Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.
When even McDonalds are using wholegrain breakfast muffins, you know that the Hollywood craze for super grains, the newest super food, has hit the sidewalk, running!
More and more of us, it seems, are following A-list celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Eva Mendes, Gwynneth Paltrow and even Oprah Winfrey who are extolling the virtues of supergrains and pseudograins.
Just what is so super about these whole grains? Which ones are best and why? Read on to find out why you should try them for yourself - suddenly, they seem to be the most fashionable food you can eat!
What are Whole Grains?
Wholegrains are the unrefined seeds of wheat like grasses. They have many benefits including:
If you can find a video or recording, please check out the Dr Oz Tv show Video in which, he and Nutritionist Heidi Skolnik look at the grains he calls "nutritional powerhouses"! I originally showed a video below which showed this section of the show but YouTube have removed it for copyright reasons and I have not been able to find it from an alternative source yet.
A High Fiber Content
Those of us who are trying to lose a little weight, know that fiber is good for helping us to feel fuller for longer on fewer calories. However, many people are not aware of the huge protective benefit for our digestive systems from eating the soluble and insoluble fibers contained in grains.
According to information published by the Whole Grains Council, grain fiber is thought to be better than other forms of fiber in providing protection against cancers of the digestive system. It ensures a healthy digestive transit and helps to prevent problems with constipation that can lead to hemorrhoids.
High Antioxidant Content
Wholegrains are an excellent source of polyphenols, the most abundant antioxidant found naturally in plants. In fact, grains contain higher levels than many fruits and vegetables.
Polyphenols are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits for the body and it is believed that they could help to reduce the risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses too.
I recently read an interesting article on how antioxidants in grains had, at first been thought to be at quite low levels but newer research showed that these were hugely underestimated. Check out this article, an interview on Science Watch with Rui Hai Liu
Excellent Source of Protein
Grains are a great source of protein. However, the protein in grain is not considered a complete protein. By this, I mean that grains do not contain all the essential amino acids needed. They need to be combined with beans, nuts or other vegetable sources to supply all these in a meal.
High In Dietary Fiber
Source of Vital Trace Minerals
These grains supply good quantities of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Quinoa, Buckwheat, Amaranth and Teff are particularly rich in minerals with Bulgur wheat not far behind.
Low Glycemic Index (low GI)
This means that whole grains provide sustained energy over a longer period because they release glucose into the bloodstream more slowly.
Promote the Growth of Healthy Gut Bacteria
I guess most of us have come across the terms prebiotics and probiotics if we have ever watched a commercial for yogurt! Whole grains are a valuable source of prebiotics which help to stimulate the growth of the beneficial bacteria in our gut by feeding them and keeping them healthy. Prebiotics in grains come from the indigestible carbohydrate fibers (scientific name oligosaccharides)
Which Grains Are Most Popular?
Some of the most popular grains are not, technically speaking, grains at all. For this reason, they are referred to as pseudograins.
The definition of a grain is that it comes from a wheat-like grass whereas pseudograins come from broad-leaf plants but can nevertheless be used in the same way as grains.
Better known as Quinoa, this grain is probably the best known of the supergrains - except it is actually a pseudograin as it does not come from wheat. It is completely gluten free.
The video below will tell you what you need to know about the health benefits of Quinoa.
In a nutshell (or should I say, in a seed husk!), it is the only grain that contains all nine essential amino acids and is an excellent source of fiber and minerals, especially magnesium.
This comes from green wheat before it has matured. It is rich in Lutein and Zeaxanthin (both these substances are important for the prevention of the eye problem, age-related macular generation) and contains a higher quality protein that matured wheat grains according to website greenwheatfreekeh.com/au.
The video on the right shows how to make Smoky Black Bean and Freekeh Burgers.
Buckwheat is rich in iron, B vitamins and can help to regulate blood pressure. It contains more zinc, copper and manganese than other grains. Zinc can help to boost your immune system and is especially helpful in the colds and flu season. It also contains excellent levels of protein and soluble fiber. The video shows you how to make Vegan Buckwheat pancakes, substituting ground flax seed for the eggs normally used in 'regular' pancakes - these are delicious!
How to Make Your Own Buckwheat Burgers
This Middle Eastern Grain dates back to Biblical times and is thought to be the grain that has been in cultivation the longest of any we still eat today. It is a relative of wheat and the grains look like barley grains - only fatter!
The health benefits start at the growing stage because it is naturally resistant to pests so pesticides are not needed to grow it commercially.
In addition it contains a special type of carbohydrate (called cyanogenic glucosides) which not only hep to keep the heart healthy by lowering cholesterol and helping to regulate levels of blood sugar but also give the immune system a boost.
It does contain gluten though, so if you are Celiac, you MUST avoid this but some people with gluten intolerance find they can eat it without problems
The video shows how to make a healthy Farro Risotto.
Teff's tiny seeds (the word Teff translated from Ethiopian, actually means 'lost'), are gluten free and high in calcium and unusually for a grain, vitamin C. It is also great for helping to regulate blood sugar levels and helps to keep the colon healthy.
The traditional way to eat Teff is to make a sort of pancake called Injera which is used as an 'edible utensil' to scoop up stews and so on. The video below shows you how to make this but in the modern kitchen, most people use the grains for making porridge and the ground Teff flour for making cookies and biscuits.
Also called Bulgar, or Bulghur wheat, this high fiber and very nutritious grain is also low in fat and calories. It has great anti inflammatory effects and is very versatile in the kitchen as it can be used in salads, burgers, pilafs and in many of the Middle Eastern dishes now very popular in the Western world.
The video shows you how to make Arabic Tabouleh which is a very popular salad and so healthy as well as delicous and easy to make!
Although barley is a very familiar grain to most of us, most people do not know its major health benefits. Wholegrain barley has the highest fiber content of any grain and contains beta glucans, soluble fiber that is so good for the health of our digestive systems. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Health benefits include lowering levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels and may help to reduce the risk of Diabetes by helping with insulin sensitivity.
Take a look at the video to learn more about the health benefits of this supergrain! It shows you how to make a delicious barley casserole - great as a side dish at your barbecue!
Amaranth is another pseudograin and is gluten free. Like Quinoa, it contains the amino acid lysine which is missing from most grains. This is one of the nine essential amino acids that make up complete protein and vital for growth and repair of tissues in the body.
It also has a high fiber content and good levels of minerals calcium, potassium and phosphorus. In fact, cooked Amaranth seeds have nearly as much calcium as cottage cheese! Find out more of the health benefits by watching the video below.
Chia, that used only to be known for the ch ch ch chia pets, the craze that swept the nation some years ago, is now being extolled as a wonder seed by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz! You can check out my article on Chia seeds here.
Please Vote in The Poll!
Are You Ready To Try Some Supergrains Too?
So, now that you have learned about the range of supergrains available to everyone (not just those Hollywood A-listers!), I hope that you will be keen to add some of these to your weekly shopping list and include them in your diet for the health benefits they bring and their delicious flavors!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on April 17, 2015:
Thanks Kristen, I have gone on researching these grains and have now discovered that Chia seeds are the greatest known plant source of Omega 3 so that's pretty amazing too!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 31, 2015:
Great article Alison. I never heard of those super grains, except for quinoa and bulghur and barley. Real resourceful and informative. Voted up!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on February 27, 2014:
thanks cygnetbrown - glad you are already a convert to these delicious wholegrains.
Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on February 27, 2014:
I love the crunchy flavor of REAL whole grains like the ones in this hub. I have been trying to increase the fiber in my diet and whole grains are definitely one of the ways to do it!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on July 18, 2013:
thanks @jill of alltrades, I am glad that you found my article on super grains helpful, I really enjoyed researching it - thanks for the vote up too.
jill of alltrades from Philippines on July 18, 2013:
Very interesting and useful and that's how I voted! I will try some of these. Thanks for sharing Alison!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on July 04, 2013:
thanks peachpurple - hope your Dad sees good benefits. I do not have blood pressure problems, but whole grains have helped me to reduce my cholesterol level without taking any medications!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 04, 2013:
thanks for writing this hub. Gonna share this article with my dad. He has high blood pressure and I think that the grains that he needed are here. Hope that this hub will help him to reduce the blood pressure reading. Voted up