(BlackDoctor.org) — When you’re shopping or getting ready to cook dinner for you and your family, are you tired of cooking the same old grains to accompany your meal? Do those run-of-the-mill breakfast cereals just feel too blasé? Does bread seem too much like more of the same old thing?
Since Americans have become more conscious of the importance and nutritional value of whole grains, many people have realized that, even though they have switched from white rice to brown rice (a no-brainer for most people, nowadays), there’s more to grains than brown rice, oat bran, and oatmeal.
Here’s a sampling of the nutritional value of some lesser known grains that are gaining popularity among people interested in health and nutrition…and a little more grain variety:
Amaranth is sometimes classified as a grain but is actually a “pseudo-grain” since it has also at times been classified as both a vegetable and an herb. Amaranth is an ancient grain revered by the Aztecs. It is extremely high in the amino acid lysine, and it is also very high in protein. In fact, only 150 grams of amaranth provides 100% of the daily requirement for protein. This tiny grain has a very high fiber content that outstrips most other grains, and it is packed with many other minerals and vitamins.
Amaranth contains no gluten, so it is especially good for those on a gluten-free diet. While it cannot be used to make bread on its own, 100% amaranth can be used to make baked goods that do not require rising, such as biscuits and pancakes.
If you’re shopping for amaranth products, look in health food stores or the health food section of your supermarket for hot and cold cereals, pastas, breads, cookies, as well as raw amaranth for cooking from scratch.
Pronounced “keen-wah”, this “grain” (Quinoa is actually a cousin of leafy green vegetables) has a nutty flavor that many people find very palatable. Known as the “mother grain” by the Incas, Quinoa has been grown and eaten in South America for thousands of years. Quinoa is gluten-free, very high in protein, and can be substituted for rice in most any recipe. In fact, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, a characteristic that other grains and pseudo-grains simply cannot match.
Since it is very high in magnesium, quinoa is thought to be helpful for people who suffer from migraines, since the increased intake of magnesium has been shown to decrease the frequency of migraines. Quinoa is also high in manganese, iron and phosphorus.
Quinoa is sold in health food stores and food co-ops in both regular packaging and bulk aisles, and can also be found in some cereals, pastas and other prepared foods.
This grain is an ancient cousin of durum wheat and was cultivated in what is known as the “Fertile Crescent” for thousands of years. It is higher in minerals like magnesium and zinc than other forms of wheat, and is also higher in vitamin E, selenium, and essential fatty acids. Although it is a form of wheat, many gluten-sensitive individuals find that they can tolerate kamut without side effects of any kind.
Kamut is used as the main ingredient in many healthy hot and cold cereals, as well as pastas, cookies, and other products,
Millet is a tiny grain similar in size to Quinoa but with a very different taste and texture. Gluten-free and high in magnesium, niacin, phosphorus and manganese, millet is extremely heart-healthy, can lower the risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes (like other whole grains), and has a high ratio of essential amino acids. In fact, one cup of millet provides 26% of the recommended daily allowance of magnesium.
Millet can be found in prepared foods such as breads, and can be purchased raw for preparation in place of rice.
Nutty and versatile, barley is very high in fiber, selenium, phosphorus, manganese, tryptophan and copper. It also offers a more balanced protein than wheat.
Barley offers a high-fiber content that can provide the bulk needed to improve your digestion, and also contains “friendly” bacteria that boost your intestinal health. Certain elements within the dietary fiber of barley actually bind to bile acids, removing them via the feces and thus reducing cholesterol. When these bile acids are removed from the body, the liver produces more, and these in turn bind to even more cholesterol that is then removed from the body.
Barley is relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare, and an extremely healthy addition to your regular diet.
Whole Grains for Health
Whole Grains Help Prevent Disease. It is now widely accepted that whole grains can help prevent Type II diabetes, reverse or prevent cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and offer a profound nutritional value when compared to processed grains like white rice and white flour.
Be Careful Of Which Whole Grain Products You Buy. While some companies market foods that are allegedly “whole” grains, many consumers are fooled by marketing and packaging that is somewhat misleading. Some wheat breads on the market are barely more nutritionally sound than their white counterparts, and many of these breads contain sugar and other ingredients that are wholly unnecessary. Truly healthy whole grain products should contain as few ingredients as possible, and like all foods that you purchase, you should be able to pronounce – and recognize – every ingredient.
Remember that if the ingredient list is long (more than five), you probably shouldn’t buy it.
Explore More Grains
The grains and pseudo-grains outlined in this article are not the only ones on the market worth your curiosity, but these five are indeed important grains that pack a nutritional punch that is difficult to dismiss. Look online, stop by your local health food store, and explore the world of grains beyond brown rice and whole wheat.