Whole grains have been quietly nourishing civilizations for centuries. Far from being a health-conscience buzzword, these nutrient-dense powerhouses are cornerstones of wholesome, balanced living. For this week’s blog, we picked two ancient grains and one fan favorite, but first, let's clarify: what defines a whole grain?
A whole grain encompasses the bran, germ, and endosperm. These three elements ensure we get the full spectrum of nutrients whole grains naturally offer, like fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. These valuable nutrients are lost during the refining process. Remember, refined grains have much lower or no nutritional value!
Bridging the Ancient and the Modern
As global markets diversify our food options, we can now discover a fusion of tradition and innovation. With their long histories, many grains remain essential in modern meals due to their health benefits and adaptability. Let's zoom in on one ancient grain making headlines this year: Millet.
Millet: The Star Grain of 2023
2023 marks the Year of the Millet, and for good reason. Once a staple in various cultures, this ancient grain is making a grand resurgence for its nutritional value and sustainability, giving millet the spotlight it truly deserves.
Don't be fooled by millet's small size; it's a nutritional titan! Boasting a gluten-free profile, millet is packed with essential minerals like magnesium, which is key for muscle and nerve functions, and calcium, vital for bone health.
Yet, there's more to millet than meets the eye—it's well-known for its alkaline properties. But what makes a food alkaline, and why does it matter?
Understanding pH Balance
Our body's pH, or potential hydrogen, is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our bodily fluids, primarily the blood. It operates on a scale ranging from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with an ideal balance hovering around a slightly alkaline reading of 7.4.
This balance is essential for the optimal functioning of cellular processes and metabolic reactions. An imbalance, even if slight, can disturb various bodily functions, potentially leading to health issues over time.
The Influence of Food Choices on pH
The foods we consume can influence our body's pH. Many factors, like processed foods, sugary beverages, and excessive meat consumption, can introduce more acid into the body. Over time, if what we eat consistently leans acidic, it strains the body's natural ability to maintain its pH balance. While the body has robust systems in place to regulate pH—a chronically acidic diet may force the body to leach alkaline minerals like calcium from the bones to neutralize the excess acid, potentially compromising bone health.
Millet's Alkaline Advantage
This is where foods like millet help to balance things out! Millet's inherent alkaline nature can help counteract acidic foods, assisting the body in achieving a balanced pH.
Millet Prep Inspo:
Fluffy Side: Millet's light texture makes it a fabulous substitute for rice or quinoa. Just simmer in water or broth until tender and fluffy. Be sure to add a scoop of just better.® prebiotic fiber to your water before cooking!
Grain Bowls & Salads: Roasted veggies, a protein of your choice, and a drizzle of your favorite DIY just better.® dressing or sauce - and you have a millet grain bowl that's both nutritious and delicious.
Stir-fry Base: Let millet be the foundation of your next stir-fry. Its neutral flavor profile complements a wide range of veggies and proteins.
Breakfast Delight: Move over cereal; millet is here to jazz up your morning routine. Cook it with a medley of fruits, a touch of honey or maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of just better.® prebiotic fiber, and perhaps a sprinkle of cinnamon for a warm, comforting breakfast. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt or nut butter and a splash of plant-based milk for extra creaminess.
Baking: Ground millet flour can be a great addition or even an alternative in gluten-free baking, giving bread, muffins, and pancakes a unique taste and texture.
In celebrating the Year of the Millet, accept the invitation to rediscover and embrace this ancient grain. Whether you're trying it for the first time or revisiting an old favorite, millet is sure to add something a little different to your meal planning!
Amaranth: The Power of Essential Amino Acids
Amaranth, a celebrated ancient grain, brings more to our tables than its historical roots. What truly distinguishes Amaranth in the vast world of grains is its complete profile of essential amino acids.
Understanding Amino Acids
Amino acids are often called the “building blocks” of proteins. Every protein, from the enzymes in our bodies to the muscles that allow us to move, is constructed from amino acid chains. While our bodies can produce many amino acids, there are nine that we cannot synthesize on our own. These are termed "essential amino acids" and must be obtained from our food.
The Essential Nine Amino Acids:
Histidine: Vital for developing and maintaining healthy tissues, especially in the myelin sheaths that coat nerve cells.
Isoleucine: Aids in metabolism and energy production and supports wound healing.
Leucine: Stimulates muscle protein synthesis and helps maintain lean muscle mass.
Lysine: Supports calcium absorption, collagen formation, and the production of various enzymes and antibodies.
Methionine: Crucial for metabolism and detoxification and is the precursor for other amino acids.
Phenylalanine: Integral for the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids.
Threonine: Supports proper protein balance in the body and aids in the formation of collagen and elastin.
Tryptophan: A precursor for serotonin, it helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
Valine: Supports muscle growth and regeneration and is involved in energy production.
Plant-based sources of protein do not typically offer all nine essential amino acids in ample amounts. This is where Amaranth stands tall!
Being a complete protein, amaranth provides all of the essential amino acids in the right proportions, making it an excellent choice for those who follow vegetarian or vegan lifestyles.
Prep Inspo: Amaranth can be popped like popcorn for a crunchy snack or cooked and added to soups and stews. Consider blending it into smoothies for an added protein boost, or use Amaranth flour in gluten-free baking.
Oats: A Timeless Treasure (We eat them for any meal!)
Whole oats, steel-cut or rolled oats, shine brightly in the grain galaxy. What makes them so special? Beta-glucan! Beta-glucans feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. When our gut’s good bacteria are well-fed, we enjoy a happy digestive system and improved immunity!
When it comes to the heart, these beta-glucans step up by absorbing bad cholesterol in the intestines, escorting those bad actors into the sewer! The result? Lower cholesterol levels —music to the ears of our hard-working heart.
Want to amplify these benefits? Add two tablespoons of just better.® prebiotic fiber to the mix for a healthy and diversified fiber-rich boost!
Prep Inspo: Start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal topped with fruits and nuts. Make savory oat pancakes for lunch or dinner. You can blend oats into smoothies or use them in homemade granola bars. Don't forget overnight oats for a no-fuss, ready-to-eat breakfast option, or try our just better.® prebiotic Apple Berry Baked Oats recipe! You just can’t go wrong with oats!
As we celebrate Whole Grains Month, experiment with your meal plan. With every serving of whole grains, you're giving a gift to your tummy and your ticker!
We are challenging our readers to bring more wholesome foods to the table by trying new recipes using whole grains, fresh produce, and vibrant spices. Let’s cook!
Live… just better.®!
Hungry for more wellness wisdom and delicious inspirations? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and stay ahead with fresh updates, tantalizing recipes, and exclusive content delivered directly to your inbox. (Sign up in the lower right corner below! 👇)