Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ancient Grains

As most of us know, consuming whole grains is an important part of a healthy diet.  Whole grains not only provide a substantial amount of fiber in the diet, they also provide many vitamins and minerals that are extracted during the refining process.  The biggest difference between whole grains and refined grains is the nutrients.  Although many manufacturers have begun adding those vitamins back in to the flour/meal after refining, those nutrients are not absorbed as easily in the body as they would be naturally.

When we think of whole grains, we tend to think of whole wheat or oats.  These are great grains to begin switching to (if you don't already do so), but having only 2 types of grains in your diet can get boring and can limit you to all of the unique tastes and textures of some of Mother Nature's greatest gifts; ancient grains!  These grains have been around for decades and have slowly been eased out of mass consumption until recently.  The reason these grains fell out of popularity is unknown, but I have 2 good guesses:  1)  they take a while to prepare, and 2)  wheat is easier to grow/harvest/refine and is cheaper to sell.  This means that wheat production rose and all other whole grains got pushed to the side.

Thankfully, we are beginning to see many ancient grains in the markets again!  Specialty food stores and most stores that have bulk bins will have many of the following grains for you to try.  The important thing to keep in mind when buying grains for the first time:

  • Buy in small quantities at first so you won't be spending a lot of money in case you don't like it
  • look up recipes and have one in mind before you buy the grain; this way, you are more inclined to actually cook it when it comes home
    • The majority of gains should be soaked for 12-24 hours or at least thoroughly rinsed before cooking to get rid of the bitter taste
Finally, here are the grains!!:
  • Quinoa (keen-wah)- quick cooking and gluten free, complete protein, soft and fluffy texture, comes in  red/black/pearl
  • Kamut- a type of non GMO (genetically modified organism) wheat that is longer and more golden than standard wheat, must be soaked overnight, virtually impossible to overcook, creamy and chewy in texture (great for pilafs)
  • Teff- said to be the smallest grain on earth, 150 times smaller than average wheat berry, gluten free.
  • Freekeh- any wheat that's harvested when its's still green then fire-threshed to give it a smoky flavor and pop, grassy flavor
  • Farro- best known in Italy, this term is broadly used for members of the wheat family that have a nutty flavor and stout build, from farro piccoli that makes a good risotto to slow roasted farro that has a woodier taste
  • Millet- found in birdseed, has been used as a staple in China for centuries, can be eaten raw or cooked
  • Rye- dense and earthy cousin to wheat, close in taste to that of a walnut.

Remember, the more variety in your diet, the happier and healthier you will be!  So try a new gain this week and let me know what you think!

By the way, sales of the body scrub should be up soon!

Luana ola!