Original Ethiopian Injera vs. American Injera

by Abeba Abrha

Injera is one of the most important sources of nutrition in Ethiopia, where I grew up. It is like a bread made up of wheat and Teff, which is like grain. When I was in Ethiopia, I ate Injera about two to three times a day. Teff seed was found in a pyramid that dated back to 3359 BC. Teff is very small which ranges from 1-1.7 mm long and 0.6-1 mm wide. Its common colors are white, red and brown. The white Teff is more expensive than the dark Teff. The dark Teff is more flavorful than the white Teff. Teff is nutritious and contains no gluten. It has higher protein than wheat and has a high concentration of most nutrients, which include calcium, thiamin and iron. Iron in Teff is easily absored by the body.

Ethiopian immigrants have spread Injera in the United States (US). They have used many different kinds of grains that is present to them. Many East African restaurants in the US provide Injera that is a mixture of Teff and wheat flours. Most Injera that is made in Ethiopia is only from Teff. There are many kinds of Injera recipes that can be found online with various mixtures of flours (some include mixture of all-purpose flour and Teff flour, some only Teff flour, self-rising, corn, barley and others.) Some provide no fermenting and some provide three days of fermenting. I think the fermenting makes the bubbles, unless baking powder or yeast is used. Three days of fermenting is concerning to me, becasue the batter could develop bad germs.

Making related Injera is possible in America, but knowing the content and the serving size is important. Nutrition Facts explains that one cup of self-rising flour has 1600 mg of sodium. The recommonded daily intake of sodium is 2300 milligrams for healthy adults. If Injera is consumed 2 times, its like eating more sodium than that is required, which includes breakfast and snacks. Some recipes require using baking powder or baking soda or self-rising flour, some use club soda, some use yeast for rising power. However, it is not good idea, mostly for people who have high blood pressure or diabetic becasue it makes sodium level higher in their blood. If you are older, or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), the recommendation is as low as 1500 mg/day. In healthy individuals, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure.

Using more Teff has more advantages in its nutritional values than disadvantages. For instance, 100 grams of teff grain contains on average 9-15 grams of protein, 73 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber. It is rich also in minerals like potassium (401 mg), phosphorus (378 mg), magnesium (170 mg), calcium (159 mg) and iron (5.8 mg), all per 100 gram grains. Teff is a major source of dietary iron in Ethiopia, which is a reason for low anemia incidence among Ethiopians. In general, Teff is considered to have higher iron content than other cereals like maize. Vitamins in Teff seed include vitamin C (88 mg), niacin (2.5 mg), vitamin A (8 RE), thiamin (0.30 mg), all per 100 gram of grain. Once again, Teff is a gluten free food which makes it a grain that is more attractive. Gluten is a protein that is a cause of allergic reactions to some people. People who have celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten, thus Teff grain, a gluten free cereal, is a choice to wheat, rye and other cereals. In general, Injera is a valuable nutritional food to eat if more Teff is consumed than other ingredients such as self-rising and/or all-purpose flour. I recommend eating injera by using the right recipe.

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