Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Sorghum Bad For You?



Short answer

Sorghum is packed with nutrients and health benefits. High in fiber and antioxidants, it's especially good for digestive health and disease prevention. Low in fat with a moderate protein content, it's gluten-free, making it ideal for those with sensitivities. While generally positive for blood sugar control due to its low GI, it's still important to consume it as part of a diverse, balanced diet.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Sorghum

The nutritional value of sorghum is often overlooked in favor of more common grains like wheat and rice. However, sorghum, a nutrient-packed grain, offers a variety of health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile. Understanding these nutrients can help us gauge whether sorghum is a beneficial addition to our diet. Let’s dive into the nutritional components of sorghum.

Macronutrients: Sorghum is primarily composed of carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of protein and a relatively low fat content. It is an excellent energy source due to its complex carbohydrates, which digest more slowly and provide a steady release of energy.

Dietary Fiber: Sorghum is notably high in dietary fiber, which is crucial for digestive health. Fiber aids in regulating bowel movements, can help to manage blood sugar levels, and is associated with a lower risk of developing certain chronic diseases.

Vitamins: While not as dense in vitamins as some other foods, sorghum contains B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. These play a vital role in metabolic processes and help in converting food into energy.

Minerals: Sorghum is rich in an array of important minerals. Notably, it includes phosphorus, which is essential for bone health, and magnesium, which is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It also provides iron, essential for oxygen transport in the blood, and trace amounts of calcium and potassium.

Antioxidants: Sorghum contains beneficial compounds such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins. These antioxidants are instrumental in protecting the body against oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Protein Quality: The protein in sorghum is particularly noteworthy because it is gluten-free. This makes it a suitable grain for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The amino acid profile of sorghum protein is fairly balanced, although, like most plant proteins, it is not considered a complete protein as it has lower levels of some essential amino acids.

Below is a table summarizing the key nutritional components of sorghum per 100 grams, as reported by the USDA:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 339
Total Carbohydrates 74.63 g
Dietary Fiber 6.3 g
Total Fat 3.30 g
Protein 8.45 g
Vitamins Includes Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamine
Minerals Includes Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron

Note: It's important to keep in mind that nutritional values can vary depending on the variety of sorghum and its processing methods.

When considering sorghum as part of a balanced diet, it's essential to acknowledge how its nutrient richness can contribute to overall health. The high fiber, complex carbohydrates, and plant proteins present in sorghum are particularly beneficial for maintaining good nutrition and can be especially valuable for those seeking gluten-free grain options.

Research continues to emerge on the health impacts of sorghum. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlighted the cholesterol-lowering properties of sorghum due to its plant sterols and policosanols content. Another study from The Journal of Nutrition noted that the high levels of antioxidants in sorghum might have potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects.

However, as with any food item, it is important to consume sorghum as a part of a diverse diet. Moderation and variety are key in achieving optimal nutrition and health outcomes.

Antioxidant Properties of Sorghum and Health Benefits

Sorghum, a nutrient-packed grain, stands out for its impressive antioxidant profile. Antioxidants are essential compounds that protect our cells from oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to a myriad of chronic diseases. Let’s delve into the details of the antioxidant properties found in sorghum and their associated health benefits:


Sorghum contains high levels of tannins, particularly in the bran layer of certain varieties. Tannins are a group of phenolic compounds known for their ability to scavenge free radicals — harmful molecules that can cause oxidative stress. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that tannin-rich sorghum bran possesses more antioxidant capacity than fruits such as blueberries and pomegranates, which are traditionally known for their high antioxidant content.


These are a unique class of antioxidants found in sorghum that are rare in other plant foods. They have demonstrated considerable potential in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro, according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Although these findings are preliminary and need more research, they are promising indicators of sorghum's potential health benefits.

Phenolic Acids:

Sorghum is also rich in phenolic acids such as ferulic, p-coumaric, and chlorogenic acids. These compounds are recognized for their anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. A meta-analysis featured in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition underlines the role of phenolic acids in reducing the risk of heart disease, highlighting another layer of sorghum's health benefits.


The flavonoid content in sorghum offers additional protection against chronic disease development. These compounds, including quercetin and apigenin, have been associated with neuroprotective effects and a reduced risk of diseases such as diabetes, as noted in a review in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

In conclusion, the diverse antioxidants found in sorghum contribute significantly to its health-promoting properties. Incorporating sorghum into your diet may offer protective benefits against oxidative stress, inflammation, and chronic disease. However, it should be understood that these benefits are best realized as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. As with any food, moderation and variety are key.

For an easy reference, see the list of key antioxidants in sorghum and their health associations:

  • Tannins – Antioxidant capacity, potential reduction in cancer risk
  • 3-Deoxyanthocyanidins – In vitro cancer cell growth inhibition
  • Phenolic Acids – Anti-inflammatory, anticancer, heart disease risk reduction
  • Flavonoids – Neuroprotective, diabetes risk reduction

These insights into the antioxidant properties of sorghum affirm its value in a health-conscious diet. It's essential for ongoing and future research to continue exploring the full range of benefits provided by sorghum's rich array of antioxidants.

Glycemic Index of Sorghum and Blood Sugar Management

When discussing the impact of foods on blood sugar levels, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a valuable tool used to assess how quickly carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose. Foods with a high GI score cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels, which can be problematic for individuals managing diabetes or those trying to maintain stable energy levels. In contrast, foods with a low GI score result in a slower and more gradual release of glucose, aiding in blood sugar control.

Sorghum, a nutrient-packed grain, possesses a favorable attribute, its relatively low GI. Research has suggested that the GI of sorghum is variable, ranging from as low as 55 to moderately high values. However, on average, whole grain sorghum tends to have a lower GI compared to many other grains. This variability can be attributed to the type of sorghum, the degree of processing, and the cooking methods employed.

  • Whole grain sorghum: Generally has a low to medium GI
  • Processed sorghum (such as sorghum flour): May have a higher GI

This low to medium GI of sorghum can help in blood sugar management by providing a slower, more controlled release of glucose into the bloodstream. It's especially pertinent for those with diabetes, as maintaining blood sugar levels within a recommended range is crucial for preventing complications associated with the disease.

Furthermore, the intrinsic composition of sorghum includes dietary fiber, protein, and phytochemicals, which can all contribute to its glycemic response. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicated that the high phenolic content in certain varieties of sorghum might help lower insulin response, providing an additional benefit in the context of blood sugar management.

Sorghum Product Estimated Glycemic Index
Whole grain sorghum 55-69
Sorghum flour 65-78

It is important for individuals with blood sugar concerns to be mindful of not just the choice of grain like sorghum but also the overall context of the meal. Combining sorghum with healthful fats, proteins, and other low GI foods can help create a balanced meal, further moderating blood sugar spikes and supporting overall glucose control.

When incorporating sorghum into a diet for blood sugar management, it's recommended to monitor personal glucose levels to determine individual response to this grain, as dietary impacts can vary from person to person. Working with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide personalized recommendations tailored to an individual's unique health needs and goals.

Sorghum and Gluten Sensitivity: A Safe Grain Alternative?

For individuals with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, navigating the grains aisle can be a challenge. That's where sorghum, a lesser-known ancient grain, comes into play. It's a safe and nutritious alternative welcome at the table of those avoiding gluten. Let's delve into what makes sorghum a suitable option for those with gluten-related disorders.

What is Sorghum?

Sorghum is a cereal grain that's a dietary staple in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and India. It's known for its resilience to drought and heat, which makes it an environmentally friendly crop. Structurally, sorghum grains are small and typically round, ranging in color from white and pale yellow to deep reds and purples.

Gluten-Free Status of Sorghum

One of the most encouraging aspects of sorghum for gluten-sensitive individuals is its natural gluten-free status. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, sorghum is naturally gluten-free and is considered safe for people with celiac disease. This makes it an excellent option for gluten-free cooking and baking, allowing for more diversity in a restricted diet.

Nutritional Benefits of Sorghum

Sorghum is not only gluten-free but also packed with nutrients beneficial for overall health. It boasts high levels of antioxidants, which are compounds that can protect the body against chronic diseases. Sorghum is a good source of fiber and can contribute to a feeling of fullness. It also contains protein, iron, and various B-vitamins, contributing to a well-rounded diet. Here's a quick nutritional profile comparison between sorghum and other common gluten-free grains (per 100g serving):

Grain Calories Protein Fiber Iron
Sorghum 329 10.4g 6.3g 3.4mg
Rice, white 365 6.8g 1.3g 0.2mg
Quinoa 368 14.1g 7.0g 4.6mg
Corn 365 9.4g 7.3g 2.7mg

Scientific Research on Sorghum and Gluten Sensitivity

Research has shown positive signs for sorghum as part of a gluten-free diet. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry discovered that the proteins in sorghum are more digestible when the grain is popped or puffed, which is great news for gluten-free snack innovation. Furthermore, sorghum flour has been successfully used as a gluten-free alternative in various recipes, from bread to pasta, without compromising texture or flavor.

Considerations for Gluten-Sensitive Individuals

Although sorghum is inherently gluten-free, it's crucial for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to ensure that the sorghum they purchase is not cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains. This means looking for sorghum products that are certified gluten-free or checking with manufacturers about their production processes.

It's also worth noting that the body's response to different gluten-free grains can vary from person to person. While sorghum is generally well-tolerated, individuals should monitor their own reactions to it, as they would with any new addition to their diet.

Including Sorghum in a Gluten-Free Diet

To incorporate sorghum into a gluten-free diet, look for whole-grain sorghum, sorghum flour, or ready-to-eat products like sorghum-based pasta and snacks. Given its neutral taste and versatility, sorghum can be substituted for wheat flour in many recipes, and its whole grains can be used much like rice or quinoa in salads, soups, and stews.

Ultimately, for those with gluten sensitivity, sorghum is not just a safe alternative, but also a nutritious and versatile one. With careful attention to product labels and potential cross-contamination, sorghum can contribute significantly to the variety and nutrition of a gluten-free diet.

Potential Contaminants in Sorghum Crops

Like many crops, sorghum can be subject to various contaminants that can potentially pose health risks to consumers. Understanding these contaminants is crucial for ensuring the safety and quality of sorghum-based products. Here we'll look at some common potential contaminants found in sorghum crops and discuss the implications for human health.

1. Pesticides and Herbicides

Sorghum, like other crops, can be treated with pesticides and herbicides to prevent crop damage and loss. However, these chemicals can remain as residues on the sorghum and may contribute to various health problems if consumed in high amounts over time. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), possible health effects can range from acute poisoning to long-term health effects such as cancer, reproductive and endocrine disruption, or developmental disorders.

  • It is important to look for sorghum products that are certified organic or non-GMO, which tend to have lower pesticide residues.
  • Washing sorghum thoroughly before cooking can reduce the surface pesticide residues but may not eliminate them completely.

2. Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and arsenic can contaminate sorghum through soil, water, or air pollution. The accumulation of heavy metals in the body over time can lead to toxicity and health issues such as kidney damage, bone fragility, and neurological problems. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health indicated that some cereal crops can accumulate heavy metals from contaminated soils.

  • To reduce the risk, it's essential to source sorghum from reputable suppliers who test their products for heavy metal contamination.
  • Government regulations limit the permissible levels of heavy metals in food products, but consumers can also reduce exposure by diversifying their diet to include a range of grains.

3. Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by fungi that can colonize crops, including sorghum, especially in warm and humid conditions. These toxins can cause a range of adverse health effects, including immunosuppression, carcinogenicity, and kidney and liver damage, as detailed in research from the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

  • Good agricultural and storage practices are critical for minimizing mycotoxin contamination in sorghum crops.
  • Regulatory bodies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), monitor the levels of mycotoxins in foods, and adherence to these guidelines helps to ensure the safety of sorghum consumed.

While the possibility of contaminants in sorghum exists, it is important to remember that regulatory agencies set standards and monitor these risks to protect public health. Opting for tested, certified products and maintaining a balanced diet can help mitigate the potential risks associated with contaminants in sorghum crops.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, sorghum can be included in a weight management diet plan. Its high fiber content contributes to a feeling of fullness, potentially aiding in portion control and satiety. Additionally, its complex carbohydrates provide a steady energy release, making it a healthful grain option to include in a calorie-controlled diet.

Sorghum's bran layer is rich in antioxidants, particularly tannins. Studies have shown that certain varieties of sorghum may have higher antioxidant capacity than fruits like blueberries and pomegranates, traditionally known for their high antioxidant content, though sorghum's overall antioxidant profile may vary based on its type and preparation.

Although sorghum is rich in protein, it is not considered a complete protein as it lacks sufficient levels of some essential amino acids. However, when paired with other protein sources, such as legumes, it can contribute to a well-rounded vegetarian or vegan diet.

Sorghum is considered a low to medium glycemic index (GI) food, with GI values generally ranging between 55 and 69 for whole grain sorghum. The slow digestibility of its complex carbohydrates can help in managing blood sugar levels, making it a suitable option for individuals with diabetes when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Ask a question about Sorghum and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Ingredients to be aware of

  • pesticide residues
  • herbicide residues
  • heavy metals
  • mycotoxins


  • rich in nutrients
  • steady energy release
  • digestive health
  • blood sugar management
  • gluten-free
  • rich in antioxidants
  • may reduce chronic disease risk

Healthier alternatives

  • organic sorghum
  • non-gmo sorghum
  • washed sorghum
  • diverse grain diet

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Bob's Red Mill Sorghum

  • Whole grain nutrition
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO verified
  • High in antioxidants
  • Versatile grain
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-08-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-08-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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