There’s a new ‘wonder grain’ in town that may be taking over quinoa’s top spot in the kitchens. Several chefs in the US have switched to sorghum, claiming that the cereal’s “versatility and texture has an edge over other grains”, making it the latest gourmet favorite in America.

Sorghum isn’t ‘new’ at all, however; cultivated for centuries in Africa, India (where it goes by jowar) and other countries, it’s been touted as the fifth most popular cereal crop in the world—though America has so far mostly used it as livestock fodder. Furthermore, as a drought-resistant crop, sorghum uses a three times less water than an acre of corn, making it an eco-friendly option. But sorghum’s recent rise to fame can be linked to an increasingly health-conscious world and its efforts to find natural substitutes that pack in the nutrients. Let’s take a closer look.

Gluten-free alternative
Sorghum is proven to be free of all varieties of gluten, which cements its position in the gluten-free club. Gluten is common in grains like wheat, barley and rye: it gives them a chewy, springy quality when baked into breads or pastas but is also known to trigger inflammatory reactions in people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Sorghum makes for a viable alternative, and it also comes with high levels of unsaturated fats, protein and fiber.

Rich in antioxidants
Studies have confirmed that all sorghum varieties are as rich in antioxidants as fruits like blueberries and pomegranates, and the bran layers of pigmented sorghum varieties contain elements that may help protect against cancer development.  Scientists at the University of Missouri tested extracts of black, red, and white sorghums and found that all three extracts had strong antiproliferative activity against human colon cancer cells.

Image: Foodipedia
Image: Foodipedia

Keeps diabetes and cholesterol in check
Sorghum is chock full of tannins, which are known to slow down starch absorption in the body as well as regulate blood insulin and sugar levels. Furthermore, scientists at the University of Nebraska, at the end of a four week experiment on hamsters, concluded that sorghum could also be used to control cholesterol levels and intestinal inflammation in humans.

Phytochemicals galore
Sorghum is a rich source of various phytochemicals including tannins, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, phytosterols and policosanols, all of which have significant impact on human health.  These are known to slow down the aging process, lower risk of heart disease, cancer, reduce mortality from cardiovascular diseases, and prevent arterial clotting.

Energy boost
One serving of sorghum contains 47 percent of our daily recommended iron and 55 percent of our phosphorus intake, besides also providing magnesium, copper, calcium, zinc and potassium. Sorghum is also rich in niacin and thiamin, two Vitamin-B compounds that help in properly metabolizing carbohydrates and nutrients and increase energy levels.

Versatile as it is, sorghum can be eaten in whole grain form for maximum nutrition, where it can be prepared like rice or pulao. Meanwhile, sorghum flour makes a great alternative in assorted breads, rotis and baked goods.

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