Description of Tef and Its Various Benefits

Tef [Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter] is an ancient most important cereal domesticated by Ethiopians and gifted to the world. It is highly preferred by both growers and consumers.
due to its various agronomic, nutritional, health & economic benefits. In Ethiopia, tef covers the largest area under cereals crops and second to maize in total grain production. Tef plays a vital role in the social, cultural and religious aspects of Ethiopians and is now getting popularity across the globe due to over a dozen of benefits.

The tef grain is very minute in size and its 150 seeds weigh equal to a single seed of wheat. It exhibits a wider range of variation in days to maturity (60 to 150 days), panicle forms (compact to very loose), lemma colour (yellowish white to dark brown) and grain colour (dark brown to very white) colour as shown below.

Agronomic merits of Tef

 Broad adaptation: It grows under various agro-ecologies, climate and soil conditions,
 Resilience to marginal & unfavorable conditions,
 Tolerance to drought & water logging,
 Low risk & catch crop value,
 Suitability to various cropping systems & crop rotation schemes,
 Relatively pest free crop,
 Minimal post-harvest losses and high storage longevity.

Nutritional merits of Tef

Tef is a super grain with enormous nutritional and health merits. It is ground and consumed with its nutritious seed coat. The brown Tef, especially, has exceptional functional property. The consumer products of tef include:
 Traditional Ethiopian dishes like injera, kita, chechebsa, chumbo, soup and porridge;
 Various drinks like Areke, Tela (local beer), Borde & beer;
 Pastry products like cake, cookies, waffles, Tef penne, Tef puffy, Tef flakes and

Tef grain versus other cereals grain

  • Tef grain is the source of best quality injera
  • It gives high return in flour (example, 99% in tef compared to 60-80% in wheat)
  • Its flour has good water holding capacity and gives a greater number of injera per unit grain
  • Tef grain has a better starch, fiber and ash content than sorghum, wheat, or rice and comparable crude protein, energy and fat (Table 1)

Table 1. Comparison of the nutritional content major cereal with tef

Health & performance merits of Tef grain

Tef grain protein & its health benefits

Tef is naturally gluten free and can be used for celiac patients without creating any damage to the digestive system. Its grain protein ranges from 8-15% with a mean of 11%. It is rich in digestible type of protein (albumin and globulins). It has excellent composition of essential amino acids comparable to egg protein except for lysine which is still higher than that of barley, millet and wheat. Most of its amino acids are much better than sorghum & wheat. Eating 200-gram tef products twice a day enables to meet the daily body protein requirements of our body. Thus, an adult female and male eating 469g and 571g dried injera per day respectively can meet the daily protein dietary body requirement if its protein is 100% digestible (Bultosa and Umeta, 2013).

Tef grain starch & its health benefits

Tef grain has low glycemic index (slow digest starch) for diabetic people. Tef food
products, therefore, enable to reduce celiac diseases (CD), heart diseases, diabetes,
colon cancers. Tef grain contains:

  • 20% rapidly digestible starch (RDS),
  • 50% slowly digestible starch (SDS)
  • 30% resistant starch (RS)

The RDS of tef quickly converted to blood glucose within 30 minutes and provides fast energy for the body. Its SDS, on the other hand, releases energy for prolonged time and gives a longer feeling of satisfaction to the stomach. Furthermore, its RS is used as a substrate for bacterial flora in the colons and protects the colon from some health disorders. The high proportions of SDS and low GI in tef grain have a proven physiologic health benefit. The RS & SDS are useful for blood sugar management, weight control, facilitation of mineral absorption and prevention of colon health. Tef grain is rich in fiber (8% ‘real’ food fiber & 30% RS) which acts like a fiber. It has also low glycemic index

Tef mineral & vitamin contents and its health benefits

Tef grain has 3 to 5 times more minerals and trace elements than the best wholegrain wheat flour. It is rich in calcium, iron, and dietary zinc and copper. Its calcium and iron ranges from 100-150mg and13-33mg, respectively. Thus, consumption of tef grain provides ample calcium to prevent osteoporosis (a reduction in the bone matter). In general, its high mineral contents for anemic people, bone and heart health, brain function. Tef grain also is a good source of B vitamins (B 2 and B 6 ) and significant amount of vitamin C.

Tef and sport

Tef grain constitutes the best natural combinations of nutrients and taste to promoteendurance, performance, and good health.

The slowly released starches of tef are good for long lasting release of energy & is essential for body maintenance. Its excellent amino acid composition is useful to repair/ build muscles and bones. Its rich minerals and trace-elements are useful to adjust minerals. Its rich iron gives a better and higher production of red blood cells. Its rich calcium provides a positive effect on contraction of heart muscle and nerve system. Consumption of its copper and zinc prevent premature hair loss & aid hair growth, and heals muscles, joints and tissue fiber. Its high iron level facilitates transportation of oxygen by Hb-protein. Its fast and slow glucose release provide a balanced energy supply and a better body performance. In general, consumption of tef products give relief from restless leg, sleeplessness, muscle cramping and headaches.

Tef straw & its various uses

 Tef straw is a very useful by-product obtained after threshing and separating the
 It is used as an excellent source of:
 nutritious animal feed
 cash income for farmers
 raw material for plastering of local houses.

Tef and Environment
 Grow under various agro-ecological conditions, cropping system, pattern &
 Tolerates both drought and water logging.
 Has a catch crop value
 Has low-post harvest pest and long shelf life.

 Has high phenotypic plasticity