Grasses and seeds can be nutritious!

Millet, teff and amaranth are high in fiber and protein and taste good too!

I recently read about whole grains in an effort to learn how I can get more of them into my diet. Michigan State University Extension tells us that whole grains have health benefits. They provide fiber, vitamins and minerals and some of them are also good sources of protein. I’ve read that whole grains can help to prevent Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. With all of that going for them, I want to include as many as possible in my meals!

Whole wheat, barley, corn and brown rice are familiar grains. In my research however, I also came across several grains that are tasty and nutritious. Not only were these grains unfamiliar to me, I wasn’t sure how I would use them. So I continued my research and here is what I learned:

  1. Millet. There is actually a group of small-seeded grasses called millets. They are grown around the world as cereal crops or grains and are used as fodder as well as human consumption. The vast majority of millets are produced in developing countries such as India, Nigeria and Niger and have been cultivated in East Asia for the last 10,000 years! The most widely grown millet is pearl millet. Other varieties include finger millet, proso millet and foxtail millet.

    Millet has a mild, sweet flavor and is gluten free. It’s easy to cook because it cooks quickly and can be used as an alternative to rice in salads and stir-fries. You can also cook it as a breakfast cereal or add it uncooked to your bread mixes for a crunchy texture. Millet is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. A quarter cup of dry millet provides nine grams of fiber and seven grams of protein.
  2. Teff. Another grass that is starting to be grown in the U.S. is teff. Teff is native to Ethiopia where it has been an important food grain for thousands of years. It’s high in dietary fiber, iron, protein and calcium and is gluten free. A quarter cup of dry teff provides four grams of fiber, seven grams of protein, 10 percent of your daily recommended calcium and 20 percent of your daily recommend iron.

    Teff is similar to millet in that it cooks quickly and has a mild, nutty flavor. Teff can be added to stews, pilafs or baked goods. When cooked it has the consistency and texture of wheat farina. Other uses include cooking it as you would polenta and adding it to veggie burgers and baked goods for a nutritional boost. Teff can also be ground and used as an alternative or addition to white or whole-wheat flour.
  3. Amaranth. Amaranth is actually a seed and there about 60 recognized species. Amaranth’s history dates back 8,000 years when the Aztecs used it as a food staple. Today it is grown in Mexico and in South American countries such as Guatemala and Peru but its use has spread to Europe and parts of North America as well. It is a good source of protein, in fact is has 30 percent more protein than cereals such as rice, sorghum and rye. It is also is rich in an amino acid called lysine. Like millet and teff, amaranth is gluten free. A quarter cup of dry amaranth provides seven grams of fiber, eight grams of protein and 20 percent of your daily-recommended iron.

    Amaranth has an earthy, nutty flavor. It can be cooked and added to soups or served as polenta or porridge as well. Amaranth can also be popped! Once popped, it makes a unique breakfast cereal or can be used in the Mexican candy called alegria. Amaranth can also be ground into flour and used with white or whole wheat flour in breads, pancakes, pasta, granola and other flour-based products.

Try these unique grains soon for a nutritional boost to your diet!

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