Have you heard about one of the latest “new” grains nutritionists are calling a superfood? It’s known as teff, and it’s quickly taking its place alongside quinoa, sorghum, and millet as a popular gluten-free, high-protein alternative to other grains.

The history of teff

Even if this is the first time you’ve heard about this ancient grain, the title gives away its age — teff seems to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 B.C. Until recent improvements in farming techniques increased crop yields, teff was banned from export because it was such a vital, affordable source of nutrition for Ethiopian natives. Now, it’s common to see teff featured on a shelf of the health food section in the grocery store.


How it’s eaten

About the size of a poppy seed, teff ranges in color from white to dark brown, has a nutty flavor, and can be eaten whole or ground into flour. Natively, teff is most often made into porridge or a flatbread known as injera, although it also finds its way into beverages. In the American diet, it’s often boiled and seasoned with spices (much like cornmeal or polenta), made into porridge as an alternative to oats, and used as a flour alternative in bread and other baked goods.


So, why exactly is teff considered a superfood?

Like quinoa, teff is a complex carbohydrate that’s high in fiber, amino acids (protein), and many minerals like manganese, phosphorus, and iron. At 123 milligrams per serving, teff has the highest calcium content of any grain. This is good news for those who can’t get calcium from dairy. It’s also high in resistance starch – which is known for leveling out blood sugar levels.  Finally, teff is high in copper and fiber, which contribute to a healthy metabolism and digestive system.

For all this and more, teff is popular among people who don’t (or can’t) eat meat, dairy, or gluten, and others just looking to boost their nutritional intake per-calorie.


Where to find teff

The easiest place to find teff is health food stores with all the grain alternatives, but larger retailers and online stores sell it, as well. It’s often sold in bulk, but you can also buy a smaller 16 to 24-ounce bag in the $4 to $8 range.

While teff isn’t essential to a healthy diet, it’s yet another superfood option for those who want to get a little adventurous and try something new. As you make healthy changes like visiting the fitness center and improving your nutrition, you might want to give this grain a try.