Posts Tagged ‘All bout grains and flours’

There are many alternate grains which need to be explored and used.  They are gluten free, tasty, loaded with nutritional value, and far healthier than wheat.  Some of them aren’t grains at all, but are grasses, seeds or flowers.  They are actually super foods which we can process into wonderfully delicious flours.  Let’s have a look–

Amaranth— (the Indian Rajgira)is loaded with iron, calcium, manganese plus other minerals, and is a good source of Vitamins A, B6, K and C.  It is high in amino acids such as lysine and is an excellent source of protein. It can be milled, toasted, even popped like corn.  It should always be cooked before eating, because like most edible seeds it contains compounds which inhibit the proper absorption of some nutrients.  In fact all seeds must be cooked to destroy any toxicity which they may have, and to ensure good assimilation by the body.  The word ‘amaranth comes from the Latin—and Sanskrit—root word, ‘amar’ which means immortal.  It can’t make us immortal, but it can definitely give us great nutrition to promote good health and longevity.

Arrowroot—Ancient Mayans used it as an antidote to poison arrows, and for other medicinal purposes, especially to soothe the stomach and prevent diarrhea. It is obtained from certain plants which are rhizomes (same family as ginger and turmeric).  Arrowroot flour is basically an easily digestible and nutritious starch which is used in cooking as a thickener for soups, sauces and confections. You can use it in gluten free foods instead of cornstarch, but the consistency doesn’t hold for as long as it holds with other starches.  A sauce like preparation, slightly sweetened, is good invalid food and is often used to control diarrhea.  Arrowroot biscuits/ cookies are safe to eat for babies too, but read the labels carefully to make sure that no wheat has been added.

Buckwheat –-also called soba in Japanese, is basically a fruit related to rhubarb.  The seed contains a pale kernel known as groat, and groats have been in use for centuries.  The name confuses people, but it is not even remotely related to wheat and is gluten free.  It is high in lysine and other amino acids.  In fact it has eight essential amino acids which the body doesn’t make, but needs, to keep on functioning.  It is close to being a complete protein, is high in B Vitamins as well as many minerals.  It is also a  good source of linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid.  It is widely used in making pancakes, biscuits and muffins, but again it is important to make sure that no wheat has been added. We have to be careful while using soba noodles also, and ensure that we buy the gluten free ones.

In India buckwheat is grown mainly in the hilly regions of the north and the Hindi name for it is ‘KUTTU”.  It is hardly used in other regions.

Corn—also called Maize, is a staple in many parts of the world. It was first domesticated by the people of southern Mexico.  Corn provides the necessary calories for daily metabolism and is a rich source of Vitamins A, B and E as well as certain minerals. It plays a role in the prevention of digestive ailments because of its high fiber content.  Corn is  also rich in antioxidants as well as phytochemicals.Corn meal is ground from dried maize but is not as fine as wheat flour. The Indian ‘makki ki roti” is made with corn meal. However,many corn meal preparations have wheat added for elasticity, so be careful when you buy corn tortillas or corn bread. You have to make sure that they are wheat and gluten free.Corn starch is the starch derived from corn grain,  Since it is finely processed it is depleted of nutrients but is a good thickener for soups and sauces.  Excellent to use for so many recipes that are otherwise thickened by wheat flour. It works very well for white sauce.

Millet—has been a staple food in Africa and India for thousands of years.  Commonly known as Bajra in India, pearl millet is one of the oldest food grains.  It is actually a grass with small round kernels, though it is loosely called a grain.  It is packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  It is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is loaded with fiber, protein as well as B complex vitamins including niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.  Millet is more alkaline than many other grains and easy to digest.  It is a low glycemic index food and good for diabetics to include in their diets. Millet flour makes good tortilla / chapati like flat breads, and can be added to other gluten free flours to create healthy, nutritious flour mixes.


Quinoais a super food, often described as “the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom.”  With nine essential amino acids, it is a complete protein.  It is also high in phosphorus, calcium, iron, Vitamin E, the B Vitamins as well as fiber.  Incas called it the “mother grain”, easy for babies to digest.  It is one more flour that you can add to a gluten free flour mix—I add it—to enhance and enrich it. Quinoa grains can be cooked and used in place of couscous or bulgur in salads and can be cooked like rice as a staple, comfort food, which can add significant nutrition to an allergy free diet.  Because uncooked quinoa grains are coated with ‘saponins’…sticky, bitter tasting stuff that acts like an insect repellant it needs to be washed thoroughly before cooking.  Quinoa flour can also be used by itself to make great tasting cookies and cakes.

Sorghum (Jowar)—A very important and one of the oldest grains has been a major source of nutrition in Africa and India for centuries.  Now also grown in the US it is gaining recognition as a gluten free insoluble fiber. It has a somewhat neutral flavour and light colour, which doesn’t significantly alter the taste of foods when used in place of wheat flour.  It is made into tasty flatbreads in India and can be similarly used anywhere to go along with any kind of meat and vegetable preparations. Sorghum flatbread could replace pita bread in a gluten free diet.

It is high in iron, calcium and potassium.  Because the starch and protein content in sorghum is more slowly digested than that of other cereals, it is said to be beneficial to diabetics.  The glycemic index of sorghum is lower than that of most grains.

Raagi—is a type of finger millet grown in southern India and parts of Africa.  It is one more super food, packed with calcium, Vitamin D and certain essential amino acids.  It is also rich in iron.  Raagi is often directly ground into flour, or else sprouted and then ground.  Sprouted raagi is easy to digest, and can be cooked with milk or water to form a custard like breakfast food. When raagi is allowed to sprout, its Vitamin C levels tend to increase thereby creating easier absorption of its iron content.  For the lactose intolerant, raagi cooked in water with a dollop of ghee is a delicious dessert as well.  Gluten free raagi flakes are good snacks or breakfast staples.

Teff—is yet another nutritional powerhouse.  It has been a staple of Ethiopia for over 5000 years and is now making an appearance in the US market.  It packs a protein content of nearly 12% and is five times richer in calcium, iron and potassium than any other grain.  It has a sweet, nutty flavour.  You can cook the whole grain as a breakfast cereal or add teff flour to any gluten free flour mix to enhance nutrition.

And Lastly—Most of these gluten free grains are Whole Grains, with the exception of the readily available forms of corn and arrowroot. Some types of cornmeal is ground from whole grains but yellow cornmeal which is common in the US, mostly has the husk and germ removed.

A grain has three parts:

Germ—This is the part that a new plant sprouts from.  It is high in nutrients such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Also it contains some fat and protein.

Endosperm—or the jernel is the bulk of the seed.  Because the seed stores its energy in the endosperm, it contains most of the protein and carbohyrates, as well as some vitamins and minerals.

Bran—is the outer layer which also contains a lot of nutrients. It is again a rich source of niacin, thiamin and riboflavin plus magnesium, phosphorus and iron.  Bran contains most of the fiber.

Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ layers during processing, so only the endosperm is left.  Hence refined grain is not as rich in nutrients as whole grain.


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