The Health Benefits of Sorghum

The Health Benefits of Sorghum
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Learn why sorghum is one of my favorite new grains.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Despite playing a significant role in Africa and Asia as a staple grain, sorghum has only recently emerged as a potential…food source in the [U.S.].” And it’s not just a principal grain in many parts of the world, but evidently used in folk medicine traditions. What might its health benefits be? There has been some in vitro data from test tubes and petri dishes, and “in vivo” data, meaning “within the living,” in laboratory animals, but only recently have we started seeing human trials.

In one study, subjects were asked to eat sorghum pancakes versus corn pancakes for supper for three weeks, and both groups saw huge 20 to 30 percent drops in their cholesterol—but, they were also all told to not eat eggs and other cholesterol-boosting foods; so, that may very well have been playing a role.

Another study tried biscuits. Those eating sorghum biscuits said they felt more satiated than eating wheat biscuits, but this didn’t translate to differences in intake at the subsequent all-you-can-eat meal. So, who cares what they subjectively felt if it didn’t cause them to eat any less? It’s no wonder, then, when you put it to the test, those eating sorghum versus wheat biscuits didn’t lose any weight, though the data’s a bit mixed. A recent study concluded that “sorghum can be an important strategy for weight loss in humans,” though the sorghum group didn’t actually lose more weight. But, they appeared to be eating hundreds more calories a day, yet lost more body fat, perhaps because of their greater fiber consumption, or other goodies like resistant starch in the sorghum. The vehicle they used, though, an artificially-flavored, colored, and sweetened mixture of water, powdered milk, and either sorghum or wheat flour may be good research-wise, so you can make a blinded control, but it leaves you wondering what would happen if you actually ate the whole food.

The resistant starch is exciting, though. Most of the starch in sorghum is either slow-starch or fully resistant to digestion in the small intestine, which offers a banquet bounty of prebiotics for your good gut flora down in your colon. It’s not evidently the sorghum starch itself, but interactions with the proteins and other compounds that effectively act as starch blockers, inhibiting your starch-munching enzymes. Sorghum, then, ends up with the lowest starch digestibility among grains, which is why traditionally it was considered an inferior grain––but inferior in the sense of not providing as many calories. But, not providing as many calories is a good thing in the age of epidemic obesity.

Give someone a whole-wheat muffin compared to a sorghum muffin containing the same amount of starch, and see significantly higher blood sugars 45 minutes to two hours later, and a higher insulin spike starting almost immediately. Overall, a 25 percent lower blood sugar response, and the body only had to release a fraction of insulin to deal with it—less than half!

Same thing with diabetics: lower blood sugar spike with a sorghum porridge, compared to grits, that the body can deal with, with a fraction of the insulin.

So, we need to educate people how healthy sorghum is and develop convenient tasty products? No, it’s already convenient and tasty just the way it is. One button press on my electric pressure cooker with two parts water, one part sorghum, and it’s done in 20 minutes. You can make one big batch and use it all week just like you would rice. But where’s the money in people eating the intact, whole grain? Instead, the industry is looking at sorghum for its enormous potential for exploitation into so-called functional foods and food additive––or, I mean, did you know adding sorghum to pork or turkey patties can decrease their cardboardy flavor? And hey, why just eat it when you can instead use it to make gluten-free beer?

It’s funny: in How Not to Diet when I was talking about taxpayer subsidies to the sugar, corn syrup, oil, and livestock industry, subsidizing cheap animal feed to help make Dollar Menu meat, I jokingly asked when’s the last time you sat down to some sorghum? But hey, now that I know how good it is for you, maybe we should be taking advantage of the quarter billion we’re spending to prop up the industry, and sit down to some sorghum after all.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Despite playing a significant role in Africa and Asia as a staple grain, sorghum has only recently emerged as a potential…food source in the [U.S.].” And it’s not just a principal grain in many parts of the world, but evidently used in folk medicine traditions. What might its health benefits be? There has been some in vitro data from test tubes and petri dishes, and “in vivo” data, meaning “within the living,” in laboratory animals, but only recently have we started seeing human trials.

In one study, subjects were asked to eat sorghum pancakes versus corn pancakes for supper for three weeks, and both groups saw huge 20 to 30 percent drops in their cholesterol—but, they were also all told to not eat eggs and other cholesterol-boosting foods; so, that may very well have been playing a role.

Another study tried biscuits. Those eating sorghum biscuits said they felt more satiated than eating wheat biscuits, but this didn’t translate to differences in intake at the subsequent all-you-can-eat meal. So, who cares what they subjectively felt if it didn’t cause them to eat any less? It’s no wonder, then, when you put it to the test, those eating sorghum versus wheat biscuits didn’t lose any weight, though the data’s a bit mixed. A recent study concluded that “sorghum can be an important strategy for weight loss in humans,” though the sorghum group didn’t actually lose more weight. But, they appeared to be eating hundreds more calories a day, yet lost more body fat, perhaps because of their greater fiber consumption, or other goodies like resistant starch in the sorghum. The vehicle they used, though, an artificially-flavored, colored, and sweetened mixture of water, powdered milk, and either sorghum or wheat flour may be good research-wise, so you can make a blinded control, but it leaves you wondering what would happen if you actually ate the whole food.

The resistant starch is exciting, though. Most of the starch in sorghum is either slow-starch or fully resistant to digestion in the small intestine, which offers a banquet bounty of prebiotics for your good gut flora down in your colon. It’s not evidently the sorghum starch itself, but interactions with the proteins and other compounds that effectively act as starch blockers, inhibiting your starch-munching enzymes. Sorghum, then, ends up with the lowest starch digestibility among grains, which is why traditionally it was considered an inferior grain––but inferior in the sense of not providing as many calories. But, not providing as many calories is a good thing in the age of epidemic obesity.

Give someone a whole-wheat muffin compared to a sorghum muffin containing the same amount of starch, and see significantly higher blood sugars 45 minutes to two hours later, and a higher insulin spike starting almost immediately. Overall, a 25 percent lower blood sugar response, and the body only had to release a fraction of insulin to deal with it—less than half!

Same thing with diabetics: lower blood sugar spike with a sorghum porridge, compared to grits, that the body can deal with, with a fraction of the insulin.

So, we need to educate people how healthy sorghum is and develop convenient tasty products? No, it’s already convenient and tasty just the way it is. One button press on my electric pressure cooker with two parts water, one part sorghum, and it’s done in 20 minutes. You can make one big batch and use it all week just like you would rice. But where’s the money in people eating the intact, whole grain? Instead, the industry is looking at sorghum for its enormous potential for exploitation into so-called functional foods and food additive––or, I mean, did you know adding sorghum to pork or turkey patties can decrease their cardboardy flavor? And hey, why just eat it when you can instead use it to make gluten-free beer?

It’s funny: in How Not to Diet when I was talking about taxpayer subsidies to the sugar, corn syrup, oil, and livestock industry, subsidizing cheap animal feed to help make Dollar Menu meat, I jokingly asked when’s the last time you sat down to some sorghum? But hey, now that I know how good it is for you, maybe we should be taking advantage of the quarter billion we’re spending to prop up the industry, and sit down to some sorghum after all.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

If you missed the previous video, check out Is Sorghum a Healthy Grain?

My new The How Not to Diet Cookbook is full of delicious and healthful grain recipes. Check it out here.

“Resistant starch?” Learn more in Resistant Starch and Colon Cancer and Getting Starch to Take the Path of Most Resistance.

For more on the benefits of different grains, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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