Healing Ingredients: Is Fonio the New Quinoa?

October 1, 2014


Whether you are gluten-free, health-conscious, or just looking to add some excitement to your life, you may be feeling the urge to swap out your favorite grain product.

Quinoa is good and all, but it is such old news. Rice has had more than its fair share of the spotlight. It’s time for a new starch to steal the stage— and its name is fonio.

Fonio is the new superfood you probably haven’t heard of. This variety of millet hails from West Africa and is the continent’s oldest cereal. Despite its age, it has only recently been rediscovered due to its purported health benefits.

It boasts more amino acids than quinoa– vital for healthy metabolic function. It is a low GI grain, so it is suitable for those with blood-sugar imbalance. It also contains high levels of zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium and calcium. It is considered essential for children and pregnant women. Some call it “the most nutritious grain,” or the “new quinoa.’

Aside from its physical benefits, fonio may play a partial role in aiding a global hunger crisis.

Fonio: The New Super Food

It is a very hardy grain. It grows in a variety of terrains and temperatures unlike other, more fragile subtypes. It also matures very quickly– in two months or sometimes less. This means that fonio could be grown to accommodate areas where there is insufficient food supply due to climate factors. For such vulnerable locations, fonio’s quick and easy growth is a blessing.

All this being said, the future of fonio may be dwindling.

For one, the grains are extremely small, making the preparatory process a tedious one. For that reason alone, the grain almost became obsolete. West African farmers felt growing it was too great a task for such a small amount of yield. They didn’t want to put forth so much effort and consumers didn’t want to pay the prices they subsequently began charging for the extra work.

The other reason for fonio’s declining popularity was a cultural shift. There was a point over the last decade or so when many areas of Africa became preoccupied with Western customs. They rejected the humble fonio in place of more processed, wheat-based products found overseas. Rolls soon replaced heaping bowls of fonio at the dinner table, leaving this poor little grain in the dust.

At this time it seems fonio may be making a comeback, but it needs some help along the way!

In 1993, a Senegalese man by the name of Sanoussi Diakité invented a fonio husking machine that would speed up the busy work. The machines cut costs, increased availability, and decreased labor. Since conception, several countries throughout Africa have adopted the use of this machine in hopes of reviving fonio’s prevalence within the country.

The amount of machines is currently limited, as they are not being mass produced. But Diakité hopes that this will change in the near future, if he can find an investor for the project.

Fonio can be purchased in some specialty stores in the US, but it is more easily found online. So be sure to stock up if you’re interested in supporting this ancient crop and exposing yourself to a nutritious “new” product. (You can find fornio here).

If you get your hands on it, try these uses for fonio:

-Cook it up into breakfast porridge

-Grind it to use as flour

-Top it with your favorite stew

-Use in place of bulgur or couscous in tabbouleh

-Mix it with beans

-Serve chilled with a marinade

-Blend it into homemade non-dairy milk

-Brew it into gluten-free beer

Also by Quincy: 6 Coolest New Products for the Gluten Free Vegan

5 Food Scraps You Didn’t Know You Could Eat


Photo: www.foniocereal.com; www.fonio-bio.com

Quincy is an NC-based college student who is passionate about leading a healthy and compassionate life. Aside from classes, she fills her time with cooking, writing, travel, and yoga. You can find more from her on her blog Shugurcän and on Instagram.


always stay inspired!