From Baseball To Bread: USGC And Former Japanese Baseball Player Team Up On U.S. Food Sorghum

Professional Japanese baseball player turned bakery owner Tomohito Yoneno promoted the nutritional benefits of U.S. food sorghum during a recent sports nutrition seminar arranged by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) at the sixth annual Sports Nutrition Society meeting in Tokyo.

The conference is where Japanese sports nutrition academia, specialized nutritionists for athletic performance and the food industry gather together to discuss the latest science and trends. During the USGC-sponsored luncheon seminar Yoneno, a veteran Japanese professional baseball player, discussed his diet while he was an active catcher.

He commented he believed he would have benefitted from having sorghum as part of his nutritional regime. Even more importantly, Yoneno opened a gluten-free cafe after leaving baseball. Sorghum flour is what he calls one of his indispensable ingredients for his sweets and breads for those needing or wanting to follow a gluten-free diet.

U.S. white sorghum, in the form of sorghum flour and the grain itself, was the featured ingredient in the lunch box served to the audience of 150. Also during the luncheon’s presentation, Michiyo Hoshizawa, USGC program and administrative manager in Japan, and Reiko Hashimoto, a registered dietitian, discussed the nutritional attributes and cooking characteristics of U.S. sorghum as well as the impact of the ancient grain on athletic performance.

“This luncheon seminar introduced U.S. white sorghum as a foodstuff for athletes,” Hoshizawa said. “Sorghum is a recommended part of an athletic diet, due to being rich in dietary fiber and resistant starch and mineral content, including iron, calcium and magnesium.”

The Council received positive comments from the luncheon’s attendees, including how the steam-cooked sorghum complemented rice, how sorghum flour mixed in with other flours improves the quality of gluten-free bread, and a desire to experiment with sorghum as part of their daily diets.

The Council has conducted similar promotion efforts for white food sorghum and white sorghum flour in the Japanese market over the past few years. As a result, there has been growth in this new, niche market leading to new uses for this crop by the Japanese snack and food industry.

“The Council continues to promote food sorghum to health-conscious Japanese public and top-class athletes,” Hoshizawa said. “While the market is not large, this specialized, health-conscious market provides another value-added opportunity for U.S. sorghum farmers.”

The Council’s work to promote U.S. white sorghum to athletes will continue as Japan prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, an excellent opportunity to highlight the use of U.S. food sorghum during a high-profile international event and create even more potential demand for this value-added sector.

Learn more about the Council’s work to promote U.S. food sorghum in Japan.