Grains provide your body with energy and a variety of vitamins and minerals making them an important part of a healthy balanced diet. There is a vast selection of grains, making it easy to find a few that you enjoy, and each type of grain has their own nutritional benefits.
So here is a guide to some of the more common grains you will find in supermarkets and also some of the more unusual grains that you may find in larger supermarkets or health food stores:
A is for Amaranth. The staple grain of the ancient Aztecs, it is actually a seed rather than a grain and it looks like brown caviar when it is cooked. Amaranth is a source of calcium, is high on protein and is gluten free.
B is for Buckwheat. Despite its name buckwheat is not wheat at all but is actually related to rhubarb. It is deliciously nutty and is thought to help reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Gluten free, a source of protein and magnesium. It's a great grain to try out.
B is also for Bulgur Wheat. A nutritious grain with plenty of dietary fibre to support healthy digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels. It is naturally low in fat and a source of protein. We have a great Tabbouleh recipe that uses it.
C is for Couscous. Regular couscous is made from semolina wheat, whilst the wholegrain variety is made with the whole grains of durum flour. Wholegrain couscous is low in fat and is a source of iron which can help maintain a healthy immune system.
F is for Freekeh (FREE – KAH). Super easy to cook, this Middle Eastern wheat is picked unripe and roasted over wood fires for a smoky flavour. It is a source of fibre, high in protein and is a low GI food.
M is for Millet. Mild in flavour, millet is often mixed with other grains or toasted to bring out its delicate flavour. It is gluten free, a source of magnesium for healthy bones and high in fibre.
Q is for Quinoa (KEEN – WAH). This grain is a complete protein meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that our body cannot make itself. It is gluten free, high in fibre and naturally low in saturated fat. Where possible try to opt for British grown quinoa. To see this fabulous grain in action see our Puy Lentil & Quinoa Salad recipe.
S is for Spelt. An old-fashioned grain with a high fibre content that contributes to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes it is a source of fibre and therefore supports healthy digestion. It is popular in risotto as an alternative to rice, for example in our Bubble & Squeak Risotto.
W is for Wild Rice. Nutritionally robust, wild rice is actually the seed of a marsh grass from the Great Lakes in the USA rather than a rice. It is gluten free, high in minerals and B vitamins and high in protein which help the body to release energy slowly from food, keeping you fuller for longer.