E.Ever heard of sorghum? While this ingredient may be new to you, it is actually as old as time. Cultivated for about 8,000 years, sorghum is now one of the top five grains in the world and was a nutritional powerhouse long before science told us so. It’s similar to wheat, but with two major differences: the seed has no peel and is gluten-free.
In the United States, sorghum is grown primarily in the Midwest, with Kansas and Texas being the top two producing states according to the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. Aside from the health of sorghum (more on this below), the harvest itself is good for the environment. Its high tolerance to heat and drought makes it a particularly efficient crop. Sorghum also improves air quality by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.
Health Benefits of Sorghum
In the past, sorghum was mainly used for fodder and ethanol production. Much has changed – today the many nutritional benefits of the grain and its deliciously nutty taste are valued by home cooks, chefs, and snack brands. “People are much more aware of the importance of eating healthy ingredients for health, so it’s no wonder [sorghum] is becoming increasingly popular with the general public, ”says registered nutritionist Valerie Agyeman, who specializes in women’s health and is the founder of Flourish Heights. “We’re all looking for ways to diversify the grains in our eating habits, and sorghum is a great option.”
Sorghum is packed with nutrients like B vitamins that help with energy production and magnesium, which can relieve PMS symptoms and promote better sleep and mood, says Agyeman. It’s also high in antioxidants that help fight free radicals that lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, Agyeman adds. Half a cup contains 6 grams of filling fiber and 10 grams of protein – as much as the same serving of quinoa.
Another reason for the recent resurgence of sorghum is that it’s a healthy whole grain alternative for people intolerant to gluten and corn (FYI, according to a study by Beyond Celiac, around 18 million Americans are gluten sensitive). Agyeman adds that if you have an intolerance or allergy, it’s best to double-check the label to ensure that every sorghum product you consume is made in a certified gluten-free facility.
Because sorghum is a whole grain, it’s also a great source of prebiotic fiber, which will support your microbiome, says Steven Gundry, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and author of the recently published book The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up -andUp -Go got up and left. But that’s not all: Sorghum is one of the few grains known to contain no lectins – a type of protein found in many grains, legumes, and beans, among other things, that can cause inflammation and leaky gut – because it can none has a trunk, says Dr. Gundry.
How to eat sorghum
Sorghum is great for you, yes, but it’s also a delicious and very versatile ingredient. Here are just a few of the delicious ways you can incorporate the cereal into your meals.
A recipe for couscous, oatmeal, quinoa or rice? You can easily use sorghum instead for all of the health benefits. The versatile grain also comes in many different varieties and colors, from white and yellow to purple and black, says Agyeman, who cooks sorghum like rice for dishes like lemon-chicken pilaf.
Popped up, popcorn kind of
In its core form, sorghum can be “popped” like popcorn – it has a slightly nuttier taste and a smaller pop, but the same satisfying crispness. You can pop it yourself with an air popper (buy the kernels on Amazon), but snack companies like Chasin ‘Dreams Farm and Nature Nate both sell pre-popped sorghum, which is just as delicious. Swap popped sorghum for popcorn for a healthy snack, or use it to top dishes like salads or even waffles (like Miller’s All Day in Charleston, SC) for extra crunch.
As gluten-free flour for baking
Just like wheat, sorghum can be ground into flour. In her recently published cookbook Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution, author and baker Roxana Jullapat called the grain “the grain of the future”. However, don’t swap sorghum for all-purpose flour cup after cup in every baking recipe. Since sorghum doesn’t contain gluten, you’ll need to add a binding agent (like agar agar or cornstarch) to make sure your pastries hold together.
Sorghum also serves as a delicious base for chips. A brand called Pop Bitties makes air-popped, gluten-free chips from Kansas sorghum – as well as brown rice, quinoa, and chia seeds – in flavors like hickory BBQ (a perfect summer grill side) and maple sea salt.
Syrup – or spirits
You may have seen sorghum syrup on store shelves. This product comes from the sorghum plant variety, which is harvested for its stems and not for the grain and, like sugar cane, is crushed into a syrup. While it’s no longer as common as a pantry sweetener, it’s widely used to make whiskey and rum, according to the Sorghum Checkoff.
Thanks to all the ways to consume this versatile ingredient and reap its health benefits, it pays to include sorghum on your ingredient list. “Given the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products that are more suitable for them,” says Pop Bitties founder Mark Andrus, “I believe that sorghum is being used more and more.”
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