Chia, farro, matcha, bulgur… No, I’m not speaking another language. These health foods are creating buzz everywhere lately. Learn what they are and why they’re good for you.
Get With the Grains: Boil Up Bulgur
Not necessarily new, but perhaps new to you, these ancient grains, like bulgur, farro, and amaranth have become increasingly popular lately — and for good reason: They’re chock-full of nutritional benefits! Bulgur is a complex carbohydrate that has a low glycemic index. It’s high in iron and zinc and contains a super antioxidant (lignans) that boosts your immune system and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. This versatile grain is easy to make because it’s already been partially cooked during the drying and milling process. Just add it to boiling water or broth and cook for about 20 minutes. It’s a great grain to use for tabbouleh or pilaf — you can also mix it into soups or salads for texture.
Get With the Grains: Fall for Farro
Another ancient grain worth putting on your radar is farro. Popular in Italy, farro is now having its moment in the US. It has a roasted, nutty flavor and a chewy texture. High in fiber and protein content, farro is a great addition to salads and soups, or you can use it in place of rice. Look out for the “semi-pearled” version, which means that part of the grain has been removed, making it cook faster than whole-grain farro. Farro is a bit higher in calorie count than bulgur, so keep an eye on your portion size.
Though amaranth may be new to you, it’s been a staple in the Aztec diet, dating as far back as 8,000 years ago. It is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s a great grain for vegetarians because it is a complete protein, containing lysine, an amino acid that is missing in many other grains. Celiac sufferers should take note, too: Amaranth is a naturally gluten-free grain. It’s easy to cook (similar to rice) and can be used in many dishes. It has a light and nutty flavor, making it popular for cereals, breads, muffins, and other breakfast foods.
Give Chia a Try
I’m guessing all of you have heard of chia seeds by now, but I bet a lot of you are still wondering what’s so great about them? Here’s the deal: Chia seeds are rich in omega 3-fatty acids, and are also high in antioxidants, protein and fiber, which helps you feel fuller, longer. Exposing the seeds to liquid creates a sticky, gel-like coating around them that makes them perfect for thickening sauces or adding to smoothies. They can also be added to soups, hot cereals, breads and more. Because chia seeds absorb liquid easily and turn into a gel, they can be used to replace eggs in vegan products — just add water. A popular way to incorporate chia seeds into your diet is to use them to make a healthy dessert, chia pudding cups. You can find many different recipes for these, but all only contain a handful of ingredients and are very quick to make.
Matcha powder has been cropping up at health-food stores across the country. It is a high-quality green tea that is traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies. The entire leaf is delicately ground into a smooth, green-colored powder. The powder, when whisked into hot water, creates a vegetal (plant) tea that can be a little bit bitter. It’s full of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and fiber. There are countless ways to add matcha to your diet! Get creative and explore all the different recipes out there.
Whip Up Some Wheat Berries
Wheat berries are essentially wheat kernels — they’re minimally processed, meaning none of the nutrients are stripped away. One cup of wheat berries is full of fiber, protein, and iron. To prepare, you should soak them overnight, and then cook for an hour. If you want to skip the soaking step, you can cook them as you would cook pasta — cover them in water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes. They’re a hearty addition to salads or oatmeal/yogurt — they add a flavorful, nutty crunch.
Pop a Few Pepitas
Ever seen pepitas listed on a menu? Newsflash: They’re just a fancy term for pumpkin seeds! They’re a wonderful snack food because they are low calorie and contain healthy fats as well as protein, fiber, potassium, iron and zinc. They can be eaten raw or baked with a bit of sea salt and seasoning.