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What the Eff Is Teff and How Do You Eat It?

Teff might be an ancient grain, but it's getting a lot of attention in contemporary kitchens. That's partly because the health benefits of teff make it a great addition to anyone's cooking game, and oh ya, it tastes good.

What is teff?

Each grain is actually a seed from a type of grass called Eragrostis tef, which grows mostly in Ethiopia. The seeds soak up nutrients from the soil and the husks around each seed provide plenty of fiber—more on that later. (Here are 10 more Ancient Grains to Switch Up Your Healthy Carbs.) "The flavor is mild and a little bit nutty, and texture is a little bit like polenta," says Mindy Hermann, an R.D. based in New York City. You may also find teff flour, a ground version used for baking. Read the package instructions carefully, as recipes that call for a wheat-based flour may need adjusted measurements or thickening agents added.

Here's what's great about teff

A mega dose of nutrition is packed into these tiny seeds. "Teff contains more calcium per serving than any other grain and boasts iron, fiber, and protein to boot," says Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., author of Nourish Your Namaste and The Foodie Dietitian Blog.

One cup of cooked teff will run you about 250 calories, and lend 7 grams of fiber and nearly 10 grams of protein. "It's high in resistant starch, a type of fiber that can help with digestion, weight management, and blood sugar control," says Lydon. Teff is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including bone-building magnesium, energizing thiamin, and blood-building iron. With menstruation putting women at a greater risk of iron deficiency, working teff into your diet is a smart preventative strategy. In fact, one study from the UK found that women with low iron were able to pump up their iron levels after eating teff bread every day for six weeks. (Think you could use some more iron? Stock up on these 10 Iron-Rich Foods for Active Women.)

Sure, there are plenty of other ancient grains that are rich nutritionally but don't go lumping teff in with all the rest. Teff is special because it contains zero gluten—that's right, a naturally gluten-free grain. A landmark study from the Netherlands proved teff could be safely eaten in people with Celiac's disease.

How to eat teff

"This ancient grain can be used in a variety of ways, similar to how you might use oats," says Lydon. "You can use teff in baked goods, porridge, pancakes, crepes, and bread or use it as a crunchy salad topping." Hermann suggests using teff as a substitute for polenta or spreading cooked teff on the bottom of a pan, topping it with mixed eggs, and baking it like a frittata. (I'f your stomach growls at the mere mention of frittatas, then you're going to want to see these 13 Easy and Healthy Frittata Recipes.) The grain is also great in dishes where it can soak up rich sauces, like Indian curries. Try swapping teff for your usual oatmeal in a breakfast bowl or adding it to homemade veggie burgers. Teff flour also makes awesome bread!

Teff Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup teff
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds


Directions:

1. Bring water to boil.

2. Add teff and pinch salt. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally; about 15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, stir, and sit covered for 3 minutes.

4. Stir in honey, cinnamon, and almond milk.

5. Put teff mixture in bowl. Top with blueberries, chopped almonds, and chia seeds.

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