Move over quinoa. Just when we all got onboard with this rockstar of healthy, high protein, high fiber grain, there are some new kids on the block fighting their way to superfood status.
If you frequent health food stores you may be familiar with Kaniwa, Teff, Amaranth, or Millet. These new grains and seeds are nutrient dense with high protein content, high in fiber, and are excellent sources of other essential vitamins and minerals. Let’s take a look:
AMARANTH–Amaranth is a very nutritious, gluten free grain containing a high amount of protein, iron, calcium, lysine, magnesium, fiber, plus B vitamins, and more. It actually holds the highest amount of protein when compared to all other gluten free grains, so it rates very high on the nutrition scale.
Cooking amaranth is very easy – measure grains and water, boil water, add grains gently boil, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes, then drain, rinse, and enjoy. Cooked amaranth behaves a little differently than other whole grains. It never loses its crunch completely, has an earthy flavor and can be combined with other grains, or used as part of a pilaf.
BUCKWHEAT— While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. It is safely considered to be gluten free and is sometimes referred to as Kasha.
Buckwheat can make a healthy side dish. Buckwheat flour can be used in making noodles, crepes, and many other gluten-free products. Using buckwheat flour in your cooking will give a strong nutty taste to your dishes.
BULGAR— Bulgur is one of several lesser-known whole grains that pack a wealth of fiber and B vitamins. The low-glycemic-index food, which is good for your insulin levels and blood glucose, is a Middle Eastern favorite made from wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried and cracked; it’s sometimes referred to as cracked wheat.
Bulgur is great in breads, salads and side dishes. It’s the main ingredient in the Middle Eastern salad you’ve probably heard of, tabbouleh.
To cook bulgar bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 cup of uncooked bulgur wheat and a pinch of salt. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Drain any excess liquid, fluff, and serve. If you want to increase the amount, just keep the ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part bulgur wheat.
Bulgar is not suitable for those on a gluten free diet.
FARRO— Farro is a healthy whole grain that Italians have been eating for years in recipes ranging from salads to soups. I recently bought a 10 Minute Quick Cook Farro from Trader Joe’s buy have yet to try it.
Farro does contain the gluten protein but has a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, and is very rich in magnesium and B vitamins
Farro is delicious as a hot breakfast cereal with fruit, in soups, salads, side dishes, and even desserts. One preparation that everyone loves is farrotto—farro cooked like risotto. Now, that gets my attention.
KAMUT—Also referred to as Oriental wheat or Pharaoh grain Kamut is long grain with a brown cover – very similar looking to brown basmati rice. It has a sort of nutty flavor and is closely related to wheat. Kamut can be cooked in the same manner as rice or barley, added to soups, pilafs or stews or ground in to a flour that can be substituted for wheat flour in baked goods
Kamut is not gluten free, but it is low in fat, cholesterol-free and higher in protein than wheat, with a 1-cup serving of cooked Kamut providing 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein for the average adult. Kamut is also rich in nutrients that are essential for good health, including dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium and niacin.
KANIWA— Kaniwa is often described as a grain, but it’s actually a seed that is cooked and consumed like a grain product. Originally from the Andes Mountains in Peru, kaniwa is fairly new to the United States. Since it is gluten free it is expected to appeal to people who consume similar nutrient-dense grains and seeds like quinoa, which has become enormously popular in recent years.
Flavonoids are among the most intensively-studied antioxidants, and kaniwa has been shown to contain exceptionally high levels of flavonoids. In fact, kaniwa has been shown to contain even more flavonoids than quinoa, its close relative.
MILLET— Millet is a lovely fast-cooking, gluten-free grain with a high amino-acid protein profile. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and is the only grain that has an alkalizing effect on the blood due to its high alkaline ash content, which also makes it easy to digest. Millet also helps strengthen kidney function and contains more iron than any other cereal grain.
Millet makes a nice side dish and mixes well with any herbs and seasonings that are commonly used to flavor rice dishes. It makes a nice addition to casseroles, soups, stews and stuffing. Combine with other grains such as quinoa or brown rice for an interesting taste and texture variation.
SPELT— Spelt is an ancient, wheat that is higher in protein and fiber, lower in gluten (though not gluten-free), and easier to digest than regular wheat. It has chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be sprinkled in to salads or stirred in to stews
For best results, soak grains in water overnight. Drain grains, and add 1 cup Spelt Berries
to 3 cups boiling water or stock. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 40 – 60 minutes or until grains are chewy. (If grains were not soaked, allow 65 – 80 minutes cooking time.) Drain off any excess water.
Teff leads all the grains – by a wide margin – in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C—a nutrient not commonly found in grains—and also a good source of iron.
It naturally makes a great wheat flour alternative for those who follow a gluten-free lifestyle. Breads, cookies, pancakes, you name it, teff can do it.
Grains tend to attract bugs, so I recommend storing them in containers with a very tight seal. Also note that many grains can be cross-contaminated with wheat during processing, transportation, or if they are used as a rotational crop with wheat, so it is important to find non-cross contaminated sources—make sure the ones you buy are certified gluten-free, if you are on a gluten free diet.
Am I going to stop eating quinoa? Hec no, but in nutrition, as with life, variety is key. I think you have your work cut out for you on your next trip to the health food store. Have fun with it, and consider adding one of these new grains to your Thanksgiving table.