FOOD FACTS - Grains, Beans, Pulses, Nuts & Seeds

Whole grains – why choose them?

Extracts from both Jenni Muir's book: 'Super Grains' and

"Including wholegrains in your diet is one of the smartest things you can do for your health, your wallet and the planet. Grains are nourishing, energising, inexpensive, comforting, robust, versatile, and convenient."

"A proper wholegrain is intact, not pulverized, not ground, not puffed, not rolled, not pearled, and not made into pasta or crackers or breakfast cereal. The grain has the important bran and germ layers hiding the starchy endosperm inside, slowing your digestion so that you feel full longer and avoids spikes in blood sugar."

“Refining normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to enrich refined grains, so refined products still contribute valuable nutrients. But whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fibre and many important vitamins and minerals."

Some key storage tips

“Grains are wonderful natural foods, and mice and beetles love them. Once you’ve opened the packet of grains put them in an airtight box or jars. Keep them in a dark, dry place and your wholegrains will last ages. Wholegrain and stoneground flours, on the other hand, stale quickly, so depending on when you think you will use them, you may want to store them in the fridge or freezer. Cooked grains will keep for up to five days in a sealed container in the fridge."

A to Z of Grains

Find out what's inside these wee wonders, how to prepare them and what they can do to help fuel and heal your body! (these to be underlined and once clicked the text will show up)

Amaranth (gluten free)

It goes with: Corn, black beans, chilli, milk, honey, apple, coconut, chocolate

It’s good to eat for: Amino acids, calcium, copper, fibre, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, selenium, vitamins B6 and E

Amaranth, which means ‘everlasting’ in Greek, was a staple food of the Aztecs where it was used in many religious practices.

Amaranth is closely related to quinoa. Its kernels are tiny; when cooked they resemble brown caviar. The grains can be cooked whole into a mild-tasting gruel or porridge that is highly digestible and nourishing. It is popular in cereals, breads, muffins, crackers and pancakes.

Buckwheat (gluten free)

Also known as 'Kasha' when in its kernel form

It goes with: Poultry, fish, shellfish, onions, mushrooms, cream, maple syrup

It’s good to eat for: Calcium, copper, fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, vitamins B2 and B3

In terms of its flavour you either love it or hate it. Start with a small amount to see which camp you fall in to.

Botanically, buckwheat is a cousin of rhubarb, not technically a grain at all – and certainly not a kind of wheat. But its nutrients, nutty flavour and appearance have led to its ready adoption into the family of grains.

In eating buckwheat you’ll benefit from its high level of rutin, a bioflavanoid, which strengthens blood vessels improving circulation and helping prevent heart disease.

Buckwheat is also considered good for strengthening the kidneys and balancing blood sugar levels.

When past its best, buckwheat turns dark and its flavour becomes too strong.

Kasha is pre-roasted, reddy-brown buckwheat. Toasting the kernels yourself takes only a couple of minutes and is very easy to do – simply heat some oil in a saucepan, add the buckwheat and cook, stirring, until it is browned and fragrant.


It goes with: Berries, citrus, mango, coconut milk, chocolate, yoghurt, syrup

It’s good to eat for: Calcium, essential fatty acids, fibre, manganese, phosphorus

Chia is a tiny seed that doesn’t need cooking. Just combine 2 tbsp black or white seeds with 6 tbsp liquid (milk, fruit juice or smoothie) and leave it to stand for 30 minutes before stirring again (to avoid lumps, stir the liquid into the seeds rather than the other way round). A gelatinous coating will develop around the seeds and seemingly set or thicken the liquid.

Chia is a great source of omega 3, fibre and important minerals including calcium, making it especially advantageous for anyone living dairy free. It may help to stabilize blood sugar, enhance bone and tissue growth and repair and improve blood pressure in diabetes.

Corn or Maize

Including: Posole • Hominy • Popcorn • Sweetcorn

It goes with: Beef, cheese, squash, beans, tomatoes, chilli, coriander

It’s good to eat for: Fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins A and B1

Corn is a good source of fibre and supports the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine. It improves blood sugar levels and has been found to be helpful for diabetics. Eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids that raises the protein value to humans.

Research from Cornell shows that corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable – almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples!


It goes with: Beans, eggs, milk, cumin, parsley, green vegetables, berries

It’s good to eat for: Copper, fibre, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, protein, vitamins B1 and B3, zinc

Millets are the leading staple grains in India, and are commonly eaten in China, South America, Russia and the Himalayas. Millet scores better in nutritional analysis than rice or wheat, is gluten-free and it is easy to digest. Millet's incredible versatility means it can be used in everything from flatbreads to porridges, side dishes and desserts. Millet can be also ground and used as flour or prepared as polenta in lieu of corn meal.


It goes with: Bacon, game, lamb, nuts, soft cheese, berries, muscovado sugar

It’s good to eat for: Calcium, copper, fibre, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, selenium, vitamins B1 and E, zinc

Oats help regulate blood sugar and reduce cravings for addictive substances, as well as strengthening the nerves. Whole kernels chopped into two or three pieces to give a very coarse meal are called pinhead oatmeal, also sometimes called Scottish or Irish oats. Cooked for about 20 minutes, steel-cut oats create a breakfast porridge that is enjoyed by many people who didn't realise they love oatmeal!

Rolled oats, developed in the USA, are pieces of pinhead oatmeal steamed to soften them and then rolled into flakes. Jumbo rolled oats are made by steaming and rolling the whole kernel.

Quinoa [keen-wah]

It goes with: Shellfish, beef, spring onions, soy sauce, vinaigrette, grapes, citrus

It’s good to eat for: Amino acids, calcium, copper, fibre, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, vitamins B1, B6 and E

Quinoa comes from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Inca. Botanically a relative of swiss chard and beets rather than a “true” grain, quinoa cooks in about 10-12 minutes, creating a light, fluffy side dish. It can also be incorporated into soups, salads and baked goods. The seeds can be sprouted for use in salads.

Quinoa is small, light coloured round grain. But it is also available in a wide colour range, including red, purple, green, pink and orange.

Before cooking it needs to be rinsed to remove the bitter-tasting residue of its natural protective coating saponin that naturally wards off insects.


Including: Chinese Emperor • Forbidden Black Rice • Venere Nero • Brown • Red • Green • White

It goes with: Meats, poutry, seafood, pulses, nuts, herbs, spices, milk

It’s good to eat for: Magnesium, manganese, phosporus, selenium, vitamins B1, B3 and B6

The darker or more brightly coloured the rice grain is the more antioxidants it contains. Black, red, brown or even green antioxidant-rich wholegrain rice is more effective than white in assisting weight loss and increasing good HDL cholesterol, better at inhibiting breast and colon cancer and better help in preventing and controlling diabetes.

Rice is one of the most easily-digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.


It goes with: Salmon, ham, cheese, caraway, nutmeg, molasses, cherries

It’s good to eat for: Calcium, copper, fibre, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosporus, potassium, selenium, vitamins B3 and E, zinc

Rye promotes weight control. It suppresses hunger, improves digestive health and protects against colon cancer. It also has cardiovascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. It enhances insulin secretion and improves b-cell function.

Rye products generally have a lower glycaemic index than products made from wheat and most other grains, making them especially healthy for diabetics.


It goes with: Ginger, chilli, garlic, chicken, cucumber, carrots, buttermilk, honey

It’s good to eat for: Fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B3

Sorghum can be substituted for wheat flour in a variety of baked goods. Its neutral, sometimes sweet, flavour and light colour make it easily adaptable to a variety of dishes. Sorghum improves the texture of recipes and digests more slowly with a lower glycaemic index, so it sticks with you a bit longer than some other flours or flour substitutes. It can be eaten like popcorn, cooked into porridge, ground into flour for baked goods or even brewed into beer.


It goes with: Peaches, banana, spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, nuts, lime

It’s good to eat for: Calcium, copper, fibre, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins, B1, B6 and C, zinc

Teff grains are very small around 0.7 mm in diameter – giving rise to the grain’s name, which comes from teffa, meaning “lost” in Amharic. In Ethiopia, teff is usually ground into flour and fermented to make the spongy, sourdough bread known as injera.

Today it is getting more attention for its sweet, molasses-like flavour and its versatility; it can be cooked as porridge, added to baked goods, or even made into “teff polenta.” Teff grows in three colours: red, brown and white.


It goes with: Salmon, bacon, mushrooms, bitter greens, spring onions, carrots, apricots

It’s good to eat for: Copper, fibre, folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamins B1 and B3, zinc

Triticale (trit uh KAY lee) is a hybrid small grain produced by crossing wheat and rye. The name combines the scientific names of the two crop species, that is, wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale).

Triticale is a naturally sweet grain that does not absorb much water. The rolled flakes are a pleasantly flavoured addition to oatmeal porridge. In general, triticale can be used anywhere you would use wheat or rye, giving wheat foods a more distinctive flavour and rye foods a milder one.


Including: Einkorn • Emmer • Farro • Freekeh • Kamut • Petit Épeautre • Spelt • Wheatberries

It goes with: Chicken, nuts, mushrooms, dried fruit, cream, honey, dried ginger

It’s good to eat for: Caclium, copper, fibre, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosporus, protein, vitamins B1,B3 and E, zinc

Wheat dominates the grains we eat because it contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein that enables bakers to create satisfying risen breads. It’s very tricky to make an acceptable risen loaf without at least some wheat mixed in.

Wheat can be enjoyed in many forms other than baked goods and pasta. Bulgur and grano make excellent side-dishes.

Wheatberries – whole wheat kernels – can also be cooked as a side dish or breakfast cereal, but must be boiled for about an hour, preferably after soaking overnight. Cracked wheat cooks faster, as the wheat berries have been split open, allowing water to penetrate more quickly.

Wild Rice

It goes with: Mushrooms, celery, poultry, fish, nuts, cream, orange, parsley

It’s good to eat for: Essential fatty acids, fibre, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins B3 and B6, zinc

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. The seeds are long, thin and covered in black, brown or green husks. They are dried after harvesting, then hulled, separated from their covering, and ‘pearled’ (polished using traditional methods).

They are an expensive delicacy because they are found in relatively small quantities in America and China – though these days, they are cultivated by Americans using modern technology. The strong flavour and high price of wild rice mean that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains.

For best results wash the rice and soak before use. It will take about 45 minutes to cook. Once cooked, set aside to cool and use in salads, or for stuffing vegetables, turkey or game birds.

Wholegrain Cooking Instructions

Beans and Pulses

Beans can be served simply, as a side dish, or made into thick soups, stews and casseroles, they can be puréed or mashed for use in dips and pâtés, or served cold, freshly cooked and marinated, in a substantial salad, a meal in itself.

Health benefits:

Beans are rich in protein, carbohydrate and dietary fibre and low in fat, which is mostly unsaturated. They also supply useful amounts of minerals and vitamins: calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and some B vitamins.

Many dried pulses – for example aduki beans, chickpeas, whole lentils, mung and soya beans – can be sprouted, which makes them rich in both B and C vitamins. Canned and frozen beans retain about half their original vitamin C content.

How To Prepare Dried Beans
  1. Rinse beans in a sieve thoroughly to remove any surface dust or dirt.
  2. With few exceptions, beans will cook more evenly and in less time, if they have been soaked in sufficient cold water first. Soaking times can be 4 – 12 hours, depending on the type and age of the pulse. During soaking process remove any immature or overdry specimens which won’t cook properly, that float to the surface, and change the water two or three times to help counteract flatulence.
  3. Drain and rinse beans after soaking. Place in a saucepan and cover with more fresh water by about 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm).
  4. Bring the pulses to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently. The exception to this is red kidney beans, which must be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes before simmering to ensure that any toxins on the outside skins of the beans are completely destroyed.
  5. Continue simmering the beans gently until soft to the bite and evenly coloured all the way through.
  6. The length of cooking time varies according to the type of pulse, the quantity of pulses being cooked and their age – old pulses can take twice as long to cook.
Helpful Hints
  • Dried beans must be prepared properly as they contain lectin, a toxin that is rendered harmless only during the soaking and cooking processes
  • Changing the soaking water two or three times improves the digestibility of dried pulses as the sugars that cause flatulence leach into the soaking liquid
  • When soaking beans overnight cover them with four times their volume of cold water and leave them to stand
  • Quick soak method involves putting the pulses in a saucepan with four times their volume of cold, unsalted water. Bring to the boil, then boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow the pulses to stand for about 1 hour
  • Seasonings such as garlic, onion, herbs and spices can be added during cooking
  • Acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine or lemon juice will increase the cooking time. It is better to add these only when the beans are almost tender
  • Salt is necessary to bring out the flavour of dried beans. However it can slow down the cooking and is best added towards the end
  • If the beans are required cold, leave to cool in their cooking liquid to prevent them drying out and their skins splitting
  • Plain boiled beans can be drained and stored in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator for 5 – 6 days; beans cooked with onion will keep half that time
  • Alternatively, freeze cooked beans, either in their cooking liquid or drained, in airtight plastic containers for up to 6 months
  • Cooked bean dishes can be kept refrigerated for 4 – 5 days
Beans & Pulses Cooking Instructions
Nuts and Seeds

Eating nuts and seeds is a great way to add vitamins, minerals, fibre, and essential fatty acids, (like omega 3 and omega 6), to your diet.

Nuts being healthy and nutritious may prevent cancer and heart disease. Although many people are hesitant to eat nuts because they are high in fat, eating nuts can provide a sense of fullness or satisfaction that actually causes you to eat less of other high-calorie, high fat foods.

Some seeds have a hard-shelled coating that prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. The best way to get maximum nutrition from seeds is to grind them into a powder with a coffee grinder or seed mill before eating.

To boost your nutrient intake, sprinkle nuts and seeds on cereal, yoghurt or salads; eat them as a snack; or mix them with flour when making muffins or other baked goods.

How to store them:

Due to their high fat content, nuts and seeds can become rancid quickly if exposed to heat, light and humidity during storage. For the best results store them in a cool, dry and dark place. Room temperature is fine if you plan to use the nuts within 2-4 months. If you’d like them to keep longer e.g. up to a year or more, refrigerate or freeze the jars. Nuts can also easily absorb odours from surroundings so they should be stored in non-permeable containers.

Nuts & Seeds Characteristics
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Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary defined oats as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in...

Posted by Harvest Co-op on Thursday, October 29, 2015

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