Sorghum, Solam, jonnalu or White millet is type of millet found in warm countries of globe. Traditionally it has been used as fodder crop, making biodiesel and making alcohol. Interestingly sorghum has been used by human since 3000 BC which is 5000 years ago. However it is gaining importance for its nutritional value and health benefits. Unlike most other grains, sorghum is gluten free and hence is ideal as a substitute for wheat for those people who prefer to eat a gluten free diet.
Its use as food crop has been popular in drought prone regions of India and Africa. It is one of the staple foods of the local people living in the arid climates. It is also known as jowar or Juar (Hindi), Jola, cholam, Jwari, Janha, Jonnalu, Milo, Solam, Chari (Other Indian languages). Sudan grass, gaoliang, great millet, kafir corn, dura, dari, mtama, and solam are some other names. Sorghum is indigenous to tropical and subtropical areas of the world and can also be found in Australasia and the southwest Pacific.
Nutritional value of Sorghum
Sorghum is high in calories and various other nutrients. One cup of this grain can provide you with 650 calories. It is also a rich source of carbohydrates, proteins and fiber. Sorghum is about 2/3 strach, of which majority is starch called amylopectin and rest amylose. Cooking improves the digestibility of this starch.
A big advantage of sorghum is that is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. It also contains vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and phosphorus. Density of iron is highest in sorghum compared to other staple cereals. There are different varieties of sorghum that varies in color (white, red and black). The bran of dark colored varieties of sorghum is high in phenolic acids, anthocyanins tannins, and policosanols, which are powerful antioxidants.
Heath Benefits of Sorghum
Recent research has revealed that this grain has unique health benefits for humans. Sorghum is rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are health promoting. The consumption of this food not only boosts your nutrient intake but also helps in improving your overall health.
Sorghum is gluten free
Celiac disease is an autoimmune and digestive disorder that causes the lining of your small intestine to be damaged when foods containing gluten are consumed. Gluten is a type of protein that is found in some grains like wheat. The damage caused by gluten to the lining of your intestine leads to difficulty in absorbing nutrients by your body. Sorghum is gluten free and hence is a safe option for people having celiac disease to get more fiber and nutrients into their diet.
Sorghum aids weight loss
Sorghum is a good source of dietary fiber, which helps in controlling your appetite and in making you feel fuller for a long period of time. As a result you tend to eat less, which is very important when you are trying to lose weight. Apart from fiber, sorghum also contains essential nutrients that help in maintaining a healthy body.
Sorghum helps in relieving constipation
Studies show that inadequate intake of fiber in your diet can lead to many types of digestive disorders like constipation. Dietary fiber is important for your digestive health as it eases the process of digestion and makes your bowel movements regular. Sorghum, being a great source of fiber is beneficial for regularizing your bowel movements and in preventing constipation.
Sorghum lowers cholesterol
Sorghum is rich in phytochemicals and has been found to be effective for managing cholesterol. A study was conducted by the Scientists at the University of Nebraska in which hamsters were given varying levels of sorghum lipids for a period of four weeks. It was found that the healthy fats in this grain helped in lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while the good cholesterol (HDL) levels were not at all affected.
Sorghum is good for diabetics
Sorghum is a grain that is low in glycemic index. When compared to other grains, the protein and starch in sorghum is digested slowly. This slow digestion is very helpful for people suffering from diabetes as it does not cause considerable spikes in the blood glucose levels. Know which more foods are good for diabetic patients here.
Sorghum improves cardiovascular health
The powerful antioxidants found in sorghum have been found to have a protective effect on your heart. Moreover, the cholesterol lowering properties of this grain prevents blockage of arteries and lowers the risks of heart attacks.
Sorghum and cancer
As mentioned before, the bran of pigmented varieties of sorghum are rich in antioxidants that may help in preventing cancer. The phenolic antioxidants and flavonoids found in sorghum destroy the free radicals in your body and help in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. Studies reveal that the consumption of sorghum may be effective in reducing the risks of many types of cancers including colon cancer, abdominal cancer and breast cancer.
Jonnalu benefits for strong bones
Sorghum has good amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which are essential for the healthy growth and maintenance of bones. These nutrients also help in strengthening your bones and increasing bone mineral density, which is very helpful in preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
Culinary uses of Sorghum
Sorghum is one of the most versatile crops available and has many uses. It comes in different varieties and some of these are resistant to heat and also can tolerate extreme conditions of drought. Because of this quality, sorghum is considered to be the staple crop for people living in severe hot and harsh climatic conditions. In many places where sorghum is widely cultivated, it is used as a very important food crop. It is a popular cereal grain in many parts of the world like Africa, Central America, and South Asia. Being a very healthy, nutritious and versatile crop, it is usually used in preparing many kinds of food items, especially baked goods.
It is used as sorghum flour made into bread, porridge and molasses. Bhakri or jolada roti is popular in India. Puffed sorghum seeds are good alternative to popcorn. Mabele is porridge made from sorghum in South Africa. Sorghum syrup is used as sweet condiment in US in baking products. Sorghum starch is used to make soups and breads in Middle East. Today it is used as cereal in gluten free breads and recipes.
Other Sorghum uses
Fodder: Sorghum is also used as a fodder plant in many places. It is usually harvested or left as such in the pasture for fodder. Due to the fact that the sorghum plant can withstand hot and arid conditions, and thrive under various climatic conditions, it is frequently allowed to grow in fields from where animals and livestock can obtain food from the crop.
Alcoholic beverages – Just like many other grains are used for making alcohol, the sorghum grain also finds use in the preparation of alcoholic beverages.
Biofuel – As mentioned above, sorghum is a versatile crop that grows in abundance in harsh conditions. For this reason, it is often used in making biofuels like ethanol. Even though transporting the fuel can be a problem, the use of sorghum for making biofuels is increasing merely due to the fact that it is cheap and grows abundantly and quickly.
How to store sorghum?
It is important to ensure proper storage of sorghum, whether it is in the grain form or in the flour form. For storing whole grain sorghum, it is better to use plastic containers. Fill the plastic containers with the grains to the top and fasten them with the air tight lids in order to prevent the grains from being exposed to excess air. These containers should then be stored in a dry and cool place. This method of storage ensures that the grains keep without damage for at least a year. However, keep checking on the grains for rancidity before using it. In case they have turned rancid, make sure to discard them.
Whole grain sorghum is ground in the food processor to make into a cereal consistency or further ground to a fine powder to obtain sorghum flour. Just like sorghum grains, ground sorghum should also be stored in plastic containers with air tight lids. Sorghum flour stored in this manner at room temperatures should be used within two to three days. If you store the sorghum containers in the freezer, it will keep for up to a year.
Precautions about sorghum
Some varieties of sorghum may contain nitrates and hydrogen cyanide, which can be potentially toxic and harmful to animals, especially those grown in stressful conditions.
Some recipes using sorghum
Ingredients – 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup butter, 2 ½ cups sorghum flour, 1 egg, 2 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger.
Method – Mix together egg, sugar, and sorghum. Melt butter and add to this mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat well. Chill this mixture. Preheat the oven to 375 degree Celsius and bake for 10 minutes.
Ingredients – 1 cup sorghum, 1 scallion (chopped), 1 onion (chopped), 1 tomato (chopped), 1 cucumber (chopped), Other green vegetables, 3 cups water, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lime juice, Salt and pepper as per taste
Method – Combine sorghum, water, and salt in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer until all the water is absorbed by the grains and they are cooked well. Allow the sorghum to cool. Next prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together the lime juice and mustard in a small bowl. While stirring this mixture, add olive oil to obtain a dressing of thick consistency. To the warm sorghum, add this dressing and toss in all the vegetables, salt and pepper.
Sorghum, an ancient cereal that was once cultivated in India and Africa is now grown throughout the world and has become one of the most important food crops consumed by man. It is not only a food source for humans but is also used as fodder and animal feed. The taste of sorghum is almost similar to that of wheat flour. Nowadays this grain has become more and more popular in making baked goods such as muffins, cakes, cookies etc.Image Credits: Flickr - Vincent Chien, Wikimedia - Sahaquiel9102