Sorghum has remained a staple food especially in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Also known as milo, millet, jowari or durra, this multipurpose crop equally serves as feed, fodder and fuel source. Sorghum belongs to the grass family of Gramineae and it is the fifth main cereals in the world after wheat, rice, maize and barley.
Some species of sorghum include; Sorghum propinquum, Sorghum virgatum, Sorghum × drummondii, Sorghum interjectum, Sorghum bicolor, Sorghum exstans, Sorghum macrospermum, Sorghum laxiflorum, Sorghum halepense, Sorghum brachypodum, Sorghum timorense, Sorghum matarankense, Sorghum amplum and Sorghum nitidum etc.
The African, South Asian and Central American species known as Sorghum bicolor has gained worldwide recognition as a source of food and several medicinal purposes. Sorghum is drought-resistant and has similar vegetative resemblance with maize, however, it bears narrow leaves with waxy bloom enveloping the leaves and stem. Its well-developed stem and root are more efficient than that of maize however, its leaves are just half of that of maize.
The stem is distinguished by its sweet taste with sugar and mineral contents that makes it suitable for chewing as sugarcane. According to Adeyeye (2016), sorghum flour is a major source of nutrition and adds a distinctive taste to gluten-free baking. Sorghum flour is a rich source of antioxidants that support cardiac health.
The protein and starch in sorghum take a longer period of time to digest, unlike other similar cereals. This slow digestion is considered beneficial especially for individuals with diabetes. Some reported health and medicinal benefits of sorghum include anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, slow digestibility, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Nutritional Values of Sorghum
Sorghum is an excellent source of carbohydrates, protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, folate (B9), iron, zinc, manganese, potassium and dietary fibre.
Phytochemical Composition of Sorghum
A report by Awika and Rooney (2004) showed that sorghum is a rich source of several phytochemicals that are integral to the healthy functioning of the human systems. These phytochemicals include; policosanols, tannins, phytosterols, phenolic acids and anthocyanins.
Remarkable Benefits of Sorghum
Sorghum can be used for culinary purposes for preparing dishes such as porridges, cookies, flat bread, cakes, bhakri or roti (unleavened pan cake), popcorn, muffins, annam or soru, pancakes, beer, sorghum sankati, dumplings, syrup (molasses) and beverages (e.g. sorghum kunu). Kunu, which is also known as kununzaki is a very popular Nigerian drink prepared with sorghum.
The drink is milky light in colour with distinctive aromatic taste. Kunu is prepared by soaking the sorghum seeds in water for at least three days before blending the soaked sorghum with ginger to form a thick paste. The paste is then mixed with a proportionate amount of boiling water and then allowed to stay for one or two days before being filtered.
The filtered kunu is then mixed with sugar, honey or sweetener before consumption. Sorghum can also be cooked plain as white rice and eaten with tomato stew or vegetable stew. Koreans prepare a special cake with sorghum known as susu bukkumi. Indians produce Indian bread with sorghum, which is either known as jola, jolada rotti, jondhahlaa, jowar, roti, jwaarie or bhakri. Chinese people refer to sorghum as gaoliang (高粱), which they ferment and distill into clear spirits known as baijiu (白酒) and Maotai (Moutai).
Ideal for Celiac Patients
Sorghum is gluten-free thus suitable for consumption by celiac patients. According to Duemchok and Thongngam (2011), the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease has been on the increase. Interestingly, gluten-free products are presently on the rise in the market. Sorghum is a safe alternative for celiac individuals.
Awika et al., (2005) analyzed the black sorghum variety (Tx430) for antioxidant activity using the 2,2′-azinobis (3-ethyl-benzothiaziline-6-sulfonic acid) method. They compared two extracting solvents of 1% HCl in methanol and 70% aqueous acetone. The sorghum brans exhibited three to four times higher anthocyanin contents than the entire grains.
The sorghum grains and their brans showed high antioxidant activity (52–400 μmol TE/g) compared to other cereals (<0.1–34 mg TE/g). Therefore black sorghum is highly recommended as a food and for other medicinal applications due to its rich constituent of anthocyanins and excellent antioxidant activity.
Several researchers have proven that lack of dietary fibre in someone's diet is a major contributor of digestive disorders such as constipation, bloating and diverticulitis. It is noteworthy that appropriate intake of dietary fibre such as sorghum is essential for facilitating the digestive process and for promoting easy bowel movement.
Other Uses of Sorghum
Sorghum stalks can be used in the production of biofuel by compressing the juice and then allowing it to ferment into ethanol.
Reclaimed sorghum stalks can be used for producing attractive millwork material popularly known as Kirei board.
Sorghum seeds, leaves and stem can serve as livestock fodder or feed.
Side-effects of Sorghum to Animals
Some sorghum species contain nitrates, hordenine and hydrogen cyanide, which can be harmful to grazing animals especially when the sorghum plants are still young.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
1] Adeyeye, S. A. O. (2016), Assessment of quality and sensory properties of sorghum–wheat flour cookies, Cogent Food & Agriculture (2016), 2: 1245059, pp. 1-8.
2] Agbangnan, C. P., Noudogbessi, J. P., Chrostowska, A., Tachon, C., Fouquet, E. and Sohounhloue, D. C. K. (2013), Phenolic compound of Benin's red sorghum and their antioxidant properties, Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, vol. 6, suppl 2, pp. 280-283.
3] Awika, J. M., Rooney, L. W. and Waniska, R. D. (2005), Anthocyanins from black sorghum and their antioxidant properties, Food Chemistry 90(1-2), pp.293-301.
4] Awika, J. M. and Rooney, L. W. (2004), Sorghum phytochemicals and their potential impact on human health, Phytochemistry (65) pp. 1199–1221.
5] Bralley, E., Greenspan, P., Hargrove, J. L., and Hartle, D. K. (2008), Inhibition of hyaluronidase activity by select sorghum brans, Journal of Medicinal Food, 11, pp.307-312.
6] Dicko M. H., Hilhorst R., Gruppen H., Traore A. S., Laane C., van Berkel W. J. and Voragen A. G. (2002), Comparison of content in phenolic compounds, polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase in grains of fifty sorghum varieties from Burkina Faso. Journal of Agric.Food Chem. 50(13), pp. 3780-3788.
7] Duemchok, P. and Thongngam, M. (2011), Effect of cysteine on texture properties of gluten-free sorghum alkaline noodle, The 6th International Conference on Starch Technology, pp. 361-365.
8] El Khalifa, A. E. O. and El Tinay, A. H. (2002) Effect of cystine on bakery products from wheat- sorghum blends, Journal of Food Chemistry, 77: pp.133-137.
9] Pixabay (2017), Images from pixabay.