For centuries grains have been considered an important source of food and has been a major part of many ancient cultures, including the Aztecs of Mexico. Today most people consume highly refined and processed grains with very little nutritional value. In some cases synthetic nutrients need to be added back into breads in order for these products to be considered a food because the nutritional value is so poor. There are a few great alternative grains for the popular whole wheat and white breads that dominate the food industry today.
Whole wheat flour is made from the hard, whole wheat berry and contains more than 40 nutrients in its pure, unprocessed state. White flour has had the outer covering (bran) and heart of the kernel (wheat germ) removed. It is often bleached, fumigated with chemicals, and has synthetic nutrients added back into it. Similar to the whole wheat and white flour, oat and barley flour also contain the protein gluten. Brown rice and corn bread are common alternatives to gluten breads, however brown rice is poor for baking bread and corn is often genetically modified.
The grain, quinoa, is a superfood that has thrived in the high altitudes of the American Andes for thousands of years. It has been refered to as “the mother grain” by the ancient Incas of Peru, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) quinoa is known to strengthen the kidneys yang, the warming and energizing function of the body. Quinoa is also one of the finest sources of protein in the entire vegetable kingdom. Another ancient grain, Amaranth, was not only grown and eaten by the Aztecs of Mexico, it was also a major part of their religious ceremonies. It is higher in protein than wheat, rice and corn and is also high in the essential amino acid L-Lysine. Millet is a grain that is high in B vitamins, is the most alkaline of other grains, and is the most easily digested. Amaranth, quinoa and millet are all grains that do not contain gluten and add great flavour to a variety of dishes.
Incorporating nutrient rich whole grains can work as a great foundation to a healthy diet. When using whole grains in your diet, always be sure to soak grains overnight and rinse with water before each use in order to increase the bioavailability of nutrients.