On my journey studying nutrition I have discovered the many valuable components of grains. Grains have been a staple food for thousands of years, containing nutrients that are essential to human development. Grains are actually one of the oldest nourishing foods on the planet. When grains are combined with a variety of other foods such as vegetables — and a small amount of protein such as beans –, they can provide us with all the nourishment we need. The nutrients are abundant and they provide a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. This is why they provide nourishment and fulfill the basic food needs for many countries all over the world. The nutrition in grains is important to our health — they are low in cost and easy to cook and incorporate into your diet.
Whole grains are a form of complex carbohydrates. They have the ability to energize, relax the nerves and brain and do not cause the high energy and then quick crash we get from eating simple carbohydrates. Whole grains have the ability to distribute energy over a long period of time giving us a balanced, sustained energy level.
Whole grains as well as other complex carbohydrates start their digestion in the mouth during chewing. Chewing grains thoroughly breaks them down into sugars, proteins, oils, and minerals and this allows for optimal absorption of nutrients. The grains must be mixed with the digestive enzyme pryalin, which is found only in the mouth. i
Grains are great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They can be used in salads, soups, as cereal, or they are great on their own.
Parts of the grain or kernel:
All the grains have the same basic structure.
- Hull - The inedible outer covering
- Bran- Course outer layer, removed out of kernel during refining process
- Endosperm - Inner layer ( from the Greek: “within the seed”)
Often the only part of the grain consumed
- Germ - This is the plant embryo, removed out during refining process
Nutrient value of the different parts of the grain:
Bran: Fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients
Endosperm: Main energy source, contains the complex carbohydrates, and protein
Germ: B-vitamins, vitamin E, trace minerals, unsaturated fats,
phytochemicals and antioxidants
Some grains are over-refined. For instance, in the processing of refining white rice, the bran and germ are removed along with many valuable nutrients.
Grains are nutritive and sweet; the complex carbohydrate content helps to stabilize blood sugar. Grains along with legumes are the only foods that contain all of the major nutrient groups needed by the body: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.ii
Variety of Grains and Nutrient Value
|Grain (1 cup dry)||
|Cook Time(in minutes)||Cups Yield||Health Benefits|
|Amaranth (GF)||2 ½||20-25||2 ½||
Amaranth has a high protein content, 15-18%, because of its high lysine content. High in fiber and contains calcium, iron, vitamin A and C.
|Buckwheat (whole roasted)(GF)||2||15||2 ½||Most filling and stabilizing grain for blood sugar control because it has the longest transit time in the gut. Treats diarrhea. It is a good blood building grain. Buckwheat has a high proportion of all essential amino acids. High in calcium, vitamin E, contains entire range of the B-vitamins and some minerals. Buckwheat is not a form of wheat. It has a hearty flavor and is high in protein. Makes great pancakes. Kasha is toasted buckwheat.|
|Millet, hulled (GF)||3-4||20-25||3 ½||Used as a diuretic, strengthens kidneys, balanced over-acid conditions, good for teeth and gums. Useful for diarrhea (roast before cooking), indigestion, and diabetes. Good for blood sugar imbalances. Very rich in phosphorus and the B-vitamins. One of the easiest grains to digest.|
|Rolled Oats||2 ½||Simmer 10-15||2 ½||Good source of soluble fiber, can help lower cholesterol.|
|Quinoa (GF)||2||15-20||2 ¾||Quinoa is very nutritious. Higher in protein than any other grain, contains all the essential amino acids. It expands 4x its volume when cooked. Considered a high-energy grain because of its easy digestibility, is great as an endurance and fitness food. High in calcium, good source of iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, vitamin E. It is the nature of quinoa’s protein that makes it considered “the super grain.”|
|Rice, brown basmati (GF)||2 ½||35-40||3 ½||Because it is considered a lighter rice variety, it works well with overweight and stagnant conditions. Basmati rice is parboiled and this does reduce its B vitamin content.|
|Rice, brown long grain (GF)||2 ½||60||3 ½||Concentrated in the B vitamins, which benefits the nervous system and good for digestion.|
|Rice, brown short grain (GF)||2-2 ½||45-55||3||More sticky and chewy than long grain. Same health benefits as long grain.|
|Rice, wild (GF)||1 ¾||45||3 ½||Not a true rice, it is a long-grain “water grass” native to the Northern Great Lakes area. Low in fat and high in B vitamins, rich in protein, minerals, beneficial to kidneys and bladder.|
GF = Gluten Free Grains
There are many grains listed that are wheat/gluten free. I have a wheat/gluten free diet and consume these particular grains often. A future newsletter will be dedicated to gluten.
Cooking Grains:* Combine the grain with the water in a heavy pot
* Add a pinch of salt to every cup of water used (just a pinch)
* Bring the grain to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer
* Try not to stir the rice during its cooking time until the water is absorbed
* Remove from the heat and allow the grains to stand, still covered, for ten minutes before servingA Few Tips for Cooking Grains:
* Grains can be soaked 8-12 hours, this will make the grains more digestible
* Do not use soaking water for cooking, discard
* Wash/rinse grains before use, important especially with quinoa
* Add the sea vegetable kombu to rice during cooking, just about a one-two inch strip
* Add spices during the cooking time (optional)
* Add steamed vegetables to rice after cooking
Check out my Grains Grains Grains recipe of Gluten Free Hot Cereal with Four Grains in the Recipe Section of the blog. It is one that I enjoy as a hot cereal. I learned of this recipe many years ago and I have enjoyed ever since.
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Janeen Goldsmith is a Certified Nutrition Therapist who specializes in working with people who have MS or other autoimmune conditions and who are seeking additional health support along with traditional therapies. Her practice is based on the principle that because everyone is different, each person’s nutrition program should specifically fit his or her lifestyle and preferences. Janeen’s goal is to help people eat better to feel better. She meets with individual clients in person, email and/or by phone. She also shares her knowledge through public speaking and teaching cooking skills to local Colorado residents.
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i Wood, Rebecca, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Penguin Books, New York, NY., 1999, p. 147-149
ii Wood, Rebecca, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Penguin Books, New York, NY., 1999, p.147-149
Chart reference: Suzanne Sisson and Shannon HancockMcGuee, Harold, On Food and Cooking, The Science Lore of the Kitchen, Scribner, New York, NY, P. 461-462
Mossman, SA, CNT, Whole Grains Cooking Seminar, 2005
Pichford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA., 1993
Wood, Rebecca, the new whole foods encyclopedia, The Penguin Group, New York, NY, 1988, 1999, p. 26, 47-48, 212, 279, 289-290,