5 Healthy "Super" Grains & How Best To Prepare Them
Whole grains have been a wholesome food staple for thousands years, embraced by many long lived cultures all around the world.
The problem today is that certain grains have gotten a bad name because they've become over commercialised, heavily refined and even genetically modified - particularly "commodity" crops like wheat and corn.
When it comes to a healthy diet, don't forget to include whole, unrefined grains that provide an abundance of nutritional value and building blocks for energy and strength - not to mention their versatility in the kitchen!
Here, we uncover five of mother nature's most nutritious and delicious whole grains and how best to prepare them. Our bet is that you've heard of them all, except maybe one or two...
Your morning bowl of organic rolled oats is doing more than just keeping you full and giving you sustained energy for hours.
Oats are one of the top five healthiest grains and they’re delicious to boot.
Oats are super grains because they contain beta-glucan fiber, which can lower cholesterol while also boosting your immune system, as well as providing you with plenty of fibre for good digestive support.
There are also compounds in oats that are known for their antioxidant properties, as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals that the body needs (including 191% of your daily recommended intake of manganese and a third of your magnesium in a half cup). Oats also have more protein and fat than other grains, making them a very nutrient-dense food despite low caloric value, so they can also help you with weight control.
Oats are also naturally gluten-free, so they work for a variety of diets.
The most common way to prepare oats is on the stove to prepare a creamy, porridge for breakfast, but they can also be a creative and nutritious addition to cookies and crumbles too.
Ways to Prepare Oats:
- Soak a cup of raw oats overnight in a plant-based milk. The next morning, add raw organic honey or maple syrup, toasted walnuts and a chopped ripe banana
- Baked into cookies, muffins, squares, or bars
- Baked into other desserts like crumbles and crisps
- Rolled into energy balls for easy, on-the-go snacks
- Roasted into a granola, with a variety of seeds, nuts and dried fruit
Learn more in 8 Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar Balance.
Surprisingly, barley does a lot more than just help brew beer!
Barley is a nutritional powerhouse that is readily available and should be given a lot more credit than it's given, especially considering it was one of the world’s first cultivated grains.
Barley, like oats, contains beta-glucan fibre that helps slow down your body’s absorption of glucose to keep your blood sugar levels more stable and give you sustained energy throughout the day.
Barley also contains selenium, which is an antioxidant that your body absolutely needs to function properly.
It also plays a role in your thyroid function and metabolism, while protecting the body from damage caused by oxidative stress. Barley also helps support a healthy heart and lower cholesterol thanks to its combination of fibre, potassium, folate, and Vitamin B6.
The most common way to use barley is in soups and stews because it maintains its taste and texture well, despite the heat, but barley also works well in summer and winter salads.
Ways to Prepare Barley:
- Gives heartiness to soups and stews
- Delightful in salads (as a substitute for pasta) with fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon juice etc
- Rolled into plant-based burgers
- Processed into a pilaf and used as a base for curries
Quinoa might be hard to pronounce (for the record, it’s KEEN-wah), but it definitely isn’t hard to eat.
Quinoa is a grain crop that’s grown for its seeds, which is the part that we eat, and it’s prepared and eaten like a grain.
In recent years quinoa has become incredibly popular thanks to its “superfood” status and gluten-free designation.
There are three types of quinoa (red, white and black) and just one cup has twice the fibre content of most grains, while maintaining a low glycemic index. It’s also high in protein and fibre, and comes with every essential amino acid, making it a staple in most plant-based diets.
One of the best parts of quinoa is how easy it is to prepare and incorporate into your diet, giving your meals a healthy boost in minutes.
Quinoa is mostly used as a healthy rice substitute, but there are many other delicious ways to use it thanks to its super-light, fluffy texture.
Ways to Prepare Quinoa:
- Add light texture to salads
- Stuff bell peppers or eggplant with a quinoa blend and roast them
- Use it as “fried rice”
- Fry them into fritters for warm snacks
- Bake them into cookies or muffins for a healthy dessert
Learn more in What Really is Gluten Intolerance & Hidden Sources.
Amaranth is not the most commonly eaten grain, but it’s an ancient grain that boasts some pretty impressive health benefits.
It’s been cultivated for thousands of years and was once considered a staple for the people of Inca, Maya, and Aztec.
While not technically a grain like oats, it shares a similar set of nutrients and is used in the same ways.
Amaranth is a great source of fibre and protein (one cup has almost ten grams of plant-based protein!), a huge source of manganese (which your brain needs for a variety of functions), iron, plus almost 40% of your daily recommended intake of magnesium. It’s also high in phosphorus, which your body needs for bone health and support.
One unique benefit of amaranth is that it may also help reduce inflammation, which makes it a great addition to your regular diet if you suffer from inflammation. Amaranth can actually be roasted, popped, boiled, and added to a variety of dishes.
Ways to Prepare Amaranth:
- Blend into smoothies for a fibre and protein boost
- Use it as a hot breakfast cereal and mix in fruits and nuts
- Thicken soups and stews with it
Learn more in 5 Reasons to Avoid Supermarket Wheat Products.
Sorghum isn’t a staple in Western diets, but it’s actually quite popular in the tropics and southern hemisphere.
This ancient grain has a very neutral, slightly sweet taste, making it the perfect healthy base in a lot of dishes. Sorghum comes chockfull of protein and fibre, and a range of vitamins and minerals, plus the much-needed potassium and iron.
Ways to Prepare Sorghum:
- Popped like popcorn
- As a tasty side dish on its own
- As the base to a grain bowl
- Bake using sorghum flour
Remember, whole grains are an important part of every diet (even gluten-free diets).
The secret is to ensure that you only buy 'whole' grains (organic where possible), that are unrefined.
Include at least 2 or 3 of these grains into your diet on a regular basis, experiment with how you prepare them and you'll soon fall in love with whole grains all over again and you'll be healthier for it.
Tolman Self Care.