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TEFF – gluten free, highly nutritious, big super grain of Ethiopia
Friday, 17 June, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Sanjana Potluri and R Mahendran
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Teff (Eragrostis Tef) is a small-sized grain similar to poppy seeds which is grown in Ethiopia. Gluten-free and rich in protein, fibre and minerals, Teff started to gain a foothold as a new "superfood," along the likes of quinoa and spelt. The average yield per hectare of Teff in Ethiopia is 1.4 tonne, which is less than half as much as the global average of 3.2 tonne for modern varieties of wheat. It is also known as lovegrass in Ethiopia and was one of the earliest cultivated plants. About 20% of Ethiopia’s highland and mid-altitude arable cropping area is planted with Teff, and is the most prized of all cereals grown by an estimated 6.3 million farmers. White Teff is the most preferred and there are strong price differentials between the three types of Teff - red, mixed and white. Nominal Teff prices have increased steadily since March 2014 and increased by 5% from December 2015 to January 2016. One pound of Teff can produce up to one tonne of grain in only 12 weeks.

The potential production capacity, minimal time and seed requirements have protected the Ethiopians from hunger when their food supply was under attack from numerous invaders in the past. Teff is also grown on a limited basis for livestock forage in other parts of Africa, India, Australia and South America. In the US, small acreages of Teff are grown for grain production and sold to Ethiopian restaurants (Carlson, Idaho) or utilised as a late planted livestock forage (Larson, Minnesota). 

This small seed has an exceptional nutritional profile (Table. 1) and has a very mild, nutty flavour. Teff has very much higher levels of calcium (167g/100g) than wheat (34g/100g), which is of interest to those on dairy-free diets. It also has significantly higher range of other nutrients - iron, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B3/niacin, Vitamin C - and low levels of phytic acid making the minerals more bio-available than in any other grains. Teff is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition (Table. 2. Amino acid content of Teff grain compared with other cereals and FAO/WHO pattern is given), lysine levels higher than wheat or barley, and slightly less than rice or oats. Teff is high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fibre that can benefit blood sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in Teff are resistant starches and has a relatively low glycemic index. The proximate composition (db) of Teff is reported to be 94–133% protein, 73% carbohydrate, 198–35% crude fibre, 20–31% fat and 27–30% ash (Bultosa & Taylor, 2004).

Traditionally Teff is ground into flour and it is used to make the traditional fermented flat bread, injera in Ethiopia which is similar to American version of pancakes and south Indian version of appam which is basic to the Ethiopian cuisine and is central to many religions and cultural ceremonies. Across the country, diners gather around large pieces of injera, which doubles as cutlery, scooping up stews and feeding one another as a sign of loyalty or friendship - a tradition known as gursha. Teff naturally gluten-free, can substitute for wheat flour in anything from bread and pasta to waffles and pizza bases and other assortment of baked goods. This is a better alternative for gluten-free than xantham gum which is being currently incorporated into breads. Teff can also be eaten whole and steamed, boiled or baked or incorporated into other dishes.

Table. 1. Nutritional Profile of Teff

S.no

Nutritional Composition

Content

1

Energy (kcal)

357

2

Starch (%)

73

3

Crude protein (%)

11

4

Crude fat (%)

2.5

5

Crude fibre (%)

3

6

Ash (%)

2.8

7

Amino acids (g/16gn) {glutamine + glutamic acid}

21.8

8

Iron (mg/100g)

9.5->150

9

Zinc (mg/100g)

2.3-6.8

10

Calcium (mg/100g)

17-178

11

Copper (mg/100g)

1.1-5.3

12

Phytate (mg/100g dry matter)

682-1374

13

Tannin (mg ce/100g dry matter)

16

14

Total polyphenols (mg gallic acid equivalent/100 g dry matter)

140

15

Phenolic acids (ug/mg) {ferulic acids}

285.9


Teff is now quoted to be the next big revolution in the grain industry as the “super grain” moving over quinoa. With its impressive nutritional profile, Teff is finding its way slowly into the lucrative markets of the West and is quoted to be Ethiopia’s next big gift to the world after coffee. The Ethiopian country currently has a ban on export of raw Teff grain and Teff flour and can only be exported in other forms such as injera, and other baked goods. The immediate lift on export ban will increase the Teff production but it may displace other important crops to farmers by boosting production and business interests at the cost of farmers. Growing demand for so-called ancient grains has not always been a straightforward win for poor communities. In Bolivia and Peru, reports of rising incomes owing to the now—global quinoa trade have come alongside those of malnutrition and conflicts over land as farmers sell their entire crop to meet Western demand. The government’s agricultural transformation agency is now only focussed on increasing the Teff production to meet the domestic demand to build a strong export market as around six million farmers in Ethiopia survive on cultivation of Teff.

Table. 2. Amino acid content of Teff grain (g/16N) compared with other cereals and the FAO /WHO (1973) pattern.

Amino acid

Teff

Barley

Maize

Oats

Rice

Sorghum

Wheat

Pearl millet

FAO/WHO

Lysine

3.68

3.46

2.67

3.71

3.79

2.02

2.08

2.08

4.2

Isoleucine

4.00

3.58

3.68

3.78

3.81

3.92

3.68

3.09

4.2

Leucine

8.53

6.67

12.5

7.26

8.22

13.3

7.04

7.29

4.8

Valine

5.46

5.04

4.85

5.10

5.50

5.01

4.13

4.49

4.2

Phenylalanine

5.69

5.14

4.88

5.00

5.15

4.90

4.86

3.46

2.8

Tryosine

3.84

3.10

3.82

3.30

3.49

2.67

2.32

1.41

2.8

Tryptophan

1.30

1.54

0.70

1.26

1.25

1.22

1.07

1.62

1.4

Theronine

4.32

3.31

3.60

3.31

3.90

3.02

2.69

2.50

2.8

Histidine

3.21

2.11

2.72

2.10

2.50

2.14

2.08

2.08

-

Arginine

5.15

4.72

4.19

6.29

8.26

3.07

3.54

3.54

-

Methionin

4.06

1.66

1.92

1.68

2.32

1.39

1.46

1.46

2.2

Cystine

2.50

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2


Teff is also known for its dietary antioxidant content and recently a study conducted by the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia concluded that the processing of Teff flour into partly or fully fermented injera had reduced the total antioxidant contents with respect to raw Teff flour. In 2015, University of Nevada, Reno started to conduct a project to improve the Teff grass. The aim is to make it more drought-tolerant and productive under the harsh growing conditions being experienced worldwide as the popularity of this gluten-free grain grows with farmers and consumers in dry regions of the United States. Ultimately, the researchers aim is to improve the economic viability of Teff as an alternative food and forage crop in Nevada, other parts of the United States and elsewhere across the world. The research team is also working on genetic and agronomic field crop and soil management approaches to make the crop less prone to lodging which occurs when stems break and the crop falls over in the field and a significant proportion of the seed cannot be harvested. Further research must be done on Teff to increase its production not only in Ethiopia but in other parts of the world while ensuring that the farmers do not get affected by the demands of the Western business interests. Even though it could be the next super grain, the world needs, it is still the staple diet of millions of Ethiopian farmers.

References
https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/teff.html
https://www.teffco.com/what-is-teff/
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jan/23/quinoa-ethiopia-teff-super-grain
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32128441
http://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2015/teff-research-project
http://canchemtrans.ca/uploads/journals/CCT-2013-0012.pdf
https://www.12wbt.com/blog/nutrition/terrific-teff-new-superfood/
http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/teff-and-millet-november-grains-of-the-month
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32128441
http://www.foodsmatter.com/coeliac-disease/management/teff-in-the-gluten-free-diet.html
http://www.agri-learning-ethiopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AKLDP-Wheat-Teff-Feb-2016.pdf
http://allaroundisglutenfree.pselion.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/128545.pdf
Bultosa G; Taylor J R N (2004). Tef. In: Encyclopaedia of Grain Science, Eds. Wrigley, C; Corke H; Walker C; pp 253–262, Elsevier, Amsterdam
     Physico-Chemical Properties of Teff [Eragrostis tef (ZUCC.) Trotter] Grains and Their Utilization in Bread and Biscuits Making, Mariam Idreis Osman Mohammed, University of Khartoum, 2007.

 (Mahendran is an assistant professor and Potluri is a student from Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology, MoFPI, Thanjavur. They can be contacted at  mahendran@iicpt.edu.in)
 
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