Whole Grain Teff Polenta

The other day I touched on the ancient Ethiopian, gluten-free grain called teff. Decent nutritionally, too—since it’s the smallest grain and hence, a higher proportion of the nutritional germ part to the rest of it.

I could only find the flour locally, so I ordered some from Bob. It’s weird stuff. The grains are the size of a . Yea, the size of a period. Period. And when you’re boiling it, it’s like a colloidal solution until it soaks up the liquid.

Bob’s also has a polenta recipe that I followed exactly. Here’s another, quite different. Here’s how mine came out, along with some roasted chicken and a simple chicken stock reduction. Yea, should have some greens but none on hand at the time.

IMG 2898
Click to enlarge

It’s quite tasty although, a bit too “herby” for my taste. Tim Steele said that cold, it tastes like leftover meatloaf and I can see that. My wife loved it and went for a second helping.

I think my preference would be to make it like you make grits, with just some butter, salt & pepper, so I’ll try that. Its consistency was exactly like grits prior to letting it cool. But first up, I’m going to make a porridge this morning and I think a bit of real maple syrup I keep on hand will be the ticket, especially if I dry roast the grains in the saucepan a few minutes prior to introducing the water.

Hopefully, you checked out the massive, 2-months-in-the-works post on the vast distinction health-wise between refined sugar and unrefined. Turns out that just like honey, maple syrup has a real nutritional profile. Less vitamins than honey, more minerals—plus various and sundry ‘nols’. I’d still use sparingly (though I’m taking in several tablespoons of raw honey daily, now), but nothing to be afraid of. It’s a whole food.

On a final note, nothing to write home about in terms of resistant starch. Tim has the full text of that paper and RS comes to about 6-10% of carbohydrate, depending on teff varietal. Not sure whether that’s in a raw, cooked, or retrograded state. Doesn’t really matter, since in that portion above, it’s about 30g of carbohydrate which in the best of worlds, would put it at a rather insignificant 3g of RS, if that. But there’s plenty of other goof reasons to enjoy it. It settled in my stomach perfectly. Had that been made of wheat I’d have been assured of nuclear heartburn.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. jeff on January 9, 2015 at 05:19

    Regarding raw honey, would putting it in coffee or tea change the nutritional profile/benefits of the “raw” part? You’re not cooking it but it is sitting in liquid that starts out at about 136 degrees but fairly rapidly cools. What do you think?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 9, 2015 at 08:31

      As always, I say do both. No doubt raw, unfiltered, unrefined, has benefits. But heat, as it does in other foods, may bring another range of benefits.

      I had a tsp in hot teff porridge yesterday, and also in a cold glass of milk. Both.

  2. Jane Karlsson on January 9, 2015 at 06:05

    I just looked up the mineral content of teff and maple syrup, and found they are both almost unbelievably high in manganese.

    Yesterday I found a very interesting paper about PP2A, the manganese enzyme important in Alzheimer’s. It was known to prevent neurofibrillary tangles, and this paper shows it’s needed for autophagy.

    Here is a paper about Vps34, which is also very important in autophagy. Look at Fig 3A and you will see it requires Mn for its activity. The Mn might come from lysosomes, which concentrate it.

    I read Part II of Duck et al’s hormesis series. Absolutely stunning.

    • Duck Dodgers on January 9, 2015 at 09:42


      Thanks for the kind words. I have to say that I smiled when I came across references to manganese everywhere I looked in my research on raw sugar, for Part II. I thought of your research and the connections you’ve been making all along. I purposefully made a point to mention the high manganese content of molasses, in Part II.

      If I can oversimplify what I learned while writing it—it seems that plants need to balance their oxidative stress just as much as we do. So, any (indigestible) compounds and sugars that are found in a plant to balance their use of sugars and sugar signaling may have similar purposes in our bodies. I never looked into it, but I wonder if you could use a similar approach. Can you find clues for our own metabolism of manganese by seeing how manganese interacts with the sugars in plants? My guess is there is a lot to be learned from plants.

      Case in point, look at this paper from 1948. It sounds like the manganese cycle is very similar in both plants and animals when it comes to iron and the roles of sugar to keep the plant alive.

      Anyhow, writing that post definitely opened my eyes to the role of manganese.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 9, 2015 at 09:50

      “I have to say that I smiled when I came across references to manganese everywhere”

      Me too. I’m like, Jane is going to FLIP when she sees this stuff. 🙂

    • Jane Karlsson on January 10, 2015 at 05:24

      Cool! Have a look at this article about ‘Mighty Manganese’.

    • Gemma on January 10, 2015 at 08:29


      “In the course of human history, this cellular battle for manganese has probably cost more human lives than all the national battles for silver and gold.”

      Great story, thanks!

    • Duck Dodgers on February 15, 2015 at 04:50

      Another good source of manganese (and fiber) is quinoa.

    • Jane Karlsson on February 16, 2015 at 04:26

      Hi Duck
      Yet another grain with insane levels of manganese. I’m starting to think humans are naturally grain eaters. Well actually I’ve been thinking that ever since I did my zoology degree. Here in Oxford the emphasis was on Animal Kingdom rather than molecules, and we learned how structure relates to function in a way biochemists never do. It seemed to me that everything about humans says ‘grain eater’. We’d have needed to learn how to soak and sprout them, if we couldn’t yet cook them, but how difficult is that?

      I have never liked the idea that our large brains came from eating meat. A concentrated source of energy was apparently required, and I rather think a concentrated manganese source was just as important. Meat is not a good source of manganese.

      Here is a paper about collecting wild grains which suggests this could have been a viable strategy for early humans.
      ‘Impetus for sowing and the beginning of agriculture: Ground collection of wild cereals’

      BTW I also think early humans could have been tiger nut eaters, thanks to what I’ve read here.

    • Duck Dodgers on February 16, 2015 at 07:08


      Thanks for that. From my view, you’ve been squarely vindicated—particularly in terms of the ancestral connection to manganese. Have you watched the “Grasslands” episode of Human Planet?

      Human Planet. Grasslands

      It’s hard not to see the close connection between humans and grasses after watching that. We would not have evolved the way we did without grasses.

      I’m now seeing that oats, rice bran, wheat germ, buckwheat, sorghum, kamut, rye, barley, quinoa, millet, spelt, amaranth, chia and farro are all very rich in manganese. These are the ancient grains. That cannot be a coincidence.

      My speculation is that ancestrally it all worked out, from a whole foods context. When an animal eats any (edible) plant, the plant provides all of the minerals needed to assimilate it—because the plant itself needs those minerals to utilize its own sugars for energy/signaling.

    • Duck Dodgers on February 16, 2015 at 09:11

      Oh, and in terms of big brains, while this doesn’t prove anything, I’ve noticed the connection that the cultures who spent a good deal of time exploring enlightenment and expansion of consciousness—and thus worked on activating their pineal glands (third eye), for the enhanced secretion of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)—were ones that relied heavily on carbohydrates and grains. Yogis/Hindus, Ancient Egyptians, Taoism, Buddhism.

      They were downright obsessed about the expansion of their consciousness—it’s represented all over their artwork. You’d think they would have favored eating foods that fueled their mind expansion and shunned the foods that thwarted it.

    • Jane Karlsson on February 17, 2015 at 05:32

      Yes, Don Matesz says this about it:

      For hundreds of years, yogis seeking the mental clarity and power necessary to perceive reality directly through dhyana (concentration, Chinese chan, Japanese zen), so as to achieve enlightenment, studied the effects of various foods on themselves. Through experimentation and observation, they came to divide foods into three types with differing effects on the mind and spirit:

      1. Sattvic foods, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh milk products, which support alertness, clarity, happiness, contentment, energy, and pursuit of enlightenment. ……..

    • Jane Karlsson on February 17, 2015 at 06:18

      Yes, exactly.

      I did watch the video, and thanks for the kind words.

  3. Jane Karlsson on January 11, 2015 at 05:40

    Hi Gemma
    Good, isn’t it. I think manganese is going to explode into the public consciousness quite soon. Most of the loose ends have been tied up now, with this paper on diabetes
    and the one I linked above on Alzheimer’s.

    A couple of years ago Big Pharma withdrew from the search for an Alzheimer cure.
    I suspect they realised the problem was manganese deficiency. Copper deficiency too, here’s a Klevay paper about it.

  4. Jane Karlsson on January 12, 2015 at 04:27

    Yes, there is a great deal more to the Alzheimer story. I once spent two years doing almost nothing but read the Alzheimer literature, so I know how enormous it is. I was collaborating with a scientist from OPTIMA (Oxford Project To Investigate Memory and Aging).

    Your paper says ‘Virtually every type of microbe known has been implicated in contributing to the susceptibility and pathogenesis of the AD process.’ Later it suggests giving the patients anti-bacterial, anti-viral and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. It seems to me that giving them a diet which feeds their immune system and their gut bacteria makes more sense.

    AD patients have iron overload in the damaged brain regions. Iron overload = manganese deficiency + copper deficiency. Manganese prevents iron-dependent damage and copper is needed for getting iron out of brain cells.

  5. BlueWren . on February 22, 2016 at 17:10

    Love this thread. I’m learning more and more each day! And I”m so glad I eat normally again!

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