Super foods have taken over the globe, saving us all from the villainous trans fats and unwanted carbohydrates associated with traditional grains and wheat. For those of us for which gluten is our kryptonite, we must find a way to conquer its evil and reap the benefits of healthy grains and nutrients. After all, why can't our diet reflect our inner super hero?
We always say that we don't want history to repeat itself. However, what if our history contained the holy grail of grains? Wouldn't we want to repeat history? The Incas did it, so why don't we tap into our roots? According to a salba grain study conducted by Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, C - reactive protein (CRP) levels dropped 32 percent in type 2 diabetes patients, lowering the risk of heart disease. As the nutritional and health benefits in salba are plentiful, similar supergrains pack the same punch. Take a look at five of the up-and-coming supergrains that will certainly up your superhero status.
Origin: Ethiopia Cost: approximately $8 a pound Super Food Powers: protein, calcium, iron and gluten-free Must-Try Recipe: Teff Oatmeal with Almonds and Blueberries
Considered the smallest grain in the world, Teff cannot be processed or refined. However, don't be thwarted by its cute appearance; this baby is jam-packed with protein, calcium and iron. Known for its nutty and molasses-like flavor, this gluten-free supergrain has been rewarded the status of good carb, since it is 40 percent resistant starch. Eating this little beauty doesn't only help you lose weight, but it also can help strengthen bones and reduce PMS symptoms. With 6.3 million Ethiopian farmers growing this crop, why shouldn't you harness its power too?
Origin: West Africa Cost: approximately $2 a pound Super Food Powers: magnesium, B vitamins and gluten-free Must-Try Recipe: Gateaux de Fonio (Fonio Muffins)
Fonio sounds like a funny name. Early European settlers thought so too and decided to call it hungry rice. Whatever you want to call it, this West African grain possesses the same great qualities as millet. With its light and airy texture much like that of couscous, this is one low-glycemic index food you don't want to miss. Consuming fonio can help you reduce muscle and nerve pains like headaches and cramps due to its magnesium content. Also, it's been known to help control diabetes and inflammation thanks to its B vitamin-magnesium cocktail. Just don't forget to seek out hulled fonio, as it contains more fiber.
Origin: The Incan Empire (South America) Cost: approximately $8 a pound Super Food Powers: minerals, folate, protein, healthy fats, nine essential amino acids, fiber, magnesium, riboflavin (B2), manganese and gluten-free Must-Try Recipe: Quinoa and Vegetable Stir Fry
OK, so quinoa is actually a seed; a really, really popular seed. The government loves this crop because it provides us with food security as it can grow in harsher, dry conditions, making quinoa the most expensive supergrain. However, it's worth every penny. Also known as the "Gold of the Incas" for supposedly increasing the stamina of their warriors, quinoa is nothing to scoff at. Its energy-dense properties can boost your superhero powers with every bite. With countless nutrients from folate to riboflavin (B2), quinoa can relieve constipation, prevent heart disease, repair tissue and aid in the formation of strong bones and healthy teeth.
Origin: The Mediterranean Cost: approximately $5 per pound Super Food Powers: arginine, protein, fiber and gluten-free Must-Try Recipe: Lupin Brownies
Another tricky little supergrain, the lupini bean (legume seeds) have expanded from the Mediterranean to Australia, which now harvests 85 percent of the world's beautiful lupin crop. One downside to this nutrient-rich grain is that it must be soaked before it’s cooked. Commonly used as a cooked additive in wheat, lupin can actually stand alone as a gluten-free substitute. Lupin is also high in protein and fiber, assisting in curbing your appetite and helping with bowel health and lowering cholesterol. How's that for super power?
Origin: Egypt Cost: approximately $2 - $4 a pound Super Food Powers: protein, selenium, zinc, magnesium, lipids, omega 3s, vitamin E and gluten-free Must-Try Recipes: Homemade Kamut Pasta and Kamut Pasta and Sundried Tomato Pesto
There are discrepancies about the origin of Kamut, whether Noah took it on the ark with him or King Tut had it in his tomb, but there is no contention when it comes to its health benefits. As one of the most protein-dense grains (12 to 18 percent, or 40 percent more protein than wheat), these fun, chewy "berries" are harvested right in our neck of the woods in Montana and areas of Canada. Kamut also packs the superpower of high-energy wheat, containing omega 3s, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Go whole grain to lower your cholesterol, blood-sugar levels and keep your immune system healthy and strong to put up a fight against illness every day.
Let's face it, there's an extensive list of supergrains and super foods out there to keep you busy and healthy for years. Make sure you capitalize on these great pairings and nutrients to keep your super hero mojo going strong. Don't be afraid to try something new, too. While it may seem strange at first, you'll be surprised how great these grains taste. So, go out there and take charge of your diet.
Photo by Chris Gin