Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sorghum Bran : Gluten-Free Antioxidant Diet Booster

We gluten-free diet people may be enjoying an antioxidant boost thanks to sorghum flour used in some of our baking.  I came across a recent scientific study by the University of Georgia that examined varieties of Sorghum Bran and the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers each possessed  The study concluded that select varieties of sorghum bran have greater antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than well-known foods such as blueberries and pomegranates.

That is rather impressive!  It is especially noteworthy that sorghum may ultimately provide a very rich and cheap source of polyphenolic compounds (the antioxidants particularly studied in the sorghum; compounds which occur naturally in plants to help fight against pests and disease).  These polyphenolic compounds were found in the highest concentrations in the black and sumac varieties of sorghum (high-tannin sorghums), which, not too surprisingly, are varieties not currently cultivated widely nor available on a widespread basis in stores, though some products are supposedly making their way into stores now.

The following quote really helps one see how much more potent these gluten-free sorghum products are when compared to common well-known antioxidant sources like blueberries and pomegranates (the select sorghum brans were as much as 10 to 30-times higher potency than even some "super-fruits"):
The authors found that levels of polyphenolic compounds in the high-tannin sorghum varieties ranged from 23 to 62 mg of polyphenols per gram. For comparison, blueberries contain approximately 5 mg of polyphenolics per gram, while pomegranate juice contains 2 to 3.5 mg per gram.
Well, I for one hope this study generates enough interest for sorghum producers to start planting more of the high-powered (high antioxidant value) varieties.  And, this is not just for gluten-free folks.  We just happen to probably use more sorghum flour and/or bran than others since we use alternative flours nearly daily.  And, some of us may use sorghum "molasses" (i.e., sweet sorghum syrup, which although not true molasses -- "real" molasses is made from sugar cane or sugar beets -- looks a lot like it); in fact, I purchase sorghum syrup at a local country store down the road from me.

The potential of this anti-inflammatory / antioxidant product is perhaps immense (especially as a cheap food-additive to boost healthful aspects of otherwise less beneficial foods), as the researchers point out:
The researchers said they hope to generate interest in sorghum bran or its extract as an additive to food and beverages. Sorghum bran extract could be added to a variety of foods and beverages as a liquid concentrate or dried powder. The Great Plains area of the U.S. is the largest worldwide producer of sorghum, and the researchers said that the combination of its low price and high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties will make it widely useful as an inexpensive and nutritional food additive.
So, perhaps you are wondering how gluten-free diets that can safely include sorghum bran will fare compared to their "normal" (i.e., mainstream) wheat-based diets:
Study co-author James Hargrove, associate professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, added that high-tannin sorghum has more antioxidant phytochemicals than other brans such as rice, wheat and oats, whose phenolic content and antioxidant values are low. He and Hartle said that the use of sorghum can become a way to reintroduce a quality food to many products that now use bleached, refined flour.
Clearly there are some advantages to a variety of grains in our diet, and I hope to be able to get hold of some of this "super-grain" high-tannin sorghum when I can, and incorporate it into my gluten-free diet.  Like another member of the study team says:

"We're hoping that some company decides to extract this bran and pull these chemicals out and put the extract into a beverage that can help you fight disease rather than promote disease," Hartle said.
All that went through my mind when I read that was the whole high-fructose corn-syrup thing and how it makes blood-sugar spike quickly and significantly (an aside here: if you have been watching the high-fructose corn-syrup industry, they are launching a wide-scale well-funded re-branding strategy to rename that high-fructose stuff to just "corn sugar", and dispel claims of health-issues resulting from its use; yeah, whatever guys... same old, same old; I will opt for other options thank you.)  I would so welcome a healthful addition instead.

So, the next quote pretty much summarizes it all:
"Sorghum bran not only provides the fiber but gives you a real medicinal punch at the same time because it delivers a lot of other chemicals that a berry would give you," Hartle said.

I'm sold!  Now, time to go find some and start incorporating it into my gluten-free dessert recipes and other gluten-free baked goods.  I just hope it ends up being *affordable* as production and availability increase.