Fonio: Meet the new Super Food from West Africa
In ancient times we were more dependent on natural ways of healing our health. It allowed our ancestors to explore the medicinal benefits of various foods and incorporate them into their daily diet. More recently, many such wonderful foods have regained the vital status that they once enjoyed as modern research proves their efficiency. One such food is Fonio- a grain variety that is found mainly in West Africa that contains several nutrients.
What is Fonio?
Belonging to the West African Region the Fonio is an ancient variety of grain that is packed with several health benefits and has been enjoying a vital cultural significance especially in the West African community.
A few facts about Fonio
Due to its elevated position in the socio-cultural society the Fonio was especially enjoyed by the nobility and aristocracy and on some special occasions, the cereal played a vital role in the ceremonial proceedings.
Due to the low probabilities of pest infestation the Fonio can be stored for a long period. The harvesting period ranges between 6 and 8 weeks.
Unlike many other crops Fonio doesn’t have heavy requirements like fertilizers, etc. which makes it an ideal crop that can grow well even if the soil quality is below average or during the post-drought conditions.
The revival of Fonio
After a long time of being underutilized and neglected state the Fonio is again gaining recognition in the market, especially in West Africa but extending to other parts of the world as well. The environmental and economical properties of this crop along with the health benefits have allowed it to start reclaiming its lost position in the market.
How many varieties of Fonio are there in the market?
There are 2 different varieties of Fonio available in the market
Digitaria Iburua generally grows in the west-African regions of Togo, Nigeria, and Benin. It carries brown/black spikelets
Digitaria exilis: This is a more popular variety both in African and non-African countries. If you live in a country outside Africa, then it is almost sure that the Fonio variety you buy from the supermarket is Digitaria exilis. It is generally cultivated in the region extending from Senegal up to Chad along with a few Central African Regions.
What is the nutritional profile of fonio?
While being a rich resource of many nutrients the Fonio also has very small volumes of fat, sodium and cholesterol- which does not expose to any health risks. It is this optimized nutrition profile that puts Fonio in an advantageous position. Here is a list of other nutrients that you can find in Fonio:
Protein: 2 grams
Sugar: 0 grams
Carbs: 39 grams
Fat: 0.5 grams
Good for cells
Being a repository of B-family vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin the Fonio has a definite long-term positive impact on enhancing cells growth, regulates their functioning and production of energy in our body.
Along with the blood/red blood cells formation the Fonio also helps in the production of connective tissues, thanks to the rich treasure of iron and copper it contains.
Improves immunity and energy production
Fonio also enhances immunity profile regulates cell growth and synthesis of protein- the qualities being attributed to its zinc content. Fonio consumption also helps in the energy production mechanism by facilitating relevant biochemical reactions.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian then Fonio could be an ideal plant-based protein source for you.
Good for tissues, hair and skin
Along with a decent protein profile the Fonio also contains methionine and cysteine- two vital amino acids that contain sulfur. Methionine plays a key role in the overall health management of your skin, hair, nails, and tissues.
Likewise the Cysteine enhances the utility value of protein through detoxifications and synthesis process along with helping in Taurine formation (another type of amino acid)
Generally a single portion of fonio fulfills around 10% of every but one essential amino- acids (except lysine) for an adult.
Aids weight loss exercises
As a whole grain the Fonio can actively aid in managing weight and decrease the probabilities of serious diseases like cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes, and life-threatening cellular diseases.
Goodness of whole grain
The Fonio can be eaten in its entirety bran, endosperm, and germ.
During the processing when germ and bran parts are removed the grain’s protein profile is reduced by up to 25%. Being a whole grain, the Fonio helps you get almost full protein.
Another advantage of being a whole grain is that just 1/4th cup of Fonio (dried) is sufficient to meet half of the regular grain intake.
Safe for gluten-allergic people
Fonio doesn’t contain any gluten either which makes it an ideal choice for gluten-sensitive people and allows the population with celiac diseases to fulfill their grain-based requirements.
Gluten are specific proteins present in rye, barley, and wheat but some people are non-tolerant to Gluten, and thus eating these proteins has negative health effects on them like lethargy and upset stomach.
In people having celiac disease the gluten consumption can lead to more serious issues like small intestine damage..
Helps in Blood Sugar Management
The presence of resistant starch withstands the absorption and digestions process in the small intestine thus contributing towards enhanced insulin sensitivity while bringing down the sugar levels in the blood to the safe mark.
Moreover it doesn’t instantly hike the levels of blood sugar- a property that makes it a vital protein diet for the diabetics people for effective blood sugar management.
How to eat Fonio?
There are diverse ways in which you can cook Fonio. The subtle taste profile, as well as easygoing texture, makes it an ideal food to be cooked alone or mixed with a variety of other ingredients. You can also make Fonio flour and prepare a variety of baked items with it. An easier way to incorporate it into your daily diet is to prepare it just the way you prepare couscous or porridge.