When you tell people you are gluten-free and/or vegan or vegetarian, a common question you might get is: “Well, what do you eat then?”. Foods based on gluten and animal products are extremely prevalent in the most common diets today, but there are so many other foods out there that you may or may not have heard of, and that are not only delicious but also incredibly nutritious, such as, for example, sorghum. 

What is sorghum?

  Have you ever heard of sorghum? If you are avoiding gluten, chances are you have heard of it, but otherwise probably not. However, sorghum is not just the latest fad for people avoiding gluten: it is an ancient grain that has been cultivated for over 8000 years.

Despite the fact that sorghum is not very well known, it is one of the top five grains in the world. Originally, it was primarily cultivated in Africa but today, the United States is the largest producer of this grain.

Sorghum is a very efficient crop in terms of solar energy conversion and water usage, which makes it a very environmentally friendly crop to cultivate. Environmental concerns are among the most pressing of our times, so although major systematic changes will probably need to take place in order for our species to survive, any crop that can help us move towards a more environmentally friendly direction should be prioritized today!

Why should I eat it?

There are many other reasons in addition to its friendliness for the environment to eat it: sorghum is indeed an incredibly healthy grain to eat, whether you are avoiding gluten or not.

            Sorghum is rich in phytochemicals, such as tannins, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, phytosterols and policosanols1. Yes, this last sentence was a mouthful, but trust me, it’s worth hanging on and continuing to read. “Phytochemical” is just the term used to refer to the chemicals that occur naturally in plants. The word chemical is often seen as a negative word, and while indeed, some chemicals are terrible for your health, literally everything is made of chemicals, and many of them, including the ones I cited in the first sentence of this paragraph, have absolutely wonderful health benefits.

What kind of health benefits you ask? Well remember how it is recommended to eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day because they are so good for your health, in large part because they are rich in antioxidants? Eating sorghum has very similar health benefits to those you get from eating fruit because it has very high levels of antioxidants, especially compared to other grains.

If you are interested in health, or have read any of the other articles in this Healthy Ingredient Highlight series, you probably already know how important antioxidants are for your health. Indeed, sorghum has been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in humans. Studies on animals show very promising results in terms of sorghum’s effect on cardiovascular health, which is incredibly relevant given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in countries of the Global North.

Whether this is the first time you hear about sorghum or whether you are already familiar with it, I hope this article will have encouraged you to incorporate it more widely into your diet! Sorghum is commonly ground up into a flour, ideal for baking many goodies, including pancakes. Whole sorghum can also be the basis for all sorts of amazing salads. So hesitate no more, tasty, healthy and environmentally friendly, this ancient grain is definitely the future!

 

Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.