Health

9 Grains You Should Know More About

Get the skinny on amaranth, teff, farro and other amazing grains with great health benefits.

Story by Allison Kohn

Millet

  • What is it: This tiny, round grain can be bought in stores year round. Depending on the cooking style, it can be creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice.
  • Form: Whole grain.
  • Uses: Ground millet can be added to breads; cooked millet can be a substituted for oatmeal, rice and potatoes.
  • Qualities: A heart-healthy grain known for its richness of magnesium and vitamin B3, both important to lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Gluten-free? Yes.

Brown Rice

  • What is it: Rice that has only had its the outermost layer removed, a process that is least harmful to the nutritional value; it is brown with a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Form: Rice kernel.
  • Uses: Can be eaten plain or used as a substitute for white rice in Chinese and Mexican dishes.
  • Qualities: High in manganese, a mineral important to energy production; rich in fiber and selenium, a mineral linked to
    reducing the risk of colon cancer.
  • Gluten-free? Yes. (Technically, it contains a certain type of gluten but not the type that triggers a reaction for celiac disease.)

Wild Rice

  • What is it: The only grain native to North America, this semi-aquatic grass is found near lakes, rivers and other wet lands, especially in California and the Great Lakes. This type of rice features a nutty, smoky flavor.
  • Form: Rice kernel.
  • Uses: Cooked similarly to white rice, wild rice can be served as a side dish and used in soups and salads.
  • Qualities: High in fiber, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin B6.
  • Gluten-free? Yes.

Teff

  • What is it: This plant, which features tiny seeds, has thrived in Ethiopia and Eritrea for centuries. White or ivory colored seeds have a mild flavor while darker colors have an earthier taste.
  • Form: Seeds.
  • Uses: Cooking quickly, teff is typically ground into flour to make breads and other bread products.
  • Qualities: High in calcium, vitamin C and resistant starch.
  • Gluten-free? Yes.

Farro

  • What is it: This whole grain is found in three different strands native to East Asia. It is also found in ancient Italian cooking and its appearance is similar to grains grown in the U.S.
  • Form: Grain.
  • Uses: Can be ground into flour to make bread and pasta; can also be used in soups and salads.
  • Qualities: High in vitamins A, B, C and E; rich in fiber and magnesium.
  • Gluten-free? No.

Amaranth

  • What is it: A tall leafy plant, native to South America, Mexico and Peru. In its grain form, it is small, light brown and slightly sticky.
  • Form: Whole grain; must be cooked.
  • Uses: Cooked grains can be eaten plain after drying on a flat surface or can be used in salads and soups.
  • Qualities: High in lysine, protein, iron, calcium; the only grain that contains vitamin C.
  • Gluten-free?  Yes.

Barley

  • What is it: This multipurpose cereal grain features a rich, nutlike flavor and a chewy consistency. Its light brown appearance slightly resembles
    traditional wheat berries.
  • Form: Whole grain.
  • Uses: When fermented, it is used to make alcoholic beverages; can also be cooked and used in soups and breads.
  • Qualities: Rich in phosphorus, copper, fiber, selenium and manganese.
  • Gluten-free? No.

Quinoa

  • What is it: This small, brown, rice-like seed is considered a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal or grain. It has a distinct nutty flavor when cooked.
  • Forms: Seeds from the quinoa plant.
  • Uses: It can be used in place of rice or eaten plain. It can also be ground into flour.
  • Qualities: High in protein, antioxidants and calcium; low in fat.
  • Gluten-free? Yes.

Bulgur Wheat

  • What is it: A form of whole wheat that has been cleaned and dried in a distinct process and sifted into four grind sizes. This grain features a subtle nutty flavor and is known for its easy cooking preparation.
  • Form: Pre-cooked whole grain.
  • Uses: Can be served as a side dish in place of rice, used in tabouli salad and in pilaf, soups and baked goods.
  • Qualities: A staple of the Mediterranean diet, it is high in fiber, iron and vitamin B.
  • Gluten-free? No.