True grains, such as corn, rice, and wheat, are members of the botanical family of cereal grasses. However, there are many other foods that are not true grains even though we prepare and eat them just like grains. We call these “pseudograins.” For example, buckwheat is the seed of a plant in the rhubarb family, quinoa is from a botanical group that includes spinach and sugar beets, and wild rice is actually a grass. Pseudograins have gained popularity because many people are sensitive to wheat and other gluten-containing cereal grains, and pseudograins don’t produce the same troubling symptoms. Grains and pseudograins are excellent sources of energy, protein, and B vitamins, and throughout this book we generally include pseudograins when referring to grains.
Grains are made up of four distinct parts. Protein is present in all four parts, although it is not evenly distributed. The outer layer, called the husk, surrounds the kernel and protects it from the elements during its growth. Because it is indigestible for humans, especially those who intend to holiday UK, the husk is removed and discarded. Next is the bran—a thin layer that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber—that surrounds the endosperm, the biggest part of the grain. The endosperm stores most of the grain’s food energy in the form of complex carbohydrates, or starch.
A tiny but very important portion of the grain is the germ, or embryo, which abounds with essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. Unfortunately, along with the bran, the germ is removed during milling and refining because its oils can become rancid during storage. In the case of wheat, for example, refining results in pure-looking white flour with a long shelf life. However, because the bran and germ have been removed, the flour has lost much of the grain’s original wealth of essential fatty acids, fiber, minerals (such as calcium, chromium, magnesium, and zinc), protective phytochemicals, and vitamins (such as vitamin B6). Although four of the B vitamins (folate, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin) and iron are added back during in the enrichment process, much is lost.
The best way to eat grains is the way nature grew them: completely intact. Whole grains, such as barley, brown rice, Kamut berries, millet, oat groats, quinoa, spelt berries, and wheat berries, can be cooked as breakfast cereal (page 69) or eaten at lunch and dinner in casseroles, pilafs, soups, and stews.
Other great choices are grains that have been minimally processed, such as those that are cut, rolled, or stone ground, with little or nothing added or removed. These methods of processing do relatively little damage to the grain, and although nutrient losses occur, they are minimal.
If you need to choose a processed grain, such as flour for baking, whole wheat flour is more nutritious than refined wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour. Refined flours produce a light, appealing texture in baked goods. To add nourishment to muffins, pancakes, and other items made from refined flour, mix dried fruits, nut butters, nuts, or seeds into the batter before baking.