Comparing Superfood Grains
Once upon a time there was wheat and there were oats, and we made do with that for all our grain needs. Bread, baked goods, a bowl of porridge every morning. But as traditional white flour keeps getting more refined, and as we continue to learn about what our bodies need from the grains we consume, new options are popping up. We love comparing superfood grains to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie, so we can make the most informed decisions about our health.
Come along with us! Here are some favorite grains.
Quinoa is maybe the most versatile grain on this list. It can go into a salad but also into a baked good. It’s also one of the few plant-based complete proteins (meaning it contains a complete set of amino acids). Most grains aren’t considered complete proteins because they lack lysine and isoleucine, both of which quinoa has in abundance. So if you’re trying to reduce the amount of meat you eat, quinoa can keep your amino acid levels where you want them.
This supergrain also has a significant amount of manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and fiber, while being low in calories. This makes it a great ingredient to add to your diet if you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight.
A favorite quinoa recipe: Quinoa Broccoli Slaw with Honey-Mustard Dressing
Amaranth is here to blast up your energy levels. It’s full of healthy fats, making it a favorite ingredient for energy bars. It also contains the highest levels of protein of all the gluten-free grains. But amaranth is also gentle, which has made it a popular grain for small children and for anyone recovering from fasts and illnesses. Its high levels of calcium and some essential amino acids are great for getting people back on their feet. The word means “everlasting” in Greek, and it’s not at all surprising.
Bulgur is high in fiber and low in calories and fat, which makes it great for your digestive system. In fact, it’s so high in fiber that one cup of the stuff will give you 25% of your recommended daily intake! It also supplies your body with plant-based phytonutrients that lower inflammation and prevent free radical damage. Bulgur is very popular in Middle Eastern cooking, so you’ll find it in a lot of great salad and pilaf recipes.
A favorite bulgur recipe: Lebanese Tabbouleh
Buckwheat: not just for pancakes anymore! This grain is very high in zinc, copper, manganese, and protein. Because its zinc content is so high, buckwheat is great for boosting your immune system when you feel a cold coming on. It’s also full of fiber, so much so that it’s not recommended for people with digestive issues. But it’s fantastic for people with diabetes, because it slows down the rate of glucose absorption. Buckwheat also helps you get nutrients from other foods more efficiently. That’s because it’s very high in niacin, which helps helps release the energy from foods so your body can take it in.
A favorite buckwheat recipe: Sweet and Sour Cherry and Buckwheat Crumble
Chia is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3s out there, and one tablespoon of seeds manages to pack in 3 grams of fiber (how? How does this tiny seed hold so much?) Chia seeds are great for making you feel full. This is because they absorb several times their own weight in water. In fact, a 2008 study conducted by the University of Toronto found that regular consumption of chia seeds reduced feelings of hunger by up to 63%.
A favorite chia recipe: Creamy Chia Pudding
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