According to the latest federal dietary guidelines, we should all be eating more whole grains on a daily basis. The good news is that manufacturers are introducing a cornucopia of unfamiliar whole grains into the marketplace to entice health-conscious consumers. Here’s a look at some “exotic” whole grains (or grain substitutes) to consider next time you are shopping for your family:
Amaranth. While not truly a grain, this herbal seed can be used as a cereal; ground into a flour; and popped, sprouted or toasted. The nutty-tasting seeds can be cooked with other types of grains, added to stir-fry dishes or used to thicken soups or stews.
Buckwheat. Despite its name, this herbal seed is completely free of wheat and gluten. Whole-grain buckwheat can be used to make pancakes, waffles, muffins or breads, but it is best used in combination with lighter whole-grain flours when baking.
Kamut. While this is actually a strain of wheat, kamut is well tolerated by people who are allergic to gluten. Rich in protein, kamut can be used as a flour substitute in most recipes. Rolled kamut makes a great cereal that is similar to rolled oats.
Millet. This protein-rich cereal grass was the original basis for Italian polenta; it can be prepared like rice and used in hot cereal or pilaf, added to soups or ground into a type of flour. Because it is bland in taste, millet is best used with more flavorful foods or spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg.
Quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-wah, this gluten-free, protein-rich seed is a nutritional powerhouse that contains all eight essential amino acids. Higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, it can be used in place of rice in most recipes.
Spelt. For people allergic to wheat, this is another good substitute for gluten; spelt can be found in berry, rolled and flour forms and is easier to digest than many other grains.
Triticale. This hybrid of wheat and rye is higher in fiber and protein than each of those two grains alone. Sold in whole-berry form, rolled like oats or ground into flour, triticale can be used as a cereal or in casseroles.