Fonio Grain (Acha): “The Most Nutritious Grain You are not Aware of “.

Fonio grain is a cereal that’s gaining popularity in recent time because of its numerous health benefits, flavor and taste. Fonio belongs to the millet family and looks like a cross between couscous and quinoa in both appearance and texture. It also  has a nutty flavor.

Fonio is grown mostly in the West African countries like Guinea, Togo, Senegal and central Nigeria. Fonio is drought-resistant, making it easier to grow in climates facing increased water scarcity. It doesn’t require the use of pesticides or fertilizers.

It’s the fastest growing cereal and takes about 6 to 8 weeks to mature. The crop can be planted and grown several times in one year. During summer months when there is hardly any other grain to make food, fonio grains will become “grain of life” to eliminate hunger. That’s the reason it is called ‘hungry rice’. 1

However, Fonio is still a special food, held in such esteem that some communities continue to use it in ancestor worship, in some places they reserved it particularly for chiefs, royalty, and special occasions. It also formed part of the traditional bride price. 2

There are two types, white fonio (Digitaria exilis) and black fonio (Digitaria iburua), Of the two species, white fonio (Digitaria exilis) is the most widely used.

Fonio can be used to prepare salads, stews, porridges or even ground into flour. The flour can be baked into bread for diabetics, those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. The grains should be washed thoroughly before cooking  as sand tends to remain with the seed because of its small size and produce gritty foods.

Fonio grain contains high levels of methionine and cystine, amino acids essential to our health which our body cannot produce on its own, which is also deficient in today’s major cereals: wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, barley, and rye.

Fonio protein contains almost twice as much methionine as egg protein. It is also rich in minerals like  iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and maganese, and has more of these nutrients, serving-per-serving, than other grains. It’s also very high in fiber. 3

Health Benefits of Fonio Grain (Acha)

1. Aids digestion

Fonio is easy to digest and can be taken by both children and adults.  The Presence of fiber in Fonio increases bowel movement and prevent constipation. The fiber stimulates the intestinal muscles and  promote the secretion of digestive juices, which keeps everything moving through on a regular basis.

2. Weight loss tool

Fonio can be used as a weight management tool because of its fibre content and low glycermic index. The fiber makes you to feel full and delay hunger. It inhibit the release of hunger hormone and ensures steady release of energy to the body.  However the effect of Fonio on fat metabolism has not been ascertained.

3. Gluten free

Fonio grain does not contain gluten, a composite storage of proteins common in most energy giving food like wheat, rye, barley, corn etc. However some people are gluten intolerant and this may lead to Celiac diseases. Fonio is a healthy alternative to people suffering from gluten intolerance and Celia diseases.

4. Diabetes Management

Fonio is a low glycermic index food and so it releases sugar slowly into the blood stream. It does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels like some refined foods. Studies have shown that it can be used by diabetics in regulating their blood sugar.  Fonio also provides body with minerals like chromium and sulphur containing amino acids that help to control diabetes.

5. Source of energy

Fonio is an energy giving food. It has been described as the food to end or combat world hungerDr. Salimata Wade, Professor of Physiology and Human Nutrition at University of Dakar. She states that fonio is a key to help combat world hunger, the crop can be planted and grown several times in one year and it’s organic in production which is “what people want these days”.A gram of Fonio contains 3.6 calories which is comparable to other cereals. It is fast becoming a staple food in many homes to meet the daily energy requirement.

6. Promote Cardiovascular Health

The barn and germ of fonio are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients which helps to keep our heart healthy. Studies have shown that consuming whole grain reduces risk of cardio vascular disorders including heart disease and stroke. Including fonio in your diet will help to the reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke

7. Prevent Anaemia

Fonio contains high amount of iron which prevent the development of anaemia. It also contains folic acid and other amino acids that are beneficial for women during pregnancy. This nutritious food is traditionally recommended for pregnant and lactating women in Africa.

8. Strengthens Hair and Nail

A sulphur containing amino acids, methionine found in Fonio is important for the formation of cartilages. It also strengthens nails and hair thereby preventing hair breakage and hair loss.

9. Prevent liver disease

The essential amino acids in Fonio especially methionine and cystine helps the liver to function properly. They aid in the detoxification process of the liver thereby removing harmful substances from the body.  Some early studies point out to their benefits in preventing liver damage and colon cancers.

10. Promote Strong bones and teeth

Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus found in Fonio is essential for the building of strong bones and teeth. Fonio can be given to growing children to encourage the development of strong bones and teeth. Osteoporosis in adults can be prevented by the consumption of fonio.

The numerous health benefits of Fonio shows that it  can not only be used as a survival diet but also as a complement for standard diets.

How to Prepare Fonio Grain

Fonio grain can be prepared in two forms as Fonio pudding for breakfast and as jellof .

RECIPE FOR FONIO PUDDING

Ingredients:

1. 1 cup Raw fonio
2. 6 cups water
3. 1 Tablespoon Honey/agave or other sweetener of choice

Toppings:
Berries & nuts however the possibilities are ENDLESS!

Directions:
In a sauce pan, boil water. Once water starts to boil, turn heat down to low. While stirring, slowly add fonio to avoid clumping.
Once it is nice and creamy, transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with honey and top with your favorite fruit and/or nuts!

RECIPE FOR FONIO JELLOF

Ingredients

1 Cup of acha

1 Cup of mixed vegetables

2 medium sausage links ( You can use shrimp or chicken)

A small bulb of Onion

1 chicken seasoning cube

One teaspoon of Curry Powder

Pinch of thyme

A teaspoon of black pepper

One scotch bonnet pepper

1 tablespoon of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Method

Wash your acha and set aside.

In a pan, pour in your butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir fry your vegetables.

Add in the chopped sausages. Season with half the seasoning cube.

Take out the vegetables and set aside

In the same pan, pour in the rest of the oil and stir fry the acha on low heat for about 1 minute.

Add your curry powder, black pepper, thyme and seasoning cube and stir the acha properly.

Toss in the vegetables immediately into the pan and toss all together.

Taste for seasoning and serve your stir fried acha hot.

Pilaf fonio Recipe
In fry oil, brown meat thin sliced onions, garlic and parsley crushed, tomatoes peeled, deseeded and cut and the tomato purée. Add salt and add 2 liters of water, spices and herbs and simmer for about 1 hour. At mid-time cooking, add vegetables washed and regularly cut. Take out the vegetables as they are cooked and set aside in a serving dish. Cook the meat well and take one to two ladles of bouillon and remove the meat. Add to the vegetables and keep it hot. “Sprinkle” precooked fonio in the remaining bouillon while stirring; the bouillon must cover fonio. Cover the cooking pot and simmer while stirring from time to time. Serve hot with vegetables, meat (chicken or fish). 4

References

Health benefits of fonio

https://www.nap.edu/read/2305/chapter/6#62

Fonio

http://gradworks.umi.com/34/74/3474703.html

http://www.nairaland.com/search?q=Fonio+acha&search=Search

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