Teff: Grain that can tackle dual burden of malnutrition

Teff grain.
Teff grain.
Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Locally, Nakuru and some parts of Northern Kenya are popular for producing the best of Kenyan teff.
  • Teff is gluten-free, highly nutritious grain packed with protein and fibre.

The dual burden of malnutrition is defined as the coexistence of high levels of under-nutrition, growing prevalence of overweight or obesity, and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization, under-nutrition is responsible for 45 per cent of child deaths under the age of five.

Most of these deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries. At the same time, the prevalence of childhood obesity is also rising in these countries. The socio-economic and medical impact of malnutrition is significant on families, communities, and nations.

To eradicate the dual burden of malnutrition, whole-food-based sustainable nutrition intervention is one of the most important strategies at the country and regional levels.

The best choice is to use locally available nutritious foods such as the teff grain.

Eragrostis tef or teff is an ancient staple from Ethiopia and Eritrea, a fine grain from the grass family, Poaceae, that comes in white, red, and mixed colour. 

Locally, Nakuru and some parts of Northern Kenya are popular for producing the best of Kenyan teff.

Teff is gluten-free, highly nutritious grain packed with protein and fibre.

One hundred grammes of  teff flour provide 12.2 grammes of protein, the same amount of fibre, and multiple micronutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

That can address the micronutrient deficiency or ‘hidden hunger’ in both urban and rural population. Unlike other grains, teff provides vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that reduces the level of reactive oxygen species.

 Teff is the tiniest grain in the world and so it can be consumed whole without any processing. It tastes nutty and flour obtained from teff can be used to make pancakes, chips, crackers, noodles and pasta.

Teff is incredibly rich in iron, providing 5.17 milligramme of iron per cup cooked grain. A considerable body of literature showed teff to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia among pregnant women.

Teff is nutrient-rich, easy to grow, and gluten-free. This grain is a superfood with a little carbon footprint. The diverse nutrition profile of teff makes it superior to addressing nutritional deficiency, obesity, and diet-related NCDs.

Subhasree Ray is a doctoral scholar of clinical nutrition and an expert in public health nutrition. She is a certified diabetes educator . She tweets @DrSubhasree 


 

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