the world, about the size of a poppy seed, and has a mild nutty flavor.

“Teff is a food [Ethiopians] depend on every single day for a bread they make that’s kind of like a pancake called injera, and I thought ‘if this is something that can sustain their diet then maybe it’s something we should consider incorporating as maybe a staple food in our diet,” says Dikos.

Teff leads all the world’s grains in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123 mg, or 12 percent of the recommended daily value (DV). A serving of teff also contains 20 percent DV of iron, 25 percent DV of magnesium and 14 percent DV of protein at 7 grams. Teff’s protein content is equivalent to that of quinoa.

Teff is also high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood sugar management, weight control and colon health.

“Resistant starch is a great form of fiber that carries the benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber but also its a way to feed that good bacteria in our gut,” explains Dikos.

Currently, teff can be found in local health food stores and in some local grocery stores, most often under the Bob’s Red Mill brand. The food packager sells teff in its “grains of discovery” line of products promoting grains like chia, millet and spelt that nourished the world’s ancient civilizations.

Bob’s Red Mill provides a host of recipes on its website using teff. Dikos prepares a dish for teff breakfast porridge currently printed on the back of the bag. The recipe is below:Teff Porridge with Dates and Honey

1 cup teff

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 cups water

3/4 pitted dates, halved crossways

1/4 tsp salt

3 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup walnuts

Directions:Heat a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add teff, and toast stirring frequently until the grain begins to pop, 3-6 minutes. Add water, butter and cloves. Stir well. Bring to a gentle boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in dates, salt and honey. Cover and continue cooking until teff is tender, and the porridge is the desired consistency, another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with walnuts and yogurt, milk or cream. Drizzle with more honey. Makes 8 servings.

“This is kind of a breakfast version of the porridge where it’s on the sweeter side with some cloves, honey, but it still offers that great nutritional punch in the morning that keeps you full and satisfied throughout the day,” says Dikos.