Whole grains can be described as the most nutrition-packed capsule containing proteins, fiber and providing the body with vitamins, essential minerals and carbohydrates. A vegetarian would truly appreciate the role of grains in their diet. That’s because most of the protein and Omega-3 fats present in meat and sea food are rare in a vegetarian diet. Thanks to the super food called grains, our body can easily receive these vitamins and minerals. Grains are best consumed with their outer skin known as bran which gives them the name “Whole” grain. This outer bran is the source of fiber and far more nutrition than just the grain alone. That was traditionally how grains used to be consumed in earlier times. However with changes in diet and food products, a lot of refined foods and refined grains came into existence, in which the outer bran is removed and polished to give the grain a “clean” look. In true sense, this refining makes the grain less healthy than a whole grain. The more processed the grain the less beneficial it is to us.
Rice : There are a number of grains that are so healthy and power packed that they are called as ‘super foods’. Some widely used grains are Rice, Barley, Wheat, Millet, Oats and Rye. Rice contains high carbohydrate content and comes in a wide range of colors, texture and thickness. While the long-grained rice tend to stay apart when cooked, the small-grained rice becomes sticky when cooked. There are also the traditional rice (white), brown rice and red rice varieties. A few rice varieties like the Basmati are fragrant and tasty when cooked.
Barley : Barley is another wonder grain which when cooked, becomes clumpy and hence is added in soups, stock and as a health drink too. Barley contains fiber and protects the delicate stomach lining from corrosion. It also aids in preventing constipation and for stomach troubles. It also aids in preventing diabetes by delaying the absorption of sugars into bloodstream. Soups and dishes prepared using barley and barley stock are extremely tasty and filling.
Wheat : Wheat also comes across as a commonly used grain. It is used to make breads, wheat flour for rotis, broken wheat (also known as bulgur) and contains high percentage of carbohydrates, fiber and less fat. Oats are very famous as breakfast cereal nowadays and can also be used in many dishes. Oats have this wonderful fiber content and make them ideal for breakfast and snacks. They enrich the body with fiber, antioxidants and fill stomach with less fat content making it an ideal diet food.
Sorghum : Another nutritious grain which has now become popular for cooking is the cereal 'grass' called Sorghum. This is very similar in appearance and nutrition to Corn. Though it has been used all along as feed for livestock, it has now become a popular food for human beings too both in the form of grain as well as flour which is used in cooking and baking. The reason is that Sorghum is a gluten free grain and hence people with celiac disease or those preferring gluten free flour can blindly switch over to Sorghum or Sorghum flour. Sorghum is high in fat and protein content and can be used in many dishes like cakes, pancakes, porridges and flatbreads.
There are many other grains which are perhaps not very common but are very rich in nutrition. Grains like Buckwheat and Quinoa contain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids which are very important for healthy skin and body. Little known but very nutritious grains like the Chia and Mila contain the essential Omega-3 fats which are very rare in vegetarian diet and grains that too.
Omega-3 fats as we know, promote good cholesterol in the body and help maintain good health. In order to get maximum benefits out of grains, one should stick to whole grains (with outer skin called bran or husk), use grains regularly in their diet, avoid refined flour and use whole wheat flour instead, include grain stock like barley stock or wheat germ in foods like soups, sandwiches, salads etc.