Teff flour derives from the seeds of “Eragrostis tef”, a plant native to Africa. Nowadays, farmers cultivate teff crops in other countries, including India, Australia, and the United States. It is a popular substitute for wheat flour among people who follow a gluten-free diet.

Teff flour has a favorable nutrient profile. It is high in dietary fiber and protein and contains more nutrients per serving than all-purpose flour.

Teff flour is also naturally gluten free, making it a popular choice among people following a gluten-free diet. This includes individuals with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy.

This article describes teff, its uses, health benefits, and compares its nutrient profile with all-purpose flour. We also discuss the downsides of teff flour and list some alternatives.

Teff is a small cereal grain that derives from the plant “Eragrostis tef”. Teff refers to the plant’s seeds, which may be white, red, or brown in color.

Teff originates from Africa. It is a staple crop in Ethiopia and is the number one cereal produced in the country. Other countries that grow teff include:

Teff crops are very adaptable and can survive in harsh environments, such as moisture-stressed and waterlogged conditions. Evidence suggests that climate change will affect the availability of the three major cereals: maize, wheat, and rice. Experts say that substituting these crops for teff will play an important role in future food security.

Teff is available as whole grain and as flour. Both forms have a nutty and mild molasses flavor.

People traditionally use teff flour to prepare injera, a fermented sourdough bread. The process involves fermenting the teff flour for 1–3 days.

Recently, health food manufacturers have begun using teff flour to make gluten-free food products, such as:

  • pasta
  • cereals
  • biscuits
  • crackers
  • bread

People can also use teff as a replacement for wheat flour in recipes.

Some potential health benefits of teff flour include:

  • Fiber content: Teff flour contains high levels of dietary fiber, which is important for healthy digestion.
  • Essential amino acid content: Teff flour is abundant in essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. This flour has more essential amino acids than barley and wheat.
  • Mineral content: Compared with other cereals, teff flour has the highest calcium and iron content.
  • Gluten-free grain: Teff flour is gluten free, making it suitable for people following a gluten-free diet. This includes individuals with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. People with these conditions can use teff flour as a substitute for the following grains:

The following table lists the nutritional information in calories (kcal), grams (g), and milligrams (mg) for 100 g of teff flour and 100 g of all-purpose flour. Compared with all-purpose flour, teff flour is more nutrient-dense and has a higher calcium content.

There are some potential downsides and risks of teff, which we outline below.

Crop susceptibility to pests

Due to increasing demand for teff flour, countries outside Africa have begun cultivating teff grain. When growing teff in new geographic regions, farmers may be unaware of how local pests can affect their crops.

A 2020 study aimed to identify pests that attack teff plants in Mediterranean climates. The researchers identified seven types of pests, which differ from those in Ethiopia. They noted that teff plants in Mediterranean climates have adapted their defense mechanisms to protect themselves from pests, which may change the taste and nutritional quality of teff crops.

Nutrient content

Flour manufacturers typically enrich their products with different nutrients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that flours labeled “enriched” must contain the following nutrients:

According to the FDA, enriched flours may also contain added calcium.

Some teff flour brands will not include added nutrients. As such, people should look for enriched teff flours, especially if they are following a gluten-free diet that will not include enriched wheat flour.

Below are some teff flour substitutes for people who follow a gluten-free diet and those who are not.

Gluten-free substitutes

Teff flour is not the only gluten-free food staple for people following a gluten-free diet. Other options include rice and potatoes.

People who do not like teff flour can choose from other nutrient-dense, gluten-free substitutes, such as:

People with celiac disease must confirm with their doctor or nutritionist before eating oat products. Oats and oat products, such as oat bran and oat syrup, may be contaminated with gluten-containing foods.

Non-gluten-free substitutes

People who do not follow a gluten-free diet can eat other grains, such as:

  • spelt
  • semolina
  • durum
  • barley
  • triticale
  • rye
  • Kamut
  • malt

Teff is a small cereal grain that derives from the plant “Eragrostis tef”. These grains have a mild nutty and molasses flavor.

Teff flour is a popular substitute for wheat flour because it is naturally gluten free and has a favorable nutrient profile.

It is naturally high in protein, dietary fiber, and calcium. When choosing teff flour, people should look for varieties enriched with B vitamins and folic acid.

Individuals following a gluten-free diet can use teff flour in breads, cereals, and other baked goods. Other gluten-free options include sorghum, tapioca, and buckwheat flours.

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