Let’s be honest, grains form a massive part of the British diet and many of us enjoy grazing on bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits. Industrialisation has led to whole grains becoming more refined to extend their lifespan, which has led to a change in their structure and health benefits. Wholegrains consist of a germ surrounded by an endosperm with a fibrous outer layer. The germ and the brain hold the most nutrients and fibre, whilst the endosperm – which is the largest part – is 70 per cent starch.
Refined grains that make up most of today’s foods have been milled to separate out the bran and the coarser germ, leaving behind the endosperm (the starchy part). In addition to this, they are often bleached, which leads to a further loss of nutrients. Sometimes they are added back in, but never comparable to their natural state. By this point, they have now lost their fibre.
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that release a steady flow of glucose, preventing a sudden drop in blood sugar levels and will keep you feeling full for longer. The fibre in whole grains also help with satiety, as it takes longer to digest and reduces constipation.
Wheat contains gluten, which many people find hard to digest.
The following grains are gluten-free and full of protein, vitamins and minerals. All are good alternatives to gluten based grains, such as wheat, couscous, barley and bulgur wheat.
Quinoa: a complete protein, usually only found in animal foods. Complete proteins contain all the essential 9 amino acids that are body cannot make by itself. We need 20 amino acids – 11 essential (made by us) and 9 non essential (need from foods) – to make protein.
Buckwheat: high in nutrients, fibre and protein. You can cook them as you would a grain; you can also get buckwheat flour and buckwheat pasta, which are gluten free.
Brown rice: unlike white rice, brown rice contains the hull, which is both nutritious and fibrous. Brown rice also absorbs a lot of water when cooked, so it’s very hydrating.
Oats: not only do they have a low glycaemic index, but their high fibre content helps to remove LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol from the digestive system.
Millet: high in nutrients, particularly B vitamins as well as zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. It can be prepared like rice or used as a flour.
Amaranth: nutty in flavour and can be used for both savoury dishes like risotto, but also in sweet dishes, such as porridge. It is also a great source of protein, zinc, magnesium iron. Perfect for vegetarians, who can sometimes be deficient in these minerals.
Kamut: otherwise known as Khorasan wheat; can be cooked as a grain or as a flour to make bread and pasta