After phasing gluten out of my diet years ago, I started to try out all sorts of different GF grains. Teff turned out to be one of my favorites. It derives from North Africa, and has been a staple of the Ethiopian diet for centuries. The word teff means “lost,” and this refers to the fact that teff is the tiniest of all grains, and thus almost impossible to find if dropped or scattered. Teff’s nutritional profile is strong: high in protein, amino acids, calcium, and iron. I primarily cook it as breakfast porridge, and my family loves it. I use Bob’s Red Mill Teff–but if making porridge, make sure you buy the Teff and not the teff flour (which is good to blend into GF baking mixes). Teff porridge takes a good 20+ minutes to soften and thicken, and the ratio of teff to water is at least 1:4. I often find myself adding even more water as I go; it’s weird how these tiny grains suck up the water. It needs salt, and a dab of butter really enriches the nutty flavor. My kids like to drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on top as well.
You hear a lot in the popular media about the benefits of going gluten-free, but going gluten-free will only benefit you if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Otherwise, most of the gluten-free packaged foods you’ll find are highly refined (often made from white rice and tapioca flour), low in fiber, sometimes high in sugar, and not particularly great for you.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s estimated that around 1% of Americans have celiac disease—an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten leads the body to attack its own tissues, destroying the villi that line the intestine and make possible nutrient absorption. The disease can manifest in various ways, and may not even present with intestinal symptoms (details at celiac.org). It leads to malnutrition and a host of other ailments, and if you have reason to suspect you’re celiac, you need to see a GI right away. The doctor may order bloodwork as well as an endoscopy to check your intestines, and if there is a suspicion of celiac disease, you will be taken off gluten for 2-4 weeks to see if your symptoms improve. If you are scheduled to see a GI, do not go off gluten prior to your appointment! They need to test and examine you in your current condition, eating a regular diet. [Read more…]