Bored of bread, cereal, rice and pasta? Perhaps it’s time to consider teff – a little known gluten-free grain that packs a big nutritional punch!

If you haven’t heard of teff, you’re not alone. Although teff is grown by over 6 million farmers and accounts for more than 20% of all land under cultivation in Ethiopia, it has never really found its way to Europe – until recently. A highly nutritious grain, teff consists of tiny seeds, which are extremely rich in vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein. Even better, teff is naturally gluten-free, which means it can substitute for wheat flour in bread, pasta, pizza bases etc., while delivering superior levels of nutrients. And while it’s true that there are other very nutritious grains out there, what makes teff special is its high levels of protein, calcium and iron – ideal for anyone following a vegetarian diet – and the fact that it can be easily made into tasty bread!

Try teff for yourself

When you’re trying to improve your workout nutrition, it’s all too easy to focus on sports nutrition products, such as carbohydrate drinks and gels, caffeine etc. However, as the research on teff demonstrates, a few simple changes to your day-to-day diet can also make a big and positive difference. For vegetarian and/or gluten-free athletes in particular, substituting regular breads and cereals for teff varieties could be an excellent way to improve iron status and ensure optimum endurance performance. Teff is also a good thickener for soups, stews and gravies. Moreover, its mild slightly molasses-like sweetness makes it easy to use in biscuits, cakes stir fry dishes and casseroles. Maybe it’s time to try teff!

Six teff facts

1. A cup of cooked teff provides over 120mg of calcium – the richest source of calcium amongst all the grains by a wide margin.

2. Teff is high in ‘resistant starch’, a type of dietary fibre that is currently being studied by scientists for its beneficial effects on blood-sugar, weight control, and colon health.

3. Teff is an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient not commonly found in grains.

4. Many of Ethipia’s famed long-distance runners have attributed their energy and health to teff.

5. White or ivory teff has the mildest flavour, with darker (red) varieties having an earthier taste.

6. Red teff sourced from Ethipia is extremely rich in iron, containing double (on a gram for gram basis) the amount of iron in a liver.

Source: The Whole Grains Council

Teff crop in Ethiopia

A crop of teff in its native Ethiopia

Teff bread recipe: gluten-free

Makes one loaf for about 15 slices

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups teff flour
  • 3/4 cups sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wet ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Other ingredients

  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Directions

Whisk together 1 packet of yeast with 1.5 cups of lukewarm water. Set aside for a few minutes.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

In a larger, separate bowl, whisk together the flax with the oil, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.

Cover with a moist towel and set in a warm place to rest for about one hour.

After After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Remove, let it cool and eat warm or at room temperature.

WORDS Andrew Hamilton PICTURES Shutterstock