Let’s get this straight: we need carbohydrates. In fact, they’re our body’s natural fuel source. The problem is that today we have more access to higher quantities of carbs, and more often in highly refined forms like sugar than nature ever intended. When not burned off, the excess is stored as fat.
Cereal grains like wheat, rice and oats are our main carbohydrate sources. You’ve probably heard some are better than others. For example, rice is a bad carb. It’s basically pure energy with almost no other nutrients (even though brown rice has marginally more fibre and vitamins, it actually isn’t much better). The same goes for white pasta (made from bleached flour) and potatoes. But “complex” carbohydrates, like oats and rye, are better. They contain relatively high amounts of fibre and protein and other micronutrients along with the energy. They benefit the body in other ways and do a better job of satisfying your hunger better.
Without further ado, here are our six top super grains – note that all nutrition figures are per 100 grams.
This cereal grain is most commonly consumed in India and Africa, but if you haven’t eaten it much then now might be a good time to start. It’s loaded with fibre (8.5 grams), protein (11 grams), plus plenty of B vitamins, magnesium and iron.
Corn has an impressive 9.4 grams of protein and 7.3 grams of fibre, and a modest amount of vitamins and minerals. However, in one area, maize shines above most other grains: fat. Despite the connotations, we need fat as much as anything else. With 4.74 grams of it (wheat, by contrast, has 1.54 grams, and rice only has 0.66 grams) corn is a healthy, clean source.
Rye has an impressive amount of fibre (6 grams) and protein (9 grams). Though this is slightly less than some other grains like millet, rye also has fewer calories per 100 grams: 259 vs millet’s 378. This means you get more nutrition and food volume per calorie. Grab some rye bread if you’re counting carbs but want to feel full!
Quinoa is a rare beast: a so-called “superfood” that can actually walk the nutritional talk. It’s packed with protein (14 grams) and has a respectable 7 grams of fibre. But the micronutrient game is where quinoa really shines, with loads of minerals (including 95% of your daily manganese) and energy-boosting B vitamins.
Huh? Wheat? The stuff that goes into white bread and (*gasp*) pasta?
Yes, the refined white flour found in many kinds of pasta and baked goods has been stripped of some of wheat’s nutrients. But whole wheat, with the bran intact, packs a huge nutritional wallop compared to other grains, including 12.2 grams of fibre and 12.6 grams of protein, plus a perfectly respectable amount of vitamins and minerals. So don’t fear the wheat – just opt for whole!
Nutritionally speaking, oats are the true King of Grains. Oats have 11.6 grams of fibre, 4.3 grams of clean fat (almost as much as corn) and a colossal 16.9 grams of protein, plus loads of vitamins and minerals (especially metabolism-boosting B vitamins, making them an excellent breakfast choice). Oats are the whole package, outstanding in both micronutrients and macronutrients. Although there is really no such thing as a “superfood”, oats come pretty close.