9 Surprising Benefits of Teff Grain

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of teff grain may include its potential ability to help with weight loss, increase circulation, reduce menstrual issues, improve bone health, support proper growth and development, boost the immune system, manage diabetic symptoms, optimize digestion, and increase heart health.

What is Teff Grain?

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of this grain called teff grain, especially if you’ve never visited eastern Africa or enjoyed Ethiopian cuisine. However, this protein-rich staple food of that African nation has received a great deal of attention lately, as its high nutrient content, rapid cooking time, and versatile applications make it an ideal “superfood” that people from Hollywood to the Horn of Africa are clamoring for. Scientifically known as Eragrostis tef, this tiny grain is widely used in Africa but is beginning to gain popularity in the United States. It is used in a similar way as millet or quinoa, also popular for health food aficionados, but the grain’s small size means that it cooks very rapidly, thus using less fuel and being more viable as a dietary staple for countries with limited resources. It’s amazing how many nutrients are packaged in such a small grain, but the mineral, vitamin, fiber, and organic compounds found in teff grain make it an ideal nutritional source for millions of people already. In fact, teff makes up 1/4 of all cereals grown in Ethiopia. [1]

The most common use of teff is making flour and bread, but it can basically be used in the same way as any other cereal grain. In Ethiopian cuisine, injera bread (made from teff) is what the majority of large dishes are served on, and as Ethiopian cuisine has spread around the world, so too has knowledge and interest in teff. But why is it so important? What secret nutrients does it hold?

A rustic pottery bowl with a handmade ceramic scoop of teff grains on a white background

Teff grain is a rich source of protein and helps in developing good bones and teeth. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Teff, uncooked
Serving Size :
Water [g]8.82
Energy 367
Energy [kJ]1536
Protein [g]13.3
Total lipid (fat) [g]2.38
Ash [g]2.37
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]73.13
Fiber, total dietary [g]8
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.84
Sucrose [g]0.62
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.73
Fructose [g]0.47
Maltose [g]0.01
Starch [g]36.56
Calcium, Ca [mg]180
Iron, Fe [mg]7.63
Magnesium, Mg [mg]184
Phosphorus, P [mg]429
Potassium, K [mg]427
Sodium, Na [mg]12
Zinc, Zn [mg]3.63
Copper, Cu [mg]0.81
Manganese, Mn [mg]9.24
Selenium, Se [µg]4.4
Thiamin [mg]0.39
Riboflavin [mg]0.27
Niacin [mg]3.36
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.94
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.48
Choline, total [mg]13.1
Betaine [mg]2.3
Carotene, beta [µg]5
Vitamin A, IU [IU]9
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]66
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.08
Tocopherol, beta [mg]0.02
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]5.04
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.07
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]0.02
Tocotrienol, gamma [mg]0.23
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.9
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.45
16:0 [g]0.33
18:0 [g]0.1
20:0 [g]0.02
22:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.59
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.57
20:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.07
18:2 [g]0.94
18:3 [g]0.14
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.14
Tryptophan [g]0.14
Threonine [g]0.51
Isoleucine [g]0.5
Leucine [g]1.07
Lysine [g]0.38
Methionine [g]0.43
Cystine [g]0.24
Phenylalanine [g]0.7
Tyrosine [g]0.46
Valine [g]0.69
Arginine [g]0.52
Histidine [g]0.3
Alanine [g]0.75
Aspartic acid [g]0.82
Glutamic acid [g]3.35
Glycine [g]0.48
Proline [g]0.66
Serine [g]0.62
Sources include : USDA [2]

Health Benefits of Teff Grain

Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating health benefits of teff grain in detail below. [3]

May Promote Growth

With eight different amino acids, which may include a slightly rare one called lysine, teff can deliver substantial support for growth and development. Our bodies need protein to create new cells, repair old ones, and general development throughout our lives. While animal proteins can be helpful, our bodies can more easily break down vegetable proteins into their constituent amino acids, which is why having something like teff in your diet is important for everyone, not just vegetarians and health food fans. [4]

May Help Keep Your Bones Healthy

Teff contains a wide range of minerals and nutrients, but in terms of calcium, it is truly impressive. Calcium is an essential mineral for bone growth and development and helps contribute to solid bone mineral density as we age. If you are susceptible to osteoporosis (perhaps due to lifestyle) or have a lack of calcium in your diet, then adding teff can help protect your bone integrity as you age. [5]

May Strengthen Immune System

Although most grains have a wealth of minerals, they aren’t as well known for having a significant level of vitamins, particularly vitamin C. As you probably know, vitamin C is a crucial part of our immune system, as it stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells. However, vitamin C is also a key component in collagen, which is needed for the creation of new cells, blood vessels, organs, and muscle tissue. Together with the possibly high protein content of teff grain, the vitamin C found in this useful dietary staple can have a significant impact on your overall health. [6]

May Help Increase Circulation

Speaking of minerals, the possibly highest mineral content comes in the form of iron. In fact, teff is commonly recommended for patients suffering from anemia. Iron is a key element in our red blood cells, and when there is an iron deficiency in the body, weakness, dizziness, cognitive impairment, muscle cramps, and headaches can often follow (these are symptoms of anemia). If you want to boost your circulation and increase oxygenation to important organ systems and areas of your body, then add some teff grain or injera bread to your diet immediately! [7]

May Help Manage Diabetes

One of the side benefits that is often overlooked from teff grain is its ability to help people with diabetes manage their condition. By helping to slow the release of insulin into the bloodstream, teff can help them prevent the dangerous spikes and plunges that can occur if you aren’t careful. This is partially due to the fiber content of teff grain, but there are more complex chemical pathways also at work in this regard, although research is still in the relatively early stages. [8]

Might Help Relieve Menstrual Problems

Teff grain has been known as a potentially anti-inflammatory and menstrually soothing agent for generations, so if you tend to suffer from a heavy menstrual flow, severe cramping, or other physical manifestations of the monthly event, adding teff to your diet could help reduce the severity and live in comfort.

Might Boost Digestive Health

Teff grain has been used for thousands of years as a laxative, or at least a means to speed up the digestive process. This is likely due to the high content of dietary fiber in the grain, which can bulk up the stool, stimulate peristaltic motion, and increase the regularity and quality of your bowel movements. Dietary fiber is also able to balance cholesterol levels in the body by eliminating excess omega-6 fatty acids, in addition to relieving constipation, bloating, cramping, and more serious gastrointestinal issues. [9]

Might Support Energy Production

Another mineral in possibly high concentrations in teff grain is copper, which plays important roles throughout our body, including in energy production, growth and repair, enzymatic reactions, nervous system function, and red blood cell creation. Without proper copper levels, many of our body’s systems will begin to fail, so adding a copper boost with teff is never a bad idea. [10]

May Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

Last but not least, teff grain has been shown to be very beneficial for heart health. The low sodium content ensures that the body doesn’t clog up the arteries too much, and the grain has been shown to effectively reduce blood pressure in research studies. This can reduce your chances of suffering from heart attacks or strokes, and reduce the overall strain on your cardiovascular system. [11]

Word of Caution: There is no known allergenic nature of teff grain, nor have side effects been reported with any consistency. In other words, it’s simply the best grain option out there, without any downside!

DMCA.com Protection Status
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.

Rate this article
Average rating 3.9 out of 5.0 based on 177 user(s).