An excellent source of 12 essential nutrients with nearly double the iron as a 3-ounce steak, sorghum continues to grow in popularity as a healthy, versatile food in the U.S.
Sorghum continues to grow in popularity as a healthy, versatile food in the U.S. While it has been a food staple around the world for thousands of years, American consumers are “rediscovering” sorghum and are drawn to its versatility and nutrition profile.
The profile sorghum provides is, frankly, hard to beat. A serving of whole grain sorghum is an excellent source of 12 essential nutrients, more than a serving of corn, wheat, oats, rice or quinoa. In the world of nutrition, protein is often the defining characteristic when comparing foods. The good news is sorghum stands out among plant-based sources of protein and comparable grains. A serving of cooked whole grain sorghum provides more than double the amount of protein as a serving of quinoa and nearly double the iron as a 3-ounce portion of a beef sirloin steak.
As COVID took center stage over the last two years, the public became more interested than ever about how the food they eat affects their health. The public also saw how various diseases negatively affected the outcome of a COVID diagnosis. In turn, consumers began seeking out foods that help promote health. Enter sorghum. A serving of cooked whole grain sorghum is an excellent source of protein, zinc, selenium and copper, which may contribute to a healthy immune system. Equally important, research has shown a correlation between sorghum consumption and decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Looking to the future, the possibilities are endless. Not only is the nutrition of sorghum unparalleled, but the opportunity for application in the food space is equally unmatched. For example, sorghum is a natural source of antioxidants, which is an attribute many food companies are looking for in their product lines.
As with any food, different colors offer different nutrients. The same can be said for sorghum and its variety of colors ranging from white to black and burgundy hues. One of the exciting areas of emerging research for sorghum is showing that the darker the grain, the more antioxidant properties.
Additionally, initial research has shown the various colors of sorghum grains may offer a natural color alternative to synthetic dyes companies are seeking to replace.
Companies continue to notice sorghum with a growing number of food items containing it as a featured ingredient. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows more than 1,400 branded food items including sorghum, a significant jump from around 300 products almost seven years ago. These items include everything from pasta to cake mix.
Work continues to further increase sorghum in the U.S. food supply through product innovation and inclusion in institutional markets, such as schools. However, it is important for awareness to grow in tandem, and the Sorghum Checkoff is targeting consumer, culinary and health professional audiences with education to continue to elevate the sorghum profile.
Recently, the Sorghum Checkoff worked with Jim Painter, Ph.D., adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and professor emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, to compile a literature review of research related to sorghum nutrition and health, and the findings were astonishing.
The nearly 200 studies highlighted sorghum’s role in the prevention of chronic diseases plaguing the United States, specifically diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The research is so compelling the Sorghum Checkoff is exploring a qualified health claim linking sorghum to decreased risk of diabetes.
This research is just one example of information that will be used to target a variety of audiences through media, trade shows and other platforms to further move the needle and increase awareness and demand.
In addition to taste and nutrition, consumers want to know that the foods they choose are good for the planet. The Sorghum Checkoff recently trademarked The Resource Conserving Ingredient™ for a reason. Sorghum has many superpowers but its adaptability to climate challenges like heat and drought, as well as its low water requirement compared to similar grains, is a story worthwhile to the American consumer.
The demand for sustainable sources of protein to feed the growing world population is increasing in tandem with unpredictable weather conditions, positioning sorghum as a reliable source of plant-based protein to meet the demand.Looking to the future, sorghum is poised for success in the food space due to its versatility, nutrition profile and sustainability story. It is an exciting time to be part of the sorghum industry.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.