Ingredient du Jour: Great Grains

Grains are a staple in much of the world, but many in the United States haven’t explored much beyond quick-cook white rice. Luckily, interest in more exotic grains has risen in recent years, and a greater variety than ever is available in a wider variety of stores. Read on to learn which grains pack the greatest nutritional punch.Which grains pack the most nutritional punch?

  • Quinoa: One of the most popular “superfoods” of the past decade, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), has been a staple in the Andes for millennia. Although people frequently refer to quinoa as a grain and use it as a replacement for rice, it is technically the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant. This makes it related to such other superfoods as spinach and chard and accounts for its high nutritional value. One cooked cup contains 222 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 21 percent of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of fiber. It is also high in calcium, magnesium, and folate.
  • Brown Rice: Brown rice is cheaper and easier to find than quinoa, although it doesn’t quite measure up to quinoa’s profile. Brown rice is actually the same grain as white rice, but it retains its bran and germ, which are removed for white rice. The bran and germ provide many nutrients, including almost a full day’s supply of manganese as well as five grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. One cup has 216 calories.
  • Farro: Italians have been cooking with farro for centuries, but it didn’t gain traction in the United States until our most recent concern with simple carbohydrates and desire for whole grains. Although the term “farro” may be used to describe a specific species of wheat grown in Tuscany, it is also used as an umbrella term for three different species of wheat: spelt, emmer, and einkorn. Farro is an ancient cousin of modern wheat with significantly higher nutritional power. Like other complex carbohydrate grains, farro has a chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. One cooked cup has 200 calories, eight grams of protein, and seven grams of fiber. Farro is also high in complex carbohydrates called cyanogenic glucosides, which have been linked to lowered cholesterol.

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