Today I’m shifting my focus away from fruits and vegetables (which I know I have explored in ample depth in my earlier articles) and talking about something that has featured less on my blog, but is still so
important for a balanced diet – grains. Don't forget to check out Varun Venaik
So why are grains so important in our diet?
Grains are packed full of fibre, which is important for us to feel full and satiated after our meals (which lessens the likelihood of reaching for those often unhealthy snacks in between meals). All grains contain complex carbohydrates as well as other nutrients and important vitamins and minerals, but not all grains are equally as good for you – for the best health results, you should be choosing whole grains over refined grains.
Whole grains are those grains which we consume either in their whole form, or as a ground product, but while retaining all the important parts of the seed. Whole grains are higher in many nutrients than refined grains – nutrients like vitamin B, potassium and magnesium.
On the other hand, refined grains have been milled in order to remove germ and bran which results in these grains having a much finer texture and a later use by date. However, milling these grains has the effect of eliminating or reducing a number of important nutrients including fibre. So in other words, while whole grains can give you the full suite of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, refined grains, through the milling process are stripped of some of their important nutrients. Refined grains are those that you will typically find in your tasty but not very healthy snacks like crackers, pastries and sweet cereals.
It is recommended that at least a half of the grains that we consume should be whole grains, in order to have a balanced diet and maximise our nutrient intake.
In this article I am going to take you through the 5 best whole grains to include in your diet from today.
I’ve included oats at the top of the list because they are so great for you, and so easy to introduce into your diet.
Oats have antioxidants and beta-glucan fibre which is known to strengthen the immune system and reduce cholesterol.
Oats are also so incredibly easy to include in your diet, especially at breakfast time – in winter you can whip up a porridge to start your day on a warm note and in summer you can make homemade muesli and enjoy it with some fresh fruit and yoghurt.
Quinoa is high in magnesium, iron and folate contains a number of essential amino acids. It is also a very good source of protein (often consumed by vegetarians as a protein source) and as a bonus, it’s also gluten free! Quinoa is relatively easy and quick to cook – many people simply us a rice cooker.
Even though many people have never heard of sorghum, it has actually been around for centuries – hence why it is termed an ancient grain. Sorghum is packed full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, calcium and zinc. You can see why it has been widely termed a superfood! It is also an excellent source of protein, with around 22 grams of protein in one cup. Sorghum is also very rich in antioxidants and carries a significant amount of fibre. Do you need any other reason to introduce this powerful grain into your diet? Sorghum can be used in your porridge, or you can add it into your lunch soup, stew or salad.
Teff is a fine grain originating from Ethiopia and Eritrea. It has a wonderful earthy taste and is rich in a number of important nutrients, being packed with high protein, fibre and iron.
Buckwheat has gained popularity in the last decade, often being used to make pastas or noodles and pancakes. You might be surprised to learn that soba noodles, which are often used in Asian (particularly Japanese) cooking is made from buckwheat. It has high amounts of iron, antioxidants and magnesium. Some people often think buckwheat contains wheat because of its name – but it’s actually a completely different grain!
Buckwheat can be used in place of oats in porridge, or you can introduce it into your next salad or in place of rice in your next meal. Alternatively, you can grind buckwheat it and use it in place of flour when you’re next making crepes or pancakes.
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