Benefits of whole grains used in Indian food

Benefits of whole grains used in Indian food
By Trina Remedios, Health Me Up | Jan 6, 2013, 12.21 PM IST
Benefits of whole grains are usually limited to wheat. We hear constant mention of whole bread bread, whole muffins, whole wheat rotis and other dishes made with whole wheat grain and how they are good for us.

But what about the other whole grains found in Indian kitchens? Even though wheat is the primary component in rotis and chappatis, Indians also have a wide variety of whole grains that are used in traditional cooking. Today we look at atta or flour made from alternative whole grains that is gluten free, healthy and has several health benefits - in some cases much more than wheat. We bring out a list of whole grains easily available in India but rarely used in increasingly modernised, urban kitchens. These are the whole grains and their benefits.

Benefits of Whole Grains as flour

Nutritionist Neelanjana Singh with the Heinz Nutri Life Clinic spells out the benefit of flour, something we may over look while eating, she says, "Breads (both leavened and unleavened) can be made from these different flours. Breads are the staple food in most diets. Thus, it is essential that the flour used to make the breads be wholesome and nutritious. Flours or attas form the staple food, contributes significantly to the fibre, mineral, starch and antioxidant content of the diet."

Whole Grains: Jau (Barley)

Jau is a cereal whose flour is rich in many minerals including calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium. This profile of minerals makes it an appropriate choice for hypertensive individuals. This flour has a higher content of protein as compared to wheat. Moreover, the starch content is of the resistant variety, making it suitable for diabetics.

You ought to know: Barley is great for a healthy diet. Barley includes both soluble and insoluble fiber in abundance. It can be added to soups, cereal and salads.

Whole Grains: Bajra (Spiked /Pearl Millet)

Within India, the dry regions of Rajasthan produce and consume this cereal, bajra with gusto. Bajra rotis (flatbread) look like small tortillas. The roti is made with many flavour-enhancing ingredients such as onions, spices and herbs.

You ought to know: Bajra is rich is proteins and amino acids. It is also a good ingredient for anemic as it contains high amounts of iron. It supplies vitamin B12 to your nervous system.

Whole Grains: Jowar (Great Millet/SorGhum)

The flour made from this kind of millet is superior to wheat in many ways. Firstly, the antioxidant content of the flour is very high. Jowar is also a relatively inexpensive cereal. The nutrient profile is such that it is ideal for diabetics and for those who have elevated cholesterol levels.

You ought to know: Jowar prevents hunger due to high fiber content, which in turn is good for weight loss.

Whole Grains: Ragi (Finger Millet)

The flour of this grain is high on protein and low in fat. In the South of India, this millet is ground and cooked with milk/buttermilk /water and served as the first food to babies.

Whole Grains: Kuttu (Buckwheat)

Kuttu is extremely popular during the Navratra season. Popularly known as vrat ka atta, buckwheat varieties provide between 17g to 23 g dietary fibre per cup. The impressive fibre content of this flour helps to lower the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and thus lower the risk of heart disease.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one should aim to get at least 14g of dietary fibre for every 1000 calories consumed. There are two varieties of buckwheat: dark and light. It is the dark variety that is largely consumed in India and the lighter one is consumed in other parts of the world, particularly in Russia and France.The ground form of the dark variety is grey-brown in colour and has a slight bitter earthy taste.

Whole Grains: Ramdana (Amaranth)

This is a very versatile variety of crop and is quite nutritious too. Amaranth can be ground into flour, flaked like chidwa or oatmeal, or popped like popcorn. Being high in fibre, it eases constipation and contributes to lowering cholesterol. As it is high on protein (15%), it serves as a good source of vegetable protein. In the US, there is an increasing interest in this crop which is grown both as a grain and as a leafy vegetable.

Whole Grains: Makki (Corn)

This is a good source of the B-complex vitamins and also of fibre. The flour that is generally consumed by us is made from the white or the yellow corn variety. The rotis (flatbread that is unleavened) made from this flour have a mild sweet flavour that goes well with a slightly pungent variety of leafy vegetable.

Whole Grains: Singhara (Chestnut)

The flour is made from the nuts of the water chestnut and has a slightly higher fat content than wheat. However, this fat is free from cholesterol and transfats. The flour is commonly used by those sensitive to wheat. The flour is rich in B vitamins, starch and minerals such as potassium. However, the slightly high starch content keeps the weight-watchers away from this flour!

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