Adding variety to your diet can often introduce nutrients that may complement those present in the foods that you already eat. Although the sorghum grain, or Sorghum bicolor, ranks fifth behind wheat, rice, corn and barley in world production and consumption, it is a staple food in 30 countries in the tropics and semi-tropics. In contrast to many other cereal grains, sorghum is gluten-free, and the bran layers of dark-colored varieties are rich in phytonutrients with health-promoting properties.
Nutrients in Sorghum
Sorghum may be cooked and served alone, popped, or used in porridges and breads. A 1-cup, 192-gram serving of sorghum is energy-rich, providing 650 calories, 48 percent of your recommended daily intake, or RDI, for carbohydrates, mainly complex carbohydrates, and 48 percent of your RDI for fiber. Sorghum is rich in thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and trace minerals such as iron, phosphorus and potassium. The color of sorghum varies from white to red to black, and the bran of dark-colored varieties is rich in compounds called phenolic acids, tannins, anthocyanins and policosanols.
Sorghum Antioxidants and Cancer
The bran layers of pigmented sorghum varieties contain antioxidants that may help protect against cancer development. Mortality from esophageal cancer in Shanxi Province, China, is lower in people who consume sorghum and millet flour than those who eat corn and wheat flour, according to an ecological study appearing in the April 1993 issue of the International Journal of Cancer.” An epidemic of squamous carcinoma of the esophagus possibly caused by fungi in South Africa might be due to a shift in consumption from sorghum to corn as a dietary staple, according to a review in a 2005 issue of Medical Hypotheses.
Sorghum and Carbohydrates
Sorghum may slow and reduce carbohydrate digestion and absorption, which could help with blood glucose control in people with diabetes. Adding tannin-rich bran extracts of dark sorghum to corn and sorghum flour porridges lowers the estimated glycemic index of the porridges in simulated testing. Sorghum tannins interact with carbohydrates and cause the formation of resistant starch, which lowers starch digestibility. Sorghum extracts inhibit amylase, the enzyme produced with saliva and pancreatic juice that breaks down starch.
Sorghum is Gluten-Free
If you cannot tolerate gluten or have frequent allergic reactions after eating foods made with wheat, oats, barley or rye, sorghum is a gluten-free alternative staple grain. Sorghum appears to be safe for patients with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition of the small intestine that is aggravated by gluten, as reported in the Dec. 2007 issue of â€œClinical Nutrition.” If you do substitute sorghum for other foods in your diet, do not rely too heavily on sorghumâ€™s protein for contribution to your daily needs. Sorghum protein is poorly digested after cooking and is deficient in the essential amino acid lysine.