Sorghum Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Sorghum grains

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Sorghum is an ancient grain originating from the African continent. For many years, it has been used in the American food supply as a sweetener in sorghum syrups and sorghum molasses, as well as in the production of alcoholic beverages.

Sorghum is increasingly gaining acceptance as an edible cereal grain in its own right. High in protein, gluten-free, and full of antioxidants, sorghum can be a healthy addition to most diets.

Although it doesn’t have the mainstream popularity of some other grains, sorghum is an extremely common crop in the United States. In fact, in the so-called “Sorghum Belt”—states spanning the central U.S.—farmers planted 5.7 million acres of the crop in 2018 alone. The plant is also known for its sustainability.

According to the Sorghum Checkoff, 91% of American sorghum is watered with rain, rather than irrigated, and many sorghum farming practices improve soil health, rather than degrade it.

Here’s a closer look at this healthy, environmentally friendly grain.

Nutrition Facts

Sorghum Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information for 1/2 cup (96 grams) of raw sorghum grains, is provided by the USDA. Keep in mind that raw sorghum is dry and not cooked. A 1/2-cup portion of the grain will turn into 1 1/2 cups of cooked sorghum. Most people will likely eat only 1/2 cup to 1 cup cooked which will lower the calories and carbohydrates.

  • Calories: 316
  • Fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 69g
  • Fiber: 7.5g
  • Sugars: 2.5
  • Protein: 10g

Carbs?

Sorghum’s calories come mostly from carbohydrates. One half cup of the dry grain provides 69 grams, 3 of which are fiber. Another 2.5 grams come from sugars. The remainder of sorghum’s carbs are naturally occurring starches, which are the heartier, slower-digesting complex variety. But again, that dry portion will yield more than most people will consume in one sitting.

Fats

Sorghum contains little fat, at just 3 grams per half cup.

Protein

Sorghum contains 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup dry or 1 1/2 cups cooked.

Vitamins and Minerals

Grains are almost always rich in micronutrients, but sorghum surpasses many others for nutrient density. One half-cup serves up 18% of the Daily Value (DV) of iron, 25% DV of vitamin B6, 37% DV of magnesium, and 30% DV of copper. It also contains significant amounts of phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and thiamine.

Health Benefits

May Reduce Inflammation

Numerous chronic diseases are driven by underlying inflammation. The antioxidants in sorghum can help combat cell damage, reducing inflammation. According to a 2016 systematic review of 19 studies, consuming sorghum decreased markers of inflammation.??

May Improve Blood Sugar

The same systematic review that associated sorghum with reduced inflammation also found that eating the grain led to improved blood glucose responses. This could be good news for people living with diabetes or prediabetes. It should be noted that blood glucose responses will vary based on the person, and how much carbohydrate is eaten at a given time. The other foods consumed with the carbohydrate will also have an impact on blood glucose response.

Suitable for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

People with celiac disease and those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten altogether. Therefore, the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, makes these grains unsuitable for consumption.

Fortunately, people with these conditions can still enjoy grains (and get fiber and nutrients) with gluten-free sorghum. 

May Boost Weight Loss

Research shows that diets high in fiber promote weight loss?? —and at 7.5 grams per half cup, sorghum is certainly high in fiber. One small 2019 study?? compared the effects of adding sorghum versus wheat to a calorie-controlled weight loss diet.

Researchers found that those who ate sorghum reduced their body fat percentage more than those who ate wheat.

Fits in a Low Sodium Diet

With just 2 milligrams of sodium per half cup, sorghum is extremely low in sodium. This makes it an excellent choice for anyone on a low-sodium diet (as long as preparation methods don’t add a lot of salt).

Helps Regulate Blood Pressure

To regulate blood pressure, the body constantly strives to maintain a delicate balance of potassium and sodium—but most American diets are too high in sodium??? and too low in potassium.??? Replacing processed, high sodium starches like packaged pastas and rices with whole grains such as sorghum will help to increase potassium intake and lower sodium intake which may help to maintain better blood pressure.

Allergies

Sorghum is not among the top eight food allergens responsible for 90% of food allergies. In fact, for people with wheat allergies, sorghum can provide some similar nutrients to wheat, without the proteins that typically cause allergic reactions (and without gluten for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance).

It is, however, possible to be allergic to sorghum. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include nausea, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory issues like coughing or wheezing.

Adverse Effects

Sorghum can have a place in most healthy diets. But for some, too much of this grain could cause problems. People who are monitoring their carbohydrate intake will need to consider portions of foods like sorghum which are primarily carbohydrates. A typically serving of sorghum (which is about 1/2 cup cooked) contains roughly 23–28 grams of carbohydrates and about 2.5 grams of fiber.

Varieties

The different varieties of sorghum grains are defined by color, including red, orange, bronze, tan, white, and black. In addition to these botanical varieties, sorghum can be processed into many different formats. You can use sorghum flour in breads and pastries, liquefied sorghum as a syrup, pearled sorghum as a hot grain, and popped sorghum as a popcorn-like snack.

When It’s Best

Sorghum is typically harvested in the fall, depending on the plant’s moisture content. Once harvested, the crop is dried. Drying makes sorghum remarkably shelf-stable; in a cool dry place, kernels can last for years. Therefore, while the crop itself has a seasonal rotation, its availability doesn’t change throughout the year.

Storage and Food Safety

Like most whole grains, sorghum grains should be kept in a cool, dark place in a resealable container (preferably one with a tight-fitting lid). After cooking, you can store the grains in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

How to Prepare

Because of its many forms, from flour to syrup to bran, there are innumerable ways to prepare sorghum. Some products, such as popped sorghum grains, can be eaten directly out of the package. Sorghum syrup, too, is a ready-to-eat topping perfect for drizzling on pancakes or biscuits. Or you can experiment with sorghum flour in baking by substituting 1/3 to 1/2 of wheat flour with this alternative.

To cook this grain, look at the package for cooking instructions as they can vary across brands. Typically one cup of raw sorghum is cooked in one quart or 4 cups of liquid. For extra flavor, add a sprinkle of salt to the pot. Rinse sorghum grains and add to boiling water. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high. Cook uncovered 50 to 60 minutes or until grains are soft and chewy.

Once cooked, whole sorghum grains make a nutritious, high-protein addition to porridges, grain bowls, or pilafs.

Recipes

Healthy Sorghum Recipes to Try

 

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Article Sources
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  3. Anuncia??o PC, et al. Extruded sorghum consumption associated with a caloric restricted diet reduces body fat in overweight men: A randomized controlled trial. Food Res Int. 2019 May;119:693-700. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.10.048.

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  5. University of Michigan Medical School. Getting Enough Potassium. Updated August 21, 2019.