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The New Kids (Supergrains) on the Block - Freekeh and Teff

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on August 8, 2013, categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

The New Kids (Supergrains) on the Block - Freekeh and Teff

With reminders posted everywhere, from that box of cereal on your breakfast table to the newspaper you’re reading while eating it, most of us already know that whole grains can help support a balanced diet O’Neil C., et al. (2010). Whole-grain consumption is associated with diet quality and nutrient intake in adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 110:1461 . But, while traditional whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice are already finding their way into your shopping cart, consider reaching for a new-to-you whole grain, such as amaranth, buckwheat, teff, or freekeh. Here’s why:

From Whole Grains...

Let’s start with a refresher on grains, shall we? A grain contains three parts: endosperm, bran and germ. Whole grains, such as buckwheat, corn, rice, and wheat, contain all three parts of the grain, while refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, only contain the endosperm, with the bran and germ mechanically removed. While the bran and germ deliver a heartier, sometimes denser product, when compared to their light and fluffy refined counterpart, their nutrient profile is superior. Without the bran and germ you lose vitamins, minerals and fiber, all important parts of a healthy diet Whole Grains Council. (2003 – 2013) Definition of Whole Grains. Oldways Preservation Trust/Whole Grains Council. Accessed 7/1/13 from  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/definition-of-whole-grains .

...To Supergrains

Just when we thought whole grains were the best choice, along came “supergrains.” These grains go above and beyond in the nutrition department. Let’s take a closer look at two that are showing recent rise in popularity: teff and freekeh


What it is: 
Native to Ethiopia and Eritrea, gluten-free teff is an extremely tiny member of the genus Eragrostis (lovegrass) grain. Teff thrives in harsh weather conditions, through flood and drought alike, at sea level and altitudes upwards of 3000 meters. Thanks to its ability to thrive and at various climates, this crop is now grown everywhere from the mountains of Idaho, to the dry lands of India, to the wet Netherlands  Whole Grains Council. (2003 – 2013) Teff and Millet. November Grains of the Month. Oldways Preservation Trust/Whole Grains Council. Accessed 7/1/13 from http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/teff-and-millet-november-grains-of-the-month 

 Why it’s super: 
Because this grain is so tiny, it cannot be refined, meaning it’s always eaten in whole grain form National Research Council. (1996) Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, Accessed 7/2/13 from .http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2305&page=222 . And, despite their tiny size, each kernel offers a big nutritional bite. Teff is most well-known for its calcium content, with 1 cup cooked providing 10%DV Whole Grains Council. (2003 – 2013) Teff and Millet. November Grains of the Month. Oldways Preservation Trust/Whole Grains Council. Accessed 7/1/13 from http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/teff-and-millet-november-grains-of-the-month . It’s also an excellent source of fiber, with 1 cup of cooked providing 7 grams of fiber.

Try it tonight:
Ethiopian teff is commonly used as an edible plate in the form of a large crepe-like pancake called Injera. Its light, slightly sweet taste makes teff flour a great swap for white flour for homemade crepes, or in your pancake batter. When not ground, teff has a similar consistency to poppy seeds and is great when sprinkled on top of soups and salads. Try a Vega One™ Teff Porridge for breakfast tomorrow.


What it is: 
Native to the Middle East, this supergrain is actually derived from wheat, but harvested when the crop is green and under-ripe, then roasted and dried before processing. By harvesting at this young stage the highest nutritional profile is captured.  Greenwheat Freekeh Pty LTD (2013). What is Freekeh? Accessed 7/2/13 from http://greenwheatfreekeh.com/wordpress/what-is-freekeh/ 

Why it’s super:

Freekah is a grain that has both protein and fiber, and many vitamins and minerals, such as manganese and iron. In terms of protein and calories, ounce for ounce, this grain is quite similar to quinoa, but yields a slightly higher protein content per serving.

Try it tonight:
Swap freekeh for pasta in your next salad dish, use in place of rice or quinoa for your favorite pilaf, or stir into your favorite soup. Do take note that while teff is a gluten-free food, freekeh is not.

How have you tried freekah or teff?