Oxygen’s Nutrition Special, Fall 2006
By Tosca Reno
Take a walk down the grocery aisle – grains are hardly boring. With names like quinoa, spelt, kamut, mahogany rice and kasha, there’s bound to be something to suit everyone’s taste buds.
Vegetarians depend on grains to round out a diet lacking other protein sources. And the USDA recommends consuming up to 11 servings per day. As North Americans shift to healthier eating standards, there is a renewed interest in grains. Most grains are mild in flavor, inexpensive, keep well and are the perfect accompaniment for virtually any foods.
They absorb flavors quickly, making them versatile and delicious, and can be used to make any meal – from pilaf to porridge – so it’s worth taking a little time to learn how to make the best of your grains.
Farro:Why so good? Rich in fiber, farro becomes a complete protein when combined with legumes. This grain is full of magnesium, vitamins A, B, C and E. It’s also low in gluten so those who cannot tolerate those products can eat farro without difficulty. A slow-burning complex carbohydrate, farro is ideal for stabilizing blood sugars and keeping the tummy full.
Eat it! Farro can be consumed in grain or pasta form. Italians love the taste of farro so much they prefer pastas made from it instead of regular wheat products.
Millet: Why so good? Millet is an annual grass cultivated in Eurasia and North America. The seeds if this grass are called millet. This grain stores well, is loaded with protein and its iron content is one of the highest of any cereal. It is also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, niacin and B vitamins.
Eat it! The seeds can be cooked whole after soaking and used in dishes the same way rice is used. However, millet absorbs a lot of water during the cooking process. Use four parts water to one part millet grain then boil for 40 minutes.
Quinoa:Why so good? Pronounced keen-wah, this grain has the highest protein content, contains more calcium than milk and is higher in healthy fat content than any other grain. Loaded with iron, niacin, B vitamins and vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, zinc and potassium, quinoa makes the perfect body-building food.
Eat it! The mildly nutty tasting grain can be enjoyed in the same way as rice in salads, pilafs, casseroles and on its own instead of a starchy vegetable on your dinner plate.
Oats:Why so good? Oats are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. This slow-burning complex carbohydrate can chase artery-clogging fat from blood, reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Oats are perfect skin food both inside and out since they contain plenty of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
Eat it! Oats can be enjoyed in porridge, cookies, baked goods and savory foods. You name it, it can be done with oats
Barley:Why so good? This ancient grain chockfull of fiber and trace minerals including zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron and B vitamins can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Loaded with tocotrienols, a cholesterol-lowering agent, barley should be included in your diet on a regular basis.
Eat it! Barley is best enjoyed in soups and stews where its chewy texture mingles well with chunks of vegetables and meat.
Magic Crock-Pot Breakfast Porridge
Enjoy the benefits of these super-powered whole grains in one easy-to-make hot breakfast cereal. This recipe makes a lot of porridge but you can store extras in the fridge and reheat small portions when you need them (or you can feed an army of hungry friends).
• 1⁄4 cup wheat berries or bulgur, rinsed and drained • 1⁄4 cup millet, rinsed and drained • 1⁄2 cup pearl barley • 1⁄2 cup ol-fashioned (not quick-cooking) oatmeal • 1⁄4 cup quinoa, rinsed with boiling water and drained • 1⁄4 cup farro kernels, rinsed and drained • 10 cups water • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract• 2 teaspoons lemon juice • 1 cup dried fruit, any combination including dried cranberries, raisins, apricots, dates or dried cherries • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Makes 12 servings
Add all ingredients and mix gently. Cook on low heat all night. Turn off Crock-Pot. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of porridge and gently fold into porridge mixture. Serve with skim milk or low-fat soy or rice milk.
Note: Vary the grain and dried fruit amounts to your liking.
NUTRIENTS PER SERVING:
Calories: 127Total Fat: 2 gCarbohydrates: 24 gProtein: 4 g
These whole grains add variety to your plate. Some are free of gluten (a protein in wheat that helps bread rise)—important because some people don’t tolerate gluten. Many of these grains can be ground into flours and used in place of all-purpose wheat flour. But avoid amaranth, spelt and teff flours in yeast breads. They’re no- or low-gluten, and too little gluten results in bread that is dense and brick-like, or won’t hold its shape.
USE IT IN
KEY NUTRIENTSper 1⁄4 cup uncooked
Mild and nutty to slightly peppery; can have a sticky texture
Whole grain hot cereals, casseroles, side dishes Flour crackers, pancakes, muffins, quick breads, other baked goods
7g protein, 7g fiber.One of the only rains that contains the essential amino acid lysine
Gluten-free. Common in Central and South America (was a staple of the Aztecs). The plant produces thousands of tiny seeds, which are used whole or ground into flour.
Chewy texture with a mild earthy, nutty flavor
Whole grain soups, casseroles and stews
6g protein, 8g fiber, 15mg calcium, 208mg potassium
Comes in two forms: pearl, which is refined, and hulled, which has only the outermost hull removed so it’s more nutritious. Contains gluten.
Rich, nutty, buttery flavor with a chewy texture
Whole grain cereal Flour pasta, crackers
3g protein, 3g fiber
Got its start in ancient Egypt; has been used in Europe for centuries. Flour contains minimal gluten; the whole grain contains slightly more.
Mild and slightly sweet flavor
Whole grain hot cereal, baked goods Flour baked goods
5g protein, 4g fiber, 2mg niacin (a B vitamin; sounds small, but you only need about 14–16mg daily)
A staple in almost 1/3 of the world. A handful of these round, bright yellow seeds adds color and crunch to muffins and breads. Gluten-free.
Delicate, nutty flavor; chewy texture
Whole grain pilaf, casseroles, salads, side dishes, hot cereal; unwashed bulk quinoa should be rinsed well before using (packaged is likely prewashed)
5g protein, 2.5g fiber, 25mg calcium, 4mg iron, 314mg potassium
Cultivated in Central and South America but used all over the world today because it’s so tasty and, for a grain, rich in protein. Gluten-free.
Depending on variety, texture varies from sticky to dry, and flavor from mild to aromatic and popcorn-like
Whole grain side dishes, pilaf, casseroles, salads, puddings
3.5g protein, 1.5g fiber, 2mg niacin
Try brown arborio, long-grained, basmati and jasmine varieties. Gluten-free.
Strong, distinctive flavor
Flour breads, baked goods
4g protein, 7g fiber, 233mg potassium, 2mg niacin
Contains low levels of gluten; makes dense breads.
Mellow, nutty flavor
Whole grain hot cereals Flour muffins, pancakes, other non-yeast baked goods
4g protein, 4g fiber
Used for generations in Europe for baking. Contains gluten but some wheat-sensitive people can tolerate spelt.
Sweet and malty
Whole grain cooked cereals Flour non-yeast quick and flat breads, muffins, pancakes
Flour 4g protein, 4g fiber Grain 6g protein, 6g fiber
A tiny white, brown or red grain; used to make traditional Ethiopian flat bread called injera. Gluten-free.
Chewy with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor
Whole grain hot cereal, pilafs Flour baked goods
7g protein, 5g fiber
Whole wheat grains with only the outer hull removed. Contains gluten.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs, author of Being Vegetarian for Dummies and Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies, enjoys fixing simple meals using whole foods and organically grown ingredients.