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Teff: A Gluten-Free Nutritional Powerhouse

by: Judy Feder

If you suffer from Celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten, then you have probably already heard about Teff and if you haven’t, get ready to learn about a nutritional powerhouse of a grain you should seriously consider adding to your diet.  Teff is the main ingredient in the Ethiopian and Eritrean engera, which is a flat sour-like fermented pancake that is used with "wot", a stew made with spices, meats, lentils, beans and split peas. The grain is tiny, round, and khaki-colored and closely resembles millet.

In fact, Teff is the smallest grain in the world and often is lost in the harvesting and threshing process because of its size.  It has long been known by Ethiopians and Eritreans for its superior nutritional quality, containing 11% protein, 80% complex carbohydrate and 3% fat.  Teff is also an excellent source of essential amino acids, especially lysine, the amino acid that is most often deficient in grain foods, and has even more than barley, millet, and wheat.

It is also an excellent source of fiber and iron, and has many times the amount of calcium, potassium and other essential minerals found in an equal amount of other grains. Plus, the short fermentation process of making engera allows the yeast to generate even more vitamins. The high fiber content of the grain is particularly helpful in dealing with diabetes and helping with blood sugar control.

Though almost no research is available regarding the risk and prevalence of diabetes specifically among Ethiopian immigrants in the United States, a study done in Israel among new African immigrants compared the prevalence rates of diabetes in newly arrived immigrants and in immigrants who had been residing in Israel for 2.5 - 4 years. The study showed that new immigrants form Ethiopia, in 1984-1985 and 1991, had prevalence rates as low as 0.4% and 0% respectively and the rate was found to be 8.9% among Ethiopians who had been residing in Israel for 2.5 - 4 years, which was after being exposed to a Western diet and lifestyle.  Go Teff!

Judy feder is a health and nutrition specialist. To read more of her articles, visit her online at

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