The truth is there’s no real evidence that grains per se will do you harm – in fact, by cutting them out of your diet, you may be missing out on benefits such as improved digestion, more energy, boosted immunity and even increased protection from cancer and heart disease.
Be the best
What’s important is that you’re choosing the right types of grains, and the right types of foods containing these grains – it’s all very well picking a cereal bar containing oats but not if it’s packed with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. The best solution is to cook your grains from scratch as much as possible – which isn’t as tricky or time consuming as it sounds. In fact, grains are one of the easiest foods to cook – generally speaking, all it involves is boiling water, a little added flavour in the form of herbs and spices or vegetable stock and you’re good to go! If you’re bored of oats and brown rice, why not try some of these super grains that are slowly becoming more widely available in supermarkets as well as in specialist health stores.
Like the now popular superfood quinoa, Amaranth falls into the category of pseudo-cereals. This means it’s not a true cereal grain like oats or wheat, but is actually a seed. One of the benefits of this is that it’s gluten-free and high in protein. In addition to this, it comes with a good dose of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Try cooking it with a little vegetable stock, or you could use it instead of oats for a delicious and filling breakfast.
Kamut is an ancient grain, and as such is higher in protein and many minerals, especially zinc, magnesium and selenium than many modern types of wheat. In fact a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 found that consuming products containing Kamut was associated with reductions in cholesterol and blood sugar. Kamut tastes great used in salads, soups or risottos. Cook for around an hour with boiling water and stock or a little salt and then flavour with herbs and spices.
Although not gluten-free, many people with gluten intolerances find that they can tolerate spelt as the gluten has a different genetic make up to that of other types of wheat. It also has a delicious nutty flavour and is often used in bread making, pasta or noodles.
Despite the name, buckwheat is not actually related to wheat! Like amaranth, the seeds are eaten so it’s a pseudocereal. As it’s gluten-free, it’s often used in granolas and breakfast cereals in place of wheat and is also used in soba noodles. There are many types of buckwheat – the toasted grouts are crunchy and have a delicious nutty taste so are great for making granola or cheesecake bases. Buckwheat flakes on the other hand can be used instead of oats for porridge, in crumbles or in baking.
So why not get experimental and try a new grain this week – whether it’s in your porridge, risotto or salad - and reap the health benefits.
Written by Ruth Tongue