Small But Mighty
Best Health|June/July 2021
THE NEW SUPERFOODS
LAURA JEHA

What really makes a food super? It’s high in antioxidants and rich in vitamins and minerals, to be sure, but it’s also a versatile ingredient you can add to your meal plan (and grocery list) and truly look forward to eating.

Here are three under-the-radar superfoods that offer major nutritional benefits and are worth seeking out.

All-Purpose Power Grain: Fonio

Fonio is an ancient grain from West Africa that is considered the continent’s oldest cultivated cereal. This edible grain is like a cross between couscous and quinoa in both appearance and texture, but it is actually a part of the millet family. Like quinoa, it is higher in protein than rice, wheat, and barley, with as much as 12 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked fonio. Plus, it contains methionine and cysteine, essential amino acids that are scarce in other cereals. Methionine is a limiting amino acid, meaning it’s hard to find in plant sources, making fonio an important nutrient source for vegans and vegetarians. In some parts of West Africa, fonio is prized by pregnant women and nursing mothers because it’s a source of iron and folic acid—two nutrients that are important for proper growth and development—and is thought to help stimulate breast milk production.

Because fonio is a whole grain and a low-glycemic carbohydrate source, it has less of an impact on blood sugar levels than refined grains like white rice and pasta. Its high fibre content, when coupled with some of its compounds, like antioxidants and flavonoids, has been shown to have an anti-diabetic effect, improving insulin response to keep blood sugar levels stable. Increasing your intake of these compounds also decreases the risk of colorectal and colon cancers, and boosts gut health.

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