A Grain of Truth…
Grains have formed the principle component of our diets for thousands of years. However, the modern human diet relies on only a few variants, including white rice, maize and wheat. It’s important we diversify our sources of carbohydrates, as there are many other types of grains that exist which provide more nutritional value and improve the health of soil. Let’s find out more about grains!
Types of Grains
There are two types of grains – legumes and cereals. Grains consist of three important parts:
Whole vs Refined Grains
Within the grain group are whole grains or refined grains. This is the difference between the two:
Whole Grains – these have been minimally processed to keep the bran, germ and endosperm (and all the nutrients contained within).
Refined Grains – these come from the same plant as the whole grain, but they are missing the germ, bran and nutrients. This means most of the nutrition is removed through the milling process. However, it does mean the grain has a longer shelf life.
Future 50 Foods - Grains
Knorr Professional and WWF-UK partnered with Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of The Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, have collaborated to create the Future 50 Foods report.
This report identifies 50 foods we should eat more of because they are nutritious, have a lower impact on our planet than animal-based foods, can be affordable, accessible and taste good
Instead of making your traditional dishes with refined grains, why not add interest and flavour by substituting these grains:
Amaranth is grown for both its seeds and leaves. The fibre-rich grain is prepared in boiling water, like rice, or popped like corn. Its leaves are a staple food in Asia and Africa and are eaten in the same ways as other leafy green vegetables. Relative to other grains, amaranth’s sandy yellow seed is high in magnesium and protein. It has a mild, slightly nutty taste and gelatinous texture making it ideal for soups, side dishes and risottos.
Buckwheat is one of the healthiest, nuttiest and most versatile grains. It can also be used as a ‘cover crop’ or ‘smother crop’ to help keep weeds down and reduce soil erosion while fields rest during crop rotation. Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. It is an ideal higher protein swap for flour in pastas and breads. It can also be a great alternative to rice, is ideal cooked in a broth or stock, and can be used in salads or stuffing.
Finger millet is a cereal that has been cultivated for thousands of years since it was first domesticated from the wild. Finger millet is often overlooked by the world at large as it only makes up around 10% of global millet production. Of all major cereals, millet is one of the most nutritious. It is a good source of fibre and vitamin B1 and is rich in minerals. Finger millet can be eaten as porridge, or milled into flour and used in bread or pancakes. It has a mild flavour that’s slightly nuttier than quinoa and has a similar texture to couscous.
Fonio is a grain known for its nutty, delicate taste and versatility. The Bambara people of Mali have a saying that ‘fonio never embarrasses the cook’ as it is so easy to prepare and can be used in dishes to replace any grain. Fonio is gluten-free and highly nutritious, containing iron, zinc, magnesium and phytonutrients. It can be used in salads, crackers, pastas, and even in baked goods. It can be used in place of oats to make hot cereal, in place of couscous or rice in any dish and is delicious mixed with spices and olive oil as a side dish. It also can be used to brew beer.
Khorasan wheat is known for its ability to tolerate different climates without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilisers. The amber-coloured kernels of this ancient wheat are twice the size of regular wheat and, when cooked, have a richer, creamier and nuttier taste. Khorasan wheat is high in fibre, a good source of the minerals magnesium and selenium, and contains antioxidants. It is nutritious and can be used in similar ways to other forms of wheat.
Quinoa is not a cereal but is a relative of spinach, beets and chard. The most commonly cultivated and exported types of quinoa are white, red and black. The texture varies between them, but the flavour and uses remain largely the same. Quinoa is a complete protein as it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. It is gluten-free and contains an exceptional balance of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. It can replace rice in many dishes, such as pilafs, stuffings, salads and even veggie burgers. It can also be ground and used in breads and even pastas.
Spelt is a hybrid of emmer wheat and goat grass. Due to its high carbohydrate content, the Romans called it the ‘marching grain’. It has a thick outer husk that helps to protect it from disease and pests, making it easier for farmers to grow without the need for fertilisers or pesticides. Compared to similar types of wheat, it contains more fibre, as well as higher concentrations of minerals, including magnesium, iron and zinc. The mellow, nutty flavour makes it popular to use in place of rice in pilaf, risotto and side dishes.
Teff is known as ‘the next super grain’. This tiny grass seed is a long-standing staple in Ethiopia thanks to its nutritional value, as teff is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. It is well suited to challenging climates, can cope with both drought and waterlogged soil, is easy to store and is pest-resistant. The mild flavour means teff flour lends itself to any number of sweet and savoury dishes. The seeds can be steamed or boiled in stock or water to be served as a side dish or to bulk up dishes.
Wild rice isn’t a rice at all. It’s the seed of a semi-aquatic grass that grows wild in North American lakes and rivers. Deliciously nutty, toasty and earthy with a chewy texture, wild rice is easy to digest and is a source of a variety of valuable minerals. Compared with white rice, wild rice contains more protein, zinc and iron. Like rice, it is boiled in water or stock. It can also be popped like corn for a colourful and more nutritious version of popcorn, is great mixed with other grains, added to salads, soups and mixed with other grains and vegetables to make vegetarian burgers.
Safeguard the planet for future generations!
By making a conscious choice to consume more Future 50 Foods, we take a crucial step in improving the global food system. Make your plates work for the planet and embrace diversity with Knorr Professional and the WWF-UK!