7 Surprising Benefits of Sorghum

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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While the name may sound odd, sorghum has many health benefits. It’s a non-wheat grain that offers a dietary option to people with celiac disease, may help control diabetes, and improve digestive health, among other benefits.

What is Sorghum?

Sorghum is the broad term for an entire genus of grasses native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. While there are more than 30 different species of sorghum, only one is harvested for human consumption (the others are primarily used as fodder for animals).

The important species for humans, Sorghum bicolor, is native to Africa, but can now be found all around the world as a staple food. Sorghum is primarily used in the production of sorghum molasses, sorghum syrup and as a grain. Also, it can be used in the production of alcoholic beverages and even bio-fuels around the world. It is widely considered the fifth most important cereal crop in the world.

The versatility of sorghum, combined with the fact that it is acceptable for people with wheat allergies to eat, makes it extremely important as a staple crop in the world. Furthermore, the vast health benefits associated with sorghum make it a great alternative to other types of grains, grasses, and cereals that are commonly consumed across the globe.

A white bowl filled with sorghum seeds, leaves, and seed heads with a cloth on a green background

Sorghum seeds and leaves Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Sorghum grain
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]12.4
Energy [kcal]329
Energy [kJ]1377
Protein [g]10.62
Total lipid (fat) [g]3.46
Ash [g]1.43
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]72.09
Fiber, total dietary [g]6.7
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.53
Calcium, Ca [mg]13
Iron, Fe [mg]3.36
Magnesium, Mg [mg]165
Phosphorus, P [mg]289
Potassium, K [mg]363
Sodium, Na [mg]2
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.67
Copper, Cu [mg]0.28
Manganese, Mn [mg]1.61
Selenium, Se [µg]12.2
Thiamin [mg]0.33
Riboflavin [mg]0.1
Niacin [mg]3.69
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.37
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.44
Folate, total [µg]20
Folate, food [µg]20
Folate, DFE [µg]20
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.61
12:0 [g]0
14:0 [g]0
15:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.54
17:0 [g]0
18:0 [g]0.05
22:0 [g]0
24:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.13
16:1 [g]0.02
18:1 [g]1.1
20:1 [g]0.01
24:1 c [g]0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.56
18:2 [g]1.49
18:3 [g]0.07
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoic [g]0.01
16:1 t [g]0
Tryptophan [g]0.12
Threonine [g]0.35
Isoleucine [g]0.43
Leucine [g]1.49
Lysine [g]0.23
Methionine [g]0.17
Cystine [g]0.13
Phenylalanine [g]0.55
Tyrosine [g]0.32
Valine [g]0.56
Arginine [g]0.36
Histidine [g]0.25
Alanine [g]1.03
Aspartic acid [g]0.74
Glutamic acid [g]2.44
Glycine [g]0.35
Proline [g]0.85
Serine [g]0.46
Sources include : USDA

Sorghum Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, sorghum is a powerhouse of nutrients. When included in the diet, it can provide nearly half of the daily required protein, a significant amount of dietary fiber, and B-vitamins vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, as well as high levels of magnesium, iron, copper, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Health Benefits of Sorghum

The health benefits of sorghum in relation to our digestive process are many. Let’s discuss the benefits in detail below.

Improves Digestive Health

Sorghum is one of the best foods out there for dietary fiber. A cup of sorghum grains contains almost 13 grams of dietary fiber, meaning that your digestive tract will keep your food moving along smoothly, preventing cramping, bloating, constipation, stomach aches, excess gas, and diarrhea. Furthermore, meeting or exceeding the recommended daily amounts of fiber intake helps to scrape off dangerous cholesterol (LDL) within the body, which helps to improve heart health and protect the body from conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.

Anticancer Potential

Research in the journal Food Chemistry found that the bran layer of the sorghum grains contains important antioxidants, anthocyanins, that are not found in many other types of food. These antioxidants have been directly connected to a reduced chance of developing various types of cancer. Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that help neutralize and eliminate free radicals in the body, which often cause healthy cells in the body to mutate into cancerous cells.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that sorghum bran rich in polyphenols may have anticancer potential. Another research study published in PLoS One states that sorghum may have anticarcinogenic and antitumor properties and may prevent metastasis of cancer such as breast cancer. It may also have anti-cancer effects on esophageal cancer, suggests the same study. Another animal study led by researchers from Brazil found that sorghum due to the presence of  3-deoxy anthocyanidins and tannins may exhibit anti-cancer properties. While these preliminary studies are promising, further research is needed to determine how this research can be integrated into current oncology treatments.

Complex Carbohydrates to Manage Diabetes

Excessive sugary, fiber-less, carbohydrates break down into simple sugars and wreak havoc on glucose levels in the body, which may lead to the development of diabetes, or causing chaos for people who already suffer from this disease. However, the complex carbohydrate, tannin-rich bran of sorghum has enzymes that inhibit the absorption of starch by the body, which can help to regulate insulin and glucose levels in the body. Thus, diabetics won’t suffer as many plunges and spikes in their glucose levels. For those who are diabetes-free, consuming moderate portions of whole grains as part of a healthy diet may prevent the disease altogether!

Gluten-Free Grain Option

Celiac disease is a severe allergy to gluten, primarily found in wheat-based products. Gluten is found in thousands of everyday food items, which can make it very difficult to find appropriate food options for those suffering from this gastrointestinal disease. Fortunately, the journal Clinical Nutrition has covered collaborative research, which highlights that alternative grains and grasses – such as sorghum – can be eaten safely by those suffering from this increasingly common condition. Choosing gluten-free grains can help this population eat a meal without side effects such as painful inflammation, nausea, and gastrointestinal damage.

Improves Bone Health

Magnesium is found in high quantities in sorghum. Adequate amounts of magnesium helps calcium levels will be properly maintained, as magnesium increases calcium absorption in the body. These two minerals are also integral to the development of bone tissue and speed up the healing of damaged or aging bones. This can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis, keeping you active and healthy into your old age.

Increases Circulation

As per the research published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, sorghum contains minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. The presence of copper helps to increase the absorption of iron into the body. This means a decreased likelihood of developing anemia, which is another name for iron deficiency. With adequate amounts of iron and copper in the system, red blood cell development is increased, thereby boosting blood circulation, stimulating cellular growth and repair, and boosting the energy levels in the body.

Contains Energy Boosting Nutrients

As per a research carried out by the Department of Nutritional Sciences, the University of California and published in the journal Nutrient Research sorghum contains niacin. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3 is a key component in transforming food into usable energy and fuel for the body by breaking down and metabolizing nutrients into energy. Given its beneficial vitamin content, it can be a boon as part of any well-balanced diet!

Word of Caution: There are no known concerns against adding sorghum to your diet. As it is part of the grass family, there is the possibility of some people being allergic to it, but the cases are very rare. Furthermore, with the high content of certain minerals and vitamins, the only real danger is getting too much of a good thing, so eat sorghum in moderation and enjoy all of the wonderful health benefits!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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