Health Benefits of Teff Flour

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on February 12, 2024
3 min read

Whole grain teff is an ancient grain. It’s packed with nutrients, including lots of fiber, making it a great addition to your diet. 

Teff (Eragrostis teff) is a cereal grain from Ethiopia and Eritrea in Africa. It’s an ancient grain believed to have been domesticated around 4000 and 1000 BCE. Whole teff grain is a staple grain in Ethiopian diets.

Teff is the smallest grain in the world. The grains are round and look similar to millet. It’s ground into flour and often fermented to make a flatbread called injera.

There are lots of different varieties of teff. Depending on the variety, the teff grain can be red, ivory, or dark brown. ‌

Teff is used in lots of different foods, including:

  • Beer
  • As a thickener in soups and sauces
  • Porridge
  • Pudding
  • Baked goods
  • Breads and flatbreads
  • As a rice substitute

Unlike other grains like wheat, barley, and rye, teff is gluten-free. This makes it a good choice for people who have Celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten. It can substitute for other flours that contain gluten, like regular wheat flour.

As more people have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, the demand for gluten-free grains has grown. This has made teff popular.

Wheat is often refined as it’s turned into flour. This process removes two layers called the bran and the germ. Although it makes it easier to eat, these parts are full of vitamins and minerals, so the grain is stripped of many of its nutrients.

Because teff grains are so small, it’s hard to remove the bran and germ during milling. Because of this, teff flour is almost always whole grain flour. 

Teff’s nutritional content can be different, depending on the variety you use. Whole grain teff is packed with nutrients, including:

Protein. Whole grain teff is 11% protein. This is similar to wheat, maize, barley, and pearl millet. The protein in whole grain teff is higher than rye, sorghum, and brown rice.

Amino acids.  Since teff is high in protein, it has lots of essential amino acids. Protein and amino acids are important as the building blocks of your tissues.

It’s specifically high in lysine, which is low in other grains. Your body can't make lysine, so you must get it from foods. Lysine helps your body convert energy, lowers cholesterol, forms collagen, and may help your body absorb calcium.

Fiber. Teff is higher in fiber than other grains. This is because the bran and the germ are usually intact. Getting lots of fiber can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, bowel disease, kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes

Minerals. Teff has more calcium and iron than most grains. There are conflicting reports about how much iron it has, but 100 grams of teff bread has about 3.3mg of iron. This is 45% of your daily recommended iron intake.

Gut Health

Teff is naturally gluten-free. One of the common problems with gluten-free foods is that they’re often missing vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Since teff is packed with nutrients, this might be a safe and more nutritious option to add to your diet. 

Teff is high in dietary fiber, with high levels of insoluble fiber in particular. This type of fiber stays mostly undigested in your gut. This causes your stool to bulk up and can help with regular bowel movements. 

The insoluble fiber in teff can feed the bacteria in your gut. This is called a prebiotic. A healthy balance of gut bacteria is important for good health.

Higher Iron Levels

Iron helps carry oxygen throughout your body and it is an essential mineral. Eating teff can help you get enough iron and avoid iron deficiency. 

In one study, eating teff helped pregnant women avoid low iron levels. Another study showed exercising women had better iron levels from eating teff. 

While teff has lots of good nutrients, it also has a lot of phytic acid. This is a plant chemical that can bind to its nutrients and stop you from absorbing them. Fermenting teff can help lower some of the phytic acid. 

It’s very expensive to grow and produce teff. Crops usually have low yields and processing it can be expensive. This makes teff expensive to buy.

Teff isn’t widely available in most grocery stores. You might have to look for it at health food stores or online.