Amaranth may be one of the most nutritious grains in the world. It’s an ancient grain that is filled with antioxidants, minerals and fiber.
One study noted that the natural oils in Amaranth had the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels in animals. Even better, the variety of Amaranth that is most commonly used in the U.S, has the highest levels of plant sterols in the oil.1 The sterols are responsible for Amaranth’s ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels.2
Amaranth is also a great against osteoarthritis because it contains magnesium and calcium, which is needed to build up bone strength. 3 It can also lower blood pressure when eaten regularly.
One of the best ways to eat Amaranth is to pop it like popcorn. Put a skillet on medium heat and when it’s hot add 2 tablespoons of Amaranth and cover quickly. You do not need to add any oil. It only takes about 10 seconds for it to start popping. Keep repeating the process until you have the amount you want.
- Tiengo A, Faria M, Netto F. Characterization and ACE-inhibitory activity of amaranth proteins. Journal Of Food Science [serial online]. June 2009;74(5):H121-H126.
- Marcone M, Kakuda Y, Yada R. Amaranth as a rich dietary source of beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols. Plant Foods For Human Nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) [serial online]. 2003;58(3):207-211.
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Barley is a grain that is high in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols. Barley extract may have the ability to stop colon cancer tumors from growing according to one study. Barley may help you burn off Visceral Fat, which is the fat located within the abdomen between the organs. Too much of this type of fat can be more harmful to your body than the fat we normally see just under the skin called subcutaneous fat. 1
Barley can help lower LDL cholesterol levels as well and it does this by increasing the excretion of bile, which is made up of cholesterol, in the intestines. It can also slow the absorption of glucose, which is very good for those who have or are at risk for developing diabetes.1
Pearl Barley and whole Barley (Pot Barley) have very low glycemic index values (approx 25 and 35 respectively). Even cracked Barley has a value around 50 as well. Barley in these forms is a great food for diabetics or those at risk for diabetes. In these forms less of the surface area is exposed to your digestive enzymes so less of the Barley gets digested and the fiber helps it move through your digestive tract. This is why Barley flakes and rolled Barley have higher glycemic values that are in the mid 60’s.
Barley grass contains all the essential Amino Acids and contains Chlorophyll. It has some calcium and iron. It contains Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C. It’s been said to help heal stomach, duodenal (upper small intestine), and colon disorders. It is also a solid anti inflammatory food.
- Effects of whole grains on coronary heart disease risk. Current Atherosclerosis Reports [serial online]. November 2010;12(6):368-376.
- Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements. 5th ed. New York: Avery, 2010. Print.
Buckwheat is not a type of Wheat. It’s a plant that is in the same family as Rhubarb. Buckwheat hulls have been noted as having a pretty good stopping effect on cancer cells although there aren’t any large studies done on humans yet.1,2
Buckwheat also contains a compound called Rutin. This compound has the ability to lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and it can help strengthen the capillaries.3 Rutin is also found in other foods like Apples, Red Wine, Cherries, Tomatoes and Broccoli.
In Ayurvedic use, Buckwheat is helpful with gout and varicose veins. When Buckwheat is used as a tea, it helps treat circulatory problems.4
A bonus use for Buckwheat is the seed hull. These hulls are used to stuff pillows. Buckwheat hull pillows can give more support for the head than regular pillows, the hulls also keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter because of how they insulate air. Because of the benefits, these pillows may also help those with neck pain sleep better and may make sleep come easier for those suffering with insomnia.5
- Ishii S, Katsumura T, Shiozuka C, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of buckwheat sprouts in lipopolysaccharide-activated human colon cancer cells and mice. Bioscience, Biotechnology, And Biochemistry [serial online]. December 2008;72(12):3148-3157.
- Kim S, Cui C, Kang I, Kim S, Ham S. Cytotoxic effect of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) hull against cancer cells. Journal Of Medicinal Food [serial online]. June 2007;10(2):232-238.
- Gabrovská D, Fiedlerová V, Hutar M, et al. The nutritional evaluation of underutilized cereals and buckwheat. Food And Nutrition Bulletin [serial online]. September 2002;23(3 Suppl):246-249.
- Motherherbs.com, Buckwheat Hulls. Located at http://www.motherherbs.com/buckwheat-hulls.html. Accessed May 10, 2012.
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Job’s Tears ★
Job’s Tears has the potential to be a great cancer fighter especially the liver, lung and blood cancers. One study shows that it has the potential for slowing or even stopping pancreatic cancer cells in their tracks.1
This grain/seed may be why cancer rates are so low in China since Job’s tears is a staple in many Chinese diets. One study showed that an injection of Job’s Tears’ extract in carcinoma cells caused those cells to die. When combined with additional medical treatment, those who could not have the cancer removed by surgery have been able to live longer than expected. 2
- Bao Y, Yuan Y, Xia L, Jiang H, Wu W, Zhang X. Neutral lipid isolated from endosperm of Job’s tears inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells via apoptosis, G2/M arrest, and regulation of gene expression. Journal Of Gastroenterology And Hepatology [serial online]. July 2005;20(7):1046-1053.
- Lu Y, Zhang B, Jia Z, Wu W, Lu Z. Hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cell apoptosis and caspase-8 and Bcl-2 expression induced by injectable seed extract of Coix lacryma-jobi. Hepatobiliary & Pancreatic Diseases International: HBPD INT [serial online]. June 2011;10(3):303-307.
Kañiwa is a grain that looks almost exactly like Quinoa and that’s because they are sister grains and carry much of the same health benefits. The Kaempferol levels in Kañiwa, according to one study, is about two times higher than its quercetin content. They also found that the amounts of kaempferol and quercetin were higher than the levels in many other plant foods. The highest levels of Kaempferol that were found were close to the values found in Kale. The highest levels of quercetin content were close to levels found in beans and fruits. 1
Kaniwa is a good source of Calcium and not as bitter as Quinoa.
- Peñarrieta J, Alvarado J, Akesson B, Bergenståhl B. Total antioxidant capacity and content of flavonoids and other phenolic compounds in canihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule): an Andean pseudocereal. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research [serial online]. June 2008;52(6):708-717.
- Repo-Carrasco-Valencia R, Acevedo de La Cruz A, Icochea Alvarez J, Kallio H. Chemical and functional characterization of Kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule) grain, extrudate and bran. Plant Foods For Human Nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) [serial online]. June 2009;64(2):94-101.
Muesli is used by the Swiss as a great weight balancer and is a good alternative to plain oatmeal. It’s basically rolled oats with fruits and nuts but it is quite nutritious and makes a great breakfast meal because it is a whole grain and keeps sugar cravings down.
Nixtamal is a large kernal corn soaked in lime and wood ash. The soaking increases its niacin (vitamin B-3) and calcium content and unlocks certain proteins in the corn so the body can utilize them more efficiently. Corn tortillas tend to have Nixtamal in them.
Oats are very good at reducing your LDL cholesterol levels meaning its’ excellent for your heart health and all your arteries and veins in your body. It also increases your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Oats have plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber, more than most other cereals. This helps keep both your arteries and digestive tracts clear.
Oats contain about 61 mg of Magnesium per serving, which can help boost your energy in the morning. The antioxidants and fiber in oats helps keep cancer at bay, especially colon cancer.
Oats come from a plant called Avina sativa. It is a very strong anti inflammatory grain. Traditionally, it’s been used to help nourish the nervous system when you are burned out. This makes Oats a great food for reversing the effects of stress so start your day off with a bowl of Oats or even Muesli, which is Oats with fruits and nuts. I recommend eating it with about two spoons of ground Flaxseeds with some Honey and and fruits or nuts as well.
What makes Oats unique from other grains is that it can help us go to sleep. They have Vitamin B6, melatonin and complex carbohydrates that get an amino acid called tryptophan into your brain. Tryptophan helps you produce a hormone called serotonin. Balanced melatonin, serotonin and tryptophan levels in your body equals a restful good night sleep.
Oats are also very good for the skin because it helps reduce dryness and other skin irritations. Eating oats can help with this but applying it onto your skin with water may work even better. This is perhaps why some shampoos and body washes have been using oats or oat derivatives in their products for years.
Although Oats are naturally gluten free, because of factory processing most oat products are not gluten free. Please be aware of this if you suffer from gluten intolerance or are gluten free.
- Meydani M. Potential health benefits of avenanthramides of oats. Nutrition Reviews [serial online]. December 2009;67(12):731-735.
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3 cups of air popped corn per day is great for fighting heart disease. One 32oz bag produces 135 cups of air popped popcorn. Popcorn has 4x more polyphenols than the average amount found in fruits so its an excellent anti inflammatory food that’s low in calories.
Black Pasta (Squid Ink Pasta)
The squid ink is the key. The ink helps stop angiogenesis in tumors and reduces the chances for new cancer cells to develop.
Quinoa is a grain very closely related to Kaniwa. Both have nutty tastes to them. It is a great grain substitute for those with celiac disease. It has 24 grams of protein per cup. Quinoa is a complete protein and a whole grain, which is a rare combination. A complete protein means that its proteins contain all the amino acids the body needs to build and rebuild cells especially muscle cells. It also contains antioxidants that help fight off diseases like cancer. Since it’s a whole grain, it is good for those who have diabetes since it digests slowly.
Quinoa has about 118 mg of Magnesium per serving which makes it a very good source of magnesium for the body. Magnesium helps boost your energy levels.
- Vega-Gálvez A, Miranda M, Vergara J, Uribe E, Puente L, Martínez E. Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.), an ancient Andean grain: a review. Journal Of The Science Of Food And Agriculture [serial online]. December 2010;90(15):2541-2547.
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This rice contains more nutrients in it than white rice. It has more fiber and it contains 84mg of Magnesium. Having brown rice with beans can really help boost your energy levels so a rice and beans meal can provide you with all 9 essential amino acids.
Black rice may be the healthiest of the rice species. 1 spoonful of black rice contains as many antioxidants as a spoonful of Blueberries and it contains more vitamin E.1 The antioxidants in black rice, which are called anthocyanins, can help fight off and prevent memory loss, cancer and heart disease.
Red rice may be useful at lowering cholesterol. The chemicals used to make the rice red contain statins. Statins are chemicals which are used in cholesterol lowering medications like Lipitor (Atorvastatin). You should limit your intake of statins especially if you’re on cholesterol lowering medication. Statins can lower your ability to produce Ubiquinol in the body so consider taking CoQ10 or Ubiquinol supplements if you’re taking cholesterol lowering medication.
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- Enkovaara A. [With red rice against cholesterol?]. Duodecim; Lääketieteellinen Aikakauskirja [serial online]. 2010;126(6):623-626.
Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, rice, corn and barley. The Sorghum plant outperforms other cereals under environmental stresses in part because of the combination of antioxidants it contains like kaempherol. Darker sorghums like Black sorghum contains up to 7x more anthocyanins in the bran than lighter sorghums (white and red sorghum). It contains the antioxidant apigenin, which is also found in parsley and celery. It also contains catechins, which are antioxidants that are abundant in green tea.
The darker Sorghum species also contains compounds called condensed tannins, which are individual tannins that have fused together to make one large molecule. Darker sorghums evolved this feature to help protect it from the heat and from molds, which means more nutrients for the consumers of the grain. Red, Black and Black Tannin sorghums contain more antioxidants than Wheat, Barley, Corns and most Rice. The ORAC value of Sorghum grains are higher than fruits like Blueberries and Strawberries and also higher than a vegetable like Broccoli.
- Phenolic compounds in cereal grains and their health benefits L Dykes, LW Rooney – Cereal Foods World, 2007
- Awika J, Rooney L. Sorghum phytochemicals and their potential impact on human health. Phytochemistry [serial online]. May 2004;65(9):1199-1221.
Wheat (Triticum spp.) ★
This is a very extensive grain group. The wheat we use today has evolved (mainly because of man) into different types or species. The most popular include:
- Common Wheat – This wheat is used mainly for bread around the world. It is a hybrid of various species of Wheats (and possibly genetic manipulation).
- Durum – A type that is very widely used in bread. It’s also used to make semolina flour, which is used to make many kids of pasta as well.
- Einkorn – A species of Wheat that’s used mainly for making Bulgur (cracked) wheat.
- Emmer – This species is also known as Farro. Its used mainly as animal feed but it may be gaining more popularity as a wheat for bread in some parts of Europe.
- Spelt – Starting to be used more by some food manufaturers as a healthier alternative to make breads, cereals.
These are the 5 main groups of Wheat. All of them contain a protein called gliadin, that becomes the protein gluten when mixed with water. Those with Celiac Disease should not eat Wheat or wheat products. However, the Einkorn species of Wheat contains about 3x less gluten than Durum or Common Wheat. Although it still contains gluten, there may be some way for those with celiac disease in the near future to take advantage of this lack of gluten in the Einkorn species.
2 slices of Whole Wheat bread has about 46 mg of Magnesium in it. So to help boost your energy levels you can have a peanut butter and Banana sandwich for lunch. Shredded Wheat contains about 61 mg of magnesium per cup.
Bulgur Wheat is high in vitamins and minerals and is a great cancer fighter because of its high fiber content. Toasting it brings out more of its flavor. 1 Cup has about 8 grams of fiber in it.
Einkorn and Emmer Wheat
Emmer seems to be the more nutritious species overall and it is a better wheat for baking. Emmer wheat is the genetic base for the Common wheat species. However, Einkorn may contain more lutein than Emmer. This can provide a little boost for your caratenoid intake when it’s used for baking.
A Secondary Group of Wheats are the Red and White Wheats.
- Hard Red Winter – A High protein variety. It contains a high amount of gluten, which makes it great for baking hearty breads with a high protein content. It has a similar texture to French bread when its baked. This is most likely the variety you’ll find in “All Purpose Flour”. It’s about 40% of the U.S Wheat crop.
- Hard Red Spring – Also a high protein variety, same as the Hard Red Winter but planted in the spring and it is the best for baking bread and for milling into flour.
The antioxidants in Hard Red wheats in one study have been shown to help slow the natural oils in them from going rancid. They were also shown to prevent fish oils from going rancid as quickly as well.
- Soft Red Winter – Essentially the same as the Hard Red variety. Bred to have no red color in the bran but contains very similar nutrient content as the Red wheats. It’s good for cakes, pastries, flat breads, crackers and doughnuts.
- Soft White – this variety is usually reserved for making pastries or any wheat product other than bread and is best milled at home.
- Hard White – It’s sweeter than the Red wheats with similar quality and texture and baking.
Wheat is a very versatile grain. Because Wheat has so many different species around the world, flours from two or more species or types can be blended to create all kinds of combinations with a wide range of results and food products.
This part of the grain contains the most disease fighting nutrients in a grain of wheat. It contains zinc and antioxidants that help prevent eczema and even acne. ½ cup provides your daily dose of zinc. You can use wheat germ in salads, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, smoothies and many other things.
Two tablespoons of raw wheat germ has about 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams of sugars, no cholesterol and is about 60 calories.
Wheat germ contains vitamin B’s like folate, B1 and B6 that are good for the heart and brain and its packed with fiber.
The phytosterols in wheat germ can significantly reduce your LDL cholesterol levels and help keep your intestines from absorbing it into the body.
It’s full of vitamin E, which has tremendous health benefits.
Wheat Germ is good at reducing the levels of homocystine in the brain. Homocystine is an amino acid that’s linked with inflammation in the body so people with heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic inflammatory diseases have higher levels of homocystine, which leaves you more prone to strokes, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. To help lower homocystine levels in the body you can sprinkle some Wheat Germ on your yogurt or cereal whenever you eat it.6
Fermented wheat germ can help reduce the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis by reducing morning stiffness in the joints. Unlike steroids, which can have many side effects when used for arthritis, wheat germ has none.
- Serpen A, Gökmen V, Karagöz A, Köksel H. Phytochemical quantification and total antioxidant capacities of emmer (Triticum dicoccon Schrank) and einkorn (Triticum monococcum L.) wheat landraces. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry [serial online]. August 27, 2008;56(16):7285-7292.
- Zhou K, Laux J, Yu L. Comparison of Swiss red wheat grain and fractions for their antioxidant properties. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry [serial online]. March 10, 2004;52(5):1118-1123.
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Wheatgrass has been traditionally used therapeutically to increase hemoglobin production (i.e. more blood), which can help improve diabetes, help prevent tooth decay, healing wounds and fight off bacteria. It has also been used to help fight off the common cold, coughs and bronchitis, and fevers, many types of inflammation in the mouth or throat, gout, liver disorders, cancers, rheumatism, ulcerative colitis, and different kinds of skin problems.1
Wheatgrass contains vitamins A,C and E, chlorophyll, iron, calcium and magnesium, and 17 amino acids of which 8 are essential amino acids. 2
- Shermer M. Wheatgrass juice and folk medicine. Scientific American [serial online]. August 2008;299(2):42.
- Bar-Sela G, Tsalic M, Fried G, Goldberg H. Wheat grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study. Nutrition And Cancer [serial online]. 2007;58(1):43-48.