Growing up, it was easy to find a garden of sorghum, even easier to pluck a cob and eat it then and there – raw. That sorghum would later be harvested, mainly dried and beaten off the cob.
While some people enjoyed its bread, porridge was especially preferred for children.
People would go ahead and ferment it (this would turn its colour from deep brown to black) and make different kinds of beverages ranging from the soft kind to the alcohol.
I do not think I ever heard of an actual benefit of it from my elders, although I very well knew that the hot porridge was good for children and too much bread without drinking enough water led to constipation.
But does it stop only at eating? Sorghum actually has surprising benefits.
It is a cereal that is mostly grown mainly in northern, eastern and western Uganda.
Sorghum has a dual purpose as it can be used as a staple food for human consumption as well as fodder for livestock.
Internationally, the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), according to foodtank.com estimates that more than 90 million people in Africa and Asia depend on millets in their diets, and 500 million people in more than 30 countries depend on sorghum as a staple food.
In East Africa, according to Dr. Robert Balikudembe, a researcher at Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute (NCRI), sorghum is most common in Uganda, where people mainly grow the dark brown grains when dried, plus Kenya and Sudan, whose grain colour is mainly white.
According to Felista Nakasiita, a nutritionist at Nsambya Hospital, a sorghum grain contains roughly 8-15 per cent protein, 68-80 per cent carbohydrate in the form of starch and non-starch (easily digestible), three per cent fat, two per cent fibre, and two per cent mineral content.
In regards to the mineral content, it is relatively rich in micronutrients such as iron, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
There are tremendous health benefits from sorghum consumption and they include the following:
Bran, the outer layer of a sorghum grain, is a good source of dietary fibre which promotes gut health, stabilises your blood sugar levels and aids weight management.
The starches in sorghum, according to webMD.com are difficult for the human body to digest, compared to other grains.
As a result, sorghum is an excellent addition to any meal, helping you feel full without contributing too many calories to your diet. This can highly help in weight moderation.
Good for the diabetic and celiac
Sorghum has the lowest starch digestibility among cereals thus highly beneficial for people with diabetes as well as those that are targeting weight loss according to Nakasiita. It is a good alternative to wheat flour for individuals suffering from celiac disease (this has symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, gas, anaemia and growth issues). This is because the starch from the sorghum grain is gluten-free.
Sorghum is also known to be rich in phenolic compounds like tannins which act as antioxidants that protect against cell damage, a major cause of conditions such as cancer and aging.
These antioxidants, according to healthline.com, can also lower oxidative stress and inflammation in your body
However, sorghum contains anti-nutrients such as tannins and phytic acid.
These according to Nakasiita, reduce the bioavailability of nutrients particularly minerals as they bind with them to form complexes that cannot be absorbed in the digestive tract thus can cause micronutrient malnutrition and mineral deficiencies.
These can however be reduced.
“There are various traditional methods and technologies, which can be used to reduce the levels of anti-nutrient factors as fermentation, germination, soaking and malting,” she said.
All in all, sorghum is nutritious cereal that one cannot afford to miss. It may also have as much protein as quinoa, according to healthline.com, a flowering plant in the amaranth family renowned for its high protein content.
“It also contains B vitamins which play an essential role in metabolism, neural development, and skin and hair health,” Nakasiita said.