As many of you are aware, a major dilemma with the Standard American Diet is the massive consumption of refined grains (crackers, cookies, pastries, many bread varieties, etc.). Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain the bran, endosperm, and germ of the grain; the parts where all of the nutrients “reside.” Whole grains have been consumed for centuries; these foods from the earth are rich in fiber, minerals, and even protein. Let’s take a look at just a few of my favorite whole grains…all of which happen to be gluten-free.
A decade ago, not many people knew about quinoa (keenwah). Now, you can’t pick up a health magazine without a recipe calling for quinoa. Quinoa originates from the Andes Mountains; it is estimated that it was first cultivated in Bolivia more than 5,000 years ago. There are over 120 different varieties. The most awesome facet about quinoa is that it has a complete amino acid profile, meaning that it is a phenomenal protein source. One serving has about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Quinoa tastes delicious as an alternative to bulgur in tabouli.
Millet has been used in several parts of the world, such as India, South America, China, and Russia for hundreds of years. Its light flavor can be enhanced by lightly toasting it before boiling it. It can be also used to make a polenta.
Like millet, buckwheat has been growing all over the world for centuries. It is the main ingredient in Japan’s soba noodles, Russia’s kasha, and French crepes. And even though “wheat” is in the word, it is gluten-free and contains no wheat; it is actually a cousin of rhubarb. I particularly love buckwheat pancakes.
If you have ever eaten Ethiopian cuisine, you have likely tried teff; it is the main ingredient in their Injera bread. The texture is so unique and absolutely delicious. Historically, Ethiopians are considered among the first civilizations to domesticate plants. It is estimated that teff was grown for food somewhere between 4000 and 1000 BC.
Don’t let grains intimidate you just because you have not cooked with them before. Several recipes can be found on the internet and they cook quickly. Research has shown that whole grains can aid in weight loss and can help prevent diabetes and heart disease. If the grains I mention are too unfamiliar to you, start with adding oats, brown rice, or wild rice into your meals. And, get this? Popcorn is a whole grain too; just skip all of the butter and go easy on the salt!