Hi and welcome to week 4 of our Superfoods News with an article by Carole from Energy Superfoods.
The following selected grains are particular favourites of mine from a nutritional as well as fuel perspective, all of which I use to support increased energy, weight control, alkalising and fitness training efforts.
Superfood Grains are the topic this week with a number of fantastic gluten free ones, Amaranth and Quinoa, Brown Rice and Buckwheat. We're coming from the angles of health and natural energy, whole foods containing significant levels of amino acid proteins being the energy or fuel source, and choosing ones able to consumed as raw and unprocessed as possible for optimum health benefits, paying particular notice to the gluten free ones; not only for those who know they are gluten intolerant, but for the majority of us who have no recognised intolerance but who should be reducing gluten as a rule anyway. Wheat and/or gluten is one of the highest allergy and intolerant foods among those who don't even know they have an intolerance. Many symptoms attributed to diseases, pain, bloating or inflammation stem from an unknown intolerance of wheat and/or gluten.
So let's introduce a great cereal addition or alternative puffed grain, gluten free ancient superfood #1, Amaranth.
Amaranth seeds are tan or light brown in color and are about the size of poppy seeds. Not a true cereal grain, Amaranth is sometimes called a ‘pseudo-grain’ and has been referred to as a herb or even a vegetable. With over 60 varieties of the Amaranth plant, some are grown for their leaves and others for their grains or seeds. Commonly Amaranth is a Pigweed species and can be found on the side of the road growing as a weed would. It is also featured in the Foodmatters documentary for benefits of it's leaves and seeds. Amaranth is more commonly found as a puffed seed within health shops and some supermarkets in Australia. This may vary depending where you live of course.
Known for it's amazing nutritional properties for many centuries, Amaranth was considered a 'Food of the Gods' by the ancient Aztecs and Mayan people. It is high in protein, particularly in the amino acid, Lysine, having one of the highest lysine content of all the grains, with Quinoa coming in a close second. Just 150 grams of Amaranth will supply an adult with 100% of the daily requirement of protein. Amaranth is one of the highest grains in fibre content, making it effective against cancer and heart disease, and with the protein content is also an effective tool within weightloss programs. Amaranth contains significant amounts of phytosterols which scientists are just now learning play a major part in the prevention of all kinds of diseases. Amaranth is also rich in many vitamins and minerals.
Amaranth must be cooked before it is eaten because it contains components in it’s raw form that block the absorption of some nutrients in our digestive system. Amaranth makes a great puffed seed for adding healthy and nutritious crunch and texture to cereals, salads and baked goods. Or the whole raw seed can be boiled for 20 mins, much like an oat porridge. But unlike oats, for those of you who are allergic to gluten, Amaranth can be your grain of choice. Because of no gluten however, it’s not good for making yeast breads. It could be mixed with 75% wheat flour but that would defeat the gluten free purpose. For baked products such as biscuits, muffins, pancakes, pastas or flat breads, you can substitute 100% Amaranth flour. Amaranth flour also makes a nice thickener for gravies, soups and stews. Sprouted Amaranth goes well in salads or cereals. It’s a good idea to store Amaranth seeds in your refrigerator after opening. Or if puffed, simply store in an airtight container in a cool place.
Which brings us to Superfood Grain # 2 … Quinoa. (pronounced Keen-waah)
As mentioned previously Quinoa is similar in nutritional values to Amaranth but as a raw grain has a softer, more permeable shell. And despite what it looks like, Quinoa isn't a grain at all but is technically a fruit. It is often more readily available than Amaranth too, able to be found at most bulk food health shops and larger supermarkets as a grain, flake or puffed seed. Also like Amaranth, Quinoa was considered a powerful and nutritious food by the ancient civilisations.
Quinoa is often referred to as a perfect superfood and is one of the few foods with a relatively balanced protein. Quinoa can be eaten in many different ways. Traditionally cooked and eaten as a porridge or in soups and stews, it only takes 10-12 minutes to boil until soft making it the fastest cooking whole grain. Quinoa contains a long list of nutrients, although it is also high in natural oils and fats, and again because of it's high fatty acids content must be stored in the fridge or in an airtight container in a cool place to stop it going rancid due to heat and/or oxygen exposure. If the seed is still raw it can be easily sprouted, enhancing it's active enzymes and nutritional properties.
Having a nice, crisp texture similar to brown rice, Quinoa grain has much higher nutritional qualities than rice, especially white rice, and Quinoa flour has been made into healthy alternative gluten free pastas. Puffed, it makes a great cereal and baking addition, and like Amaranth it also gives a nicely textured and nutritious crunch to salads, soups and desserts. With the amazing nutrition that’s offered by Quinoa, we certainly encourage you to start using it more and more in your daily cooking. Some wheats come close to matching Quinoa’s protein content, but cereals such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of Quinoa. Also, Quinoa has a good balance of the amino acids that make up the natural and bio-available protein, and it's a relatively good source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and several of the B vitamins. Above all else, it's versatile and it tastes good!
So now let's consider superfood #3,
Brown Rice. While rice itself isn't officially rated as a 'superfood' as such, it is one essential type of popular food we must consider as a nutritional source, and in doing so, encourage people to veer away from white rice. Brown rice is rich in many vitamins, is low GI, high in fibre, and a much preferred healthy low carb choice when considering the inclusion of essential carbohydrates in our diets.
Most of us only know of two kinds of rice - long grain brown rice and long grain white rice which is refined long grain brown rice. Jasmine, Basmati, Sushi and Wild rice are also available in supermarkets but not as commonly used. Believe it or not, there are over 7,000 varieties of rice around the world.
From a health and energy perspective, Brown Rice is by far the more nutritious of the rices, being a low GI carbohydrate with high levels of fibre and natural vitamins and minerals, such as fatty acids, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. It is a popular and common addition to diets of those watching their weight, engaging in physical training activities, and those simply enjoying an selection of unprocessed natural healthy food choices.
White rice is just Brown rice with the outer layers polished off, and the majority of it's nutrition polished off too. With the outer layers removed, the white rice cooks a quicker than brown, is easier to chew and it’s flavour is a bit more bland than brown rice., but what is left is mostly starch. As refined rice is 81%-83% carbohydrates, it’s considered a high energy food. After becoming accustomed to brown rice, many people like it better than white rice for it’s more robust flavour and texture. Although it’s low in protein, as compared to Amaranth and Quinoa, the protein rice does contain is more available than the amino acids in wheat. The good news is you wouldn't get a protein deficiency even if the only thing you ate was rice.
Another healthy choice inclusion is grain superfood #4, Buckwheat. Buckwheat has become popular in recent years due to it's distinctive, pleasant, rich flavour and 100% buckwheat flour is a healthy alternative for making delicious pancakes. Saying it's a grain is not entirely accurate as, like Quinoa, technically it's a fruit – go figure! Mixed with wheat flour, buckwheat makes great tasting biscuits, muffins and breads and can be mixed up to 50% with wheat flour for making yeast breads.
Whole grain buckwheat is an amazingly nutritious food. Even though it's protein is relatively low at approximately 11%, the protein buckwheat does have contains the eight essential amino acids and is one of the few ' grains ' high in lysine. If you use half buckwheat flour with your wheat flour, the buckwheat's amino acids will round out the limiting amino acids in your wheat nicely, giving you a nearly perfect balance of the 8 essential amino acids. This particular balance between half wheat and half buckwheat flour is much more closely aligned to your dietary amino acid (protein) needs even than lean beef! Amazing, but true. Which is probably why it is so popular with health conscious dieters and vegetarians.
It's also rich in many of the B vitamins as well as the minerals; phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. In addition to this, it's a good oil source of Linoleic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids we must have to be healthy. Nutritionally speaking, buckwheat is a truly impressive superfood. The buckwheat plant is also very useful as honey bees love it's flowers for making dark, rich flavored honey. Buckwheat is certainly a versatile plant and is definitely a worthy inclusion in your nutritional focussed diet.
As you can see from this weeks article there are many and varied alternatives for gaining nutritional value and benefits from numerous grain and legume foods, and many are worthy of their SUPERFOOD status. We certainly encourage you to include as many of them into your daily diet to get a balance of natural proteins, vitamins, minerals and increased energy and health benefits.