What is Fonio and why are so many people adding it to their diet?

Nutrition

A grain mill is a helpful kitchen appliance that allows you to grind your own flour from fresh whole grains. You can use it to create everything from cookies to bread.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Why is fonio so popular now?

Just like fashion, food can become a trend, especially if that food has nutritional merit that was previously overlooked or underrated. As we learn more about that food, it grows in popularity until it reaches a tipping point where everyone seems to be talking about it and trying it out for themselves. One example of this is quinoa. Although there is historical evidence that quinoa may have been grown as early as 5000 BC, it didn’t become a household name until relatively recently.

Recently, there has been some excitement about a new super grain that appears to have greater health benefits than quinoa. This food is called fonio. Fonio started getting attention a few years ago when CBS News ran a short story on Erik Oberholtzer. Erik is the co-founder of Tender Greens, a chef-led kitchen that serves seasonal and responsibly sourced food. In the article, Erik was touting the benefits of menu items such as a Fonio Salad.

What is fonio?

Fonio is thought to be Africa’s oldest crop. There are two species: white fonio and black fonio. According to PubMed.com, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health, it is a type of small-seeded cereal that is native to Western Africa and is important for food security. 

Currently, fonio is trending because it has several beneficial nutritional properties, especially for vegans. It is a sustainable, gluten-free whole grain that could become a vital global food source.

Why are whole grains an important part of your diet?

There are three main types of grains: whole grains, refined grains and enriched grains. Whole grains contain all parts of the seed: the bran, endosperm and germ. It is important to understand that whole grains can be either whole or ground into flour — as long as that flour still contains all three parts of the seed.

By comparison, refined grains contain only the endosperm. This is done to give the product a finer texture and a longer shelf life. It also means much of the nutritional value has been removed. Because of this, whole grains are a better source of B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium than refined grains.

Enriched grains are simply refined grains that have been enriched with vitamins and minerals that do not naturally occur in the food. 

When choosing which type of grains to eat, it is important to make sure at least half of your grains are whole grains, so you get the desired nutritional benefit. According to the Mayo Clinic, “whole grains are also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems.” However, if all you eat are whole grains, you must add plenty of fruits, vegetables and legumes to your diet to get the recommended amount of folic acid you need each day (400 micrograms).

What are the nutritional benefits of fonio?

Although fonio is thought to be Africa’s oldest crop, there has been very little scientific research performed on this grain. Consequently, much of the hype that is currently surrounding this possible superfood has not been confirmed. However, it is believed that fonio has enough beneficial nutritional and environmental properties to warrant touting its potential.

While it is believed that the climate, soil and farming practices affect the precise nutrient content, fonio is a good source of B vitamins. It also contains iron, copper, zinc and magnesium. The combination of these minerals may help the body create connective tissue and blood cells. Additionally, fonio is thought to support the immune system, provide energy and play a role in protein synthesis and cell growth. Fonio also contains the highest calcium content of all grains, which makes it ideal for vegans and individuals who are lactose intolerant.

How to serve fonio

Fonio is a rich, flavorful grain that has a somewhat nutty taste but can easily absorb the flavor of food that it is prepared with. The texture of fonio is similar to couscous.

You can eat fonio as you would couscous, mixing it in with your favorite recipes or eating it alone. It can be served as a porridge or added to a drink. Since fonio can be milled into a flour, you can use it in baked goods such as breads, cakes and more. In short, it is a versatile food that can add a distinctive flavor and nutritional benefits to a wide variety of recipes.

Other ways to get some of the nutrition fonio provides

Natrol B-Complex

Natrol B-Complex

Fonio is rich in B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Natrol’s B-Complex contains all of those, plus pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, B6 and B12 to provide energy and promote a healthy brain, heart and nervous system.

Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Vega Sport Performance Protein Powder

Vega Sport Performance Protein Powder

A serving of fonio only offers about 2 grams of protein. If you’d like to get more plant-based protein into your diet, Vega Sport Performance Protein Powder delivers 30 grams of protein per serving. It can help build muscle and support post-workout recovery.

Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Garden of Life Raw Organic Fiber

Garden of Life Raw Organic Fiber

Fiber is essential to your diet. While fonio offers 4% of your daily needs, the 9 grams of fiber in Garden of Life’s Raw Organic Fiber make up 36% of your nutritional requirements. Fiber supports gut health, regular bowel function and cardiovascular function. 

Sold by Amazon and iHerb

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.

Most Popular