Health benefits of grains & legumes
Grains and legumes in a vegetarian diet
Including a range of grains and legumes into your vegetarian diet is important for meeting nutritional requirements. Grain and legumes are filled with nutrients including protein, fibre and antioxidants. Here’s why you should add these carbohydrate ingredients to your cooking.
Wholegrain barley was grown as an ancient crop but because it has a low gluten content wheat became the superior choice for bread-making. Pearl barley is a nutritious addition to soup mixes but as it’s hulled to remove the outer layer, it’s technically no longer a wholegrain. Still worth including in your diet, though, for variety!
Also called maize, corn is a sweet wholegrain that can be eaten as a whole vegetable or made into a range of products including popcorn and corn meal. It’s a staple crop of the Americas and comes in a variety of colours from yellow to purple. It’s a good source of fibre and contains vitamins thiamine, B6 and C.
Not officially a grain – lentils fall in the legume category. Unlike other legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked prior to cooking. There are many varieties of lentils including yellow, red, French and puy. French lentils are similar to puy lentils and they can be grown anywhere. However, puy lentils are exclusively grown in the Puy region of France. Lentils have a nutty flavour and hold their shape when cooked. They’re a good vegetarian source of protein.
A very hardy, gluten-free grain, millet can be ground to make flour, or boiled and eaten like rice. It’s rich in nutritious carbohydrates, dietary fibre and potassium. In India, millet flour is made into leavened pancakes called dosa, and thinner, unleavened flatbread called roti.
The perfect pancake partner, buckwheat is also used to make Japanese soba noodles. Technically not a grain, buckwheat is a pseudo-cereal, like quinoa. It’s high in protein and ideal for gluten-free baking.
Black or purple rice is a particular species grown for its natural plant pigments called anthocyanins, which are also found in blueberries and are rich in antioxidant activity.
Originating from the Andes, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has long been cultivated by the South American Inca people. It comes in white, red, purple and black varieties (sometimes mixed in the one packet). It’s best to rinse quinoa before cooking, otherwise it can taste a bit gritty.