Grains are an important part of your diet and yet, the chances are you aren’t eating enough of them. All grains are chock full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that help to maintain good health, improve the strength of your immune system and have been linked to lower risk of several diseases.
On top of this, they are brilliant sources of dietary fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol and ties into other aspects of your health such as weight management. Grains also contain a lot of magnesium, which helps to strengthen your bones and allow for energy release from muscles, and selenium for reducing the oxidation of cells.
While all grains contain benefits, there are some that give your healthy diet an extra boost. This is why it is a great idea to include these five grains in your meals on a regular basis:
This isn’t a grain that many people have heard of, but it is definitely one you should be eating. Farro has a load of magnesium in it, along with vitamins A, B, C and E, helping ensure you get a lot of what your body needs.
When you mix farro with legumes, such as chickpeas or beans, it becomes a complete protein and so is a brilliant alternative to meat and fish. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or eat meat, this grain is a good option if you want an alternative protein source.
Farro also contains carbohydrates, but these are slow burning so it doesn’t result in spikes in your blood sugar. The complex carbs also ensure you stay full for longer and benefit from sustained energy levels.
This grain has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years and for good reason. Quinoa – pronounced keen-wah – contains the highest levels of protein found in any grain so it is a great alternative source. It also has more calcium than milk and contains a high amount of healthy fats, making it a true superfood.
When it comes to vitamins and nutrients, quinoa wins here as well. It is full of vitamin E, iron, niacin, zinc, potassium, folic acid, B vitamins and magnesium. This means you’re getting so much of your daily intake of each of these just from one food.
Not only is quinoa amazing for your health, it is also incredibly versatile. You can eat it hot or cold and it is great in both sweet and savoury dishes, allowing you to really experiment.
Another brilliantly versatile grain is barley. There’s a reason – or several – this one has been around for centuries and should continue to make up part of your diet. Barley contains a huge amount of fibre, which has been linked to cardiovascular and bowel health, which are reason enough to eat it.
However, barley also contains phosphorus, copper, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and iron, all of which are important to your body. It is also a good source of tocotrienols, which actively help to lower cholesterol.
You can cook barley as it is and use it as an alternative to pasta and rice or as a side dish. It is also great for adding to soups and stews, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
This may not technically be a grain – it’s a fruit seed really – but buckwheat is a good gluten-free option that can be used in much the same way as actual grains, making it a delicious and healthy alternative.
Buckwheat is full of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, so it is a complete protein all on its own, making it a good choice for vegetarians and vegans. It is also ideal for those who suffer from high blood pressure as it contains rutin, which actively lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and attacks.
As well as being great for vegans and celiacs, buckwheat is a good option for diabetics, as it stabilises blood sugar levels and stops them from dropping too quickly.
Finally, oats are a brilliant option for adding to your diet, especially as they are included in so much and can easily be incorporated into your diet in a healthy way. They also tend to be fairly cheap, which is great if you’re sticking to a budget.
While all grains are high in fibre, oats contain beta-glucan, which is a fibre known for reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood, which is why starting your day with oats is a great idea. On top of this, oats also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to the vitamins and minerals they contain, which means they can help improve your overall heart health.
You can use oats to make porridge, add them to savoury meals to bulk them out, include them in smoothies and also toast them for adding to desserts and breakfasts.