Grains are a staple for people around the world — and for good reason. They grow in a variety of different environments, are full of good nutrients, and can be used to make an endless list of other foods.
But which ones are best for nutrition?
In this article, we discuss the most common types of grains you’ll find at your corner market and which of those are best for your overall health.
We’ll also let you in on how you can be a part of The Soulfull Project’s unique community efforts to supply servings of our hot cereal to food banks in your area.
Types Of Grains
Corn is one of the world’s most important crops because food producers and manufacturers use it so widely in their foods. You’ll find corn — in one form or another — in everything from tortillas to breakfast cereals to dumplings and casseroles.
You can even eat it straight off the cob (in its immature form, sweetcorn) or add heat to certain varieties to make popcorn.
Corn is unique among the grains because it can’t reproduce without outside help. The seeds are packed around the ear in such a way, and so tightly covered by a husk, that they won’t spread unless a human, bird, or other animal scatters the kernels on the ground.
If you’re looking for the crop that is the most widely cultivated, wheat has all the other grains beat.
Wheat is a low-fat food and contains a wide variety of micronutrients, including:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
One of the main drawbacks of wheat is that it contains high levels of gluten when compared to many of the other grains on this list.
Gluten can cause stomach and other health issues in those whose bodies cannot break down the protein during digestion.
With evidence of their use stretching back as far as 10,500 years ago, oats are one of the oldest cultivated grains on the planet.
Because oat producers seldom remove the bran and the germ from the grain itself, oats are a whole grain and include both macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and micronutrients (beta-glucan, avenanthramides, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus just to name a few) that contribute to health.
In fact, recent studies show that beta-glucan may decrease cholesterol levels and improve insulin response after a meal, while avenanthramides may help protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
Flaxseed has been cultivated as a food crop since the third millennium B.C.E. (some 5,000 years ago).
Amongst this list of great grains, flax holds its own thanks to three of its healthy components:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Research indicates that flaxseed may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer as well as lung disease and cardiovascular disease.
We’re especially fond of flaxseed because you can mix it with water to make a flax egg — a vegan alternative to the chicken eggs that are a staple in many recipes.
Though not technically a true grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is considered a pseudo-cereal because it’s nutritionally similar to the other grains on this list and is often used in much the same way.
Quinoa was originally cultivated by the Inca in the Andes of South America before being transplanted to and grown in similar environments around the world.
One of the most unique things about quinoa is that, compared to other grains, it contains very high protein content and provides all the essential amino acids (including lysine) that your body needs to function properly.
Rice takes the prize for the grain that is eaten the most. This is thanks, in large part, to the fact that three of the most populated regions in the world — Indonesia, China, and India — rely on rice as their staple food.
There are many different types of rice (40,000 to be exact), but the most popular varieties include:
Though rice is primarily a carbohydrate, it does contain healthy doses of protein, vitamins, and fiber.
Barley was probably domesticated around the same time as wheat so many thousands of years ago.
But, because barley has a lower gluten content than wheat (meaning barley-based bread won’t rise as much), it fell out of favor in many parts of the world, with one unique exception.
The vast majority of barley grown today is used to make beer.
That doesn’t mean that no one eats barley anymore. In areas where wheat is hard to grow — such as North Africa and Tibet — barley is still a big part of the daily diet.
Rye grows well in colder, harsher climates such as Northern Europe and Russia. For this reason, it was (and still is) the main bread-making grain in that part of the world.
Compared to wheat and wheat flour, rye contains less gluten. As a result, breads made from rye tend to be denser than those made with wheat.
Interestingly, rye has a lower glycemic index (meaning it doesn’t spike your blood sugar after you eat it) than other grains thanks to high levels of fiber in the plant itself.
Though chia seeds have been an important food for the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Central America for hundreds — if not thousands — of years, the grain has only recently been recognized for its nutritional benefits.
Despite the chia seed’s small size, it packs a healthy punch. Two tablespoons of chia contain:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 4 grams of protein
- 9 grams of healthy fat
It also contains other essential micronutrients such as calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus (just to name a few).
The Best Grains For Nutrition
With all those options available to you, which grains are best for the nutrition of you and your family?
If you take into account factors such as gluten content, nutrient density, availability in your area, and usefulness in other recipes, these four grains come out on top:
- 1) Oats
- 2) Quinoa
- 3) Chia
- 4) Flax
Oats can be boiled and eaten by themselves or used to make everything from cookies to smoothies to meatloaf.
Both quinoa and chia contain a healthy dose of protein, as well as carbohydrates and fat, leading many to consider it a whole (or complete) food.
Flax is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (ALA), lignans, and fiber, all of which have been shown to improve digestive health, lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, and possibly benefit people with diabetes.
Include these grains in your diet for nutrition that is out of this world.
The Best Grains All In One Bowl
If you want to get all the best grains for nutrition in one bowl, The Soulfull Project’s hot cereal is the way to go.
No matter which delicious flavor you choose, you’ll get hearty grains and healthy ingredients, including:
Or, if you want something a little crunchier in your life, try our three delicious flavors of crispy granola:
Either way, you get a tasty and vitamin-packed treat that does your body good.
If that weren’t incentive enough, you’ll also be helping out those in need in your community. For every serving you purchase, The Soulfull Project will donate a serving of our hot cereal to a food bank in your area.
We’re making a better world, one serving at a time. You can help.
To get more information on the serving-for-serving program and check out all of our delicious oatmeal and hot cereal flavors, visit TheSoulfullProject.com today.