December 5, 2022

Olufunke Faluyi

Many people are guilty of taking supplements indiscriminately. Do you know that consuming too much vitamin C has the potential to increase the amount of oxalate in your urine, thus increasing your risk of developing kidney stones? All these vitamins are in our foods. If you need supplementation, your doctor will decide that. I would like to add to what I said about Ofada rice last week. Some have gone through processing that they almost look like polished rice. The only way to reap all the benefits is by eating the original one. I buy the one I eat from Ekiti State. Although, I get to go through the pain of removing the stones, my joy is that all the parts of a grain I discussed last week are still intact and also, it has not been robbed off that popular Ofada flavour. For me, that flavour is what makes it appetising.

This week, I will be talking about another grain in the millet family known as Sorghum or guinea corn. It is botanically called Sorghum bicolor and it belongs to the grass family Poaceae. It is called oka baba (Yoruba) and dawa/jero (Hausa). It is a great source of plant-based protein. In fact, it provides as much protein as Quinoa, a cereal grain renowned for its high protein content. In addition, it is high in antioxidants such as flavonoids, phenolic acids and tannins. Eating a diet rich in these antioxidants can lower oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. A half cup of sorghum provides more than seven grams of fiber, which is about 25 per cent of the recommended daily fiber intake. A diet rich in fiber helps to manage weight, lower cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent constipation. For those looking for a gluten-free grain, (gluten is a group of proteins found in certain grains that gives food products a stretchy quality and structure), sorghum is a super healthy option. You can replace gluten-containing flour with sorghum in baked products like bread, cookies or other desserts. Sorghum is a significant source of many vitamins (B1 and B6) and minerals (iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc), all of which contribute to good health.

 Compounds in Sorghum called 3-Deoxyanthocyanidins (3-DXA) are present in darker-colored ones and to a lesser extent, in white ones. Scientists at the University of Missouri tested extracts of black, red and white sorghums and found that all three extracts had strong anti-proliferative activity against human colon cancer cells. Scientists at the University of Nebraska observed that sorghum is a rich source of phytochemicals and decided to study its potential for managing cholesterol. They fed different levels of sorghum lipids to hamsters for four weeks and found that the healthy fats in the grain significantly reduced “bad” (non-HDL) cholesterol. Reductions ranged from 18 per cent in hamsters fed a diet including 0.5 per cent sorghum lipids, to 69 per cent in hamsters fed a diet including five per cent sorghum lipids. Good (HDL) cholesterol was not affected. Researchers concluded that “grain sorghum contains beneficial components that could be used as food ingredients or dietary supplements to manage cholesterol levels in humans.”

Joseph Awika and Lloyd Rooney, at Texas A&M University conducted an extensive review of scores of studies involving sorghum and concluded that the phytochemicals in sorghum “have potential to significantly impact human health.” In particular, they cited evidence that sorghum may reduce the risk of certain cancers and promote cardiovascular health.

Although, the focus is on the grain, I will like to talk about the leaves. It is called “poporo baba” and you can get to buy from women selling herbs in the market. The leaves consist primarily of carotenoids, flavonoids and phenolic acids with small amounts of chlorophyll, lycopene and beta-carotene. The fatty acid profiles of the leaves revealed palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acid as predominant with each having greater than five per cent of the total fatty acid identified. It is cooked (add spices of your choice while cooking) and drunk as tonic for anemia and general lack of vitality. In addition to its many uses as a medicine, the deep red colour extracted from the leaves is used to dye baskets, goat skins, basket weaving materials, textiles, grass mats, wool, mud houses and as a body paint. The leaves add flavour and give Waakye (a local dish prepared by cooking rice and beans with red sorghum leaves) its distinctive reddish-brown colour. The leaves have been used in combination with three additional plants in the phytomedicine Nicosan, approved in Nigeria for the treatment of sickle cell disease. A popular blood tonic has also been developed from the leaves.

Let us see more of its benefits :

  • Contains energy boosting nutrients
  • May improve bone health
  • Helps fight inflammation and cancer.
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Slowly digested, this slows down the rate at which glucose (sugar) is released into the bloodstream.
  • Inhibits cancer growth.
  • One of the most prominent micronutrients in sorghum is iron.
  • May have cardioprotective properties.
  • May help in weight management

In a study titled, “Bioactive and nutritive compounds in Sorghum bicolor (Guinea corn) red leaves and their health implication,’’ by Abugri et al, the nutritional implication of these findings is that the consumption of diets prepared with the leaves provides natural antioxidant and essential fatty acids that could fight cardiovascular-related diseases.

In a study titled, “Anti-anaemic potentials of aqueous extract of Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench stem bark in rats,’’ by Temidayo Oladiji et al, the results revealed that extract administration has restored the anaemic condition in the iron-deficient group and thus lend credence to its use in folklore medicine in the management of anaemia.

In a study titled, “Preadministration of fermented sorghum diet provides protection against hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress and suppressed glucose utilisation in alloxan-induced diabetic rats,’’ by Olawole et al, the consumption of sorghum diet may protect against hyperglycemia and oxidative damage and may therefore serve as functional food for management of diabetic mellitus.

In a study titled, “Antioxidant and anti-cancer activities of proanthocyanidins-rich extracts from three varieties of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) bran,’’ by Yingying Zhu et al, the results indicate sorghum bran could be a valuable resource of natural proanthocyanidins extract that exerts antioxidant and HCC (Hepatocellular carcinoma) prevention effects.

In a study titled, “Extruded sorghum consumption associated with a caloric restricted diet reduces body fat in overweight men: A randomised controlled trial,’’ by Pamella Cristine Anunciação et al, the conclusion is that extruded sorghum demonstrated to be a good alternative to control obesity in overweight men.

You can cook the grain like you will cook rice and quinoa. It can serve as gluten-free flour in most recipes. Add the grains to a heated pan and watch them pop like popcorn. It is also converted into syrup that is used to sweeten many processed foods. Similarly to other cereal grains like oats, flaked sorghum is delicious as a cereal and in baked goods. Sorghum contains more crude protein than corn, so, it is not a bad idea if you use it for making your pap (ogi/akamu) more than you will use corn.

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