Kitchen superfoods: Seeds & grains explained

Kitchen Superfoods

If you’ve got hungry mouths to feed, chances are you’ll be thinking about ways to include more nutrition in their diet. Many of us are also looking for alternatives to wheat and gluten-free options. Incorporating more grains and seeds (aka Kitchen Superfoods) into your diet can expose your family to nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids , calcium, fiber, iron, B vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants.

With a few clever substitutions it’s easy to incorporate these new kitchen superfoods into your cooking, without causing little noses to wrinkle in disgust.

6 OF THE BEST KITCHEN SUPERFOODS

Kitchen Superfoods #1: Flaxseed

Image: Howcast
Image: Howcast

Breakfast is the perfect time to incorporate some flaxseeds into your diet. Whether you buy them pre-ground or pop them into your coffee grinder, they can be kept in the fridge and sprinkled onto muesli, cereal, yogurts and smoothies. Flaxseeds provide essential fats and are high in fiber, providing about 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon. They’re also a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium. More flaxseeds in your diet means stronger nails, shinier hair and glowing skin. You can also use ground flaxseeds as an egg subsitute, by mixing with water and waiting until a type of gloopy gel forms.This gel can be used as a binding agent in your cooking.

 

Kitchen Superfoods #2: Psyllium husk

Image: Inside Tracker
Image: Inside Tracker

Ah, the old “bowel buddy”. This little beauty can help lower cholesterol levels and ease constipation. So incorporating a regular dose of psyllium husk into your diet is great for digestive health. It’s a form of fiber that absorbs water as it travels through your system, and can be a great help in cleansing toxins from the body. Add some to your gluten-free cooking, and it will work really well as a binding agent. Without gluten, things like cakes and pizza bases can turn out flat and overly dense. Adding a little psyllium husk can add a bit more springiness and moisture. You can also add ground husks to your cereal and juices to increase the fiber content.

Kitchen Superfoods #3: Chia seed

Image: Healthy Living Made Simple
Image: Healthy Living Made Simple

Chia seeds are ridiculously high in omega-3 fatty acids.  About 2 tablespoons provides nearly 5g of protein and 10g of fiber into your diet. And the best part? They don’t need to be ground, so you can sprinkle the whole seeds onto things like muesli, yogurt, smoothies and in your cooking (I love the little “pop” they make in your mouth). Chia seeds are also really high in iron, magnesium and and calcium, plus they’re gluten free. One of our favourite things about chia seeds? They are the perfect egg substitute. Grind up the seeds (or buy them pre-ground to save yourself the effort!) and mix with some water. Let it sit for around 15 minutes, and you’ll see the mixture turn into a thick gel, just like a raw egg. Use it as a binder in cooking for those who suffer egg allergies.

Kitchen Superfoods #4: Spelt

Image: By Ziko (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image: Ziko (Own work)
With less gluten and more protein than wheat, spelt is popping up more and more these days. It’s not gluten free, but it is rich in niacin, which helps your body produce energy and maintain a healthy nervous system. You can buy spelt in many different forms, including whole grain (or “berries”), cracked, pearled, flakes, puffed, or as a finely milled flour. You can use it as a subsitute for wheat flour in most recipes, but we especially love it for pizza bases, pie crusts and flat breads as it doesn’t have a lot of springiness. The main thing we love about spelt is the taste. It’s sweet, nutty and when you cook the grains whole they stay lovely and puffy. Cook it like risotto, or throw it into a salad instead of rice or pasta.

Kitchen Superfoods #5: Quinoa

Image: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner
Image: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

If you haven’t heard of quinoa, you might have been living under a rock. In fact, there was such a high demand for it that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa”. It’s one of the only plant foods that is classified as a “complete protein”, which means it has all the essential amino acids required by the body to maintain a healthy balance. It is gluten free, high in protein and has the highest amount of potassium of any grain. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 5g of fiber and 8g of protein (which is the equivalent of 8oz of milk!). Buy it whole, puffed or in flakes. Substitute it for rice, chuck it in a salad, top with fresh berries and some honey and eat it for breakfast… it’s a great all-rounder.

Kitchen Superfoods #6: Freekeh

Image: Pale Cow
Image: Pale Cow

First, let’s make sure you’re pronouncing it right. “Free-kah”. There you go. This nutty, chewy little grain is popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, and has three times the fiber of brown rice. It’s even got more protein and fiber than quinoa. So don’t be surprised if it becomes your new favourite superfood! It’s not gluten free, but freekeh is low in fat and high in iron, calcium, and zinc. It also acts like a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Buy it cracked or as a whole grain. In terms of incorporating it into your cooking, use freekeh wherever you would use rice and whole grains. Add it to salads, stir-fries, risottos, soups or use it on your cereal or muesli.

 Feature image: The Style Hutch

What’s your favourite kitchen superfoods?