Foodpaths

Cereali

Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, cereals are among the oldest food that man has discovered. From barley and single-grain wheat – the first to be used – then we moved on to oats, rye, and rice. The whole life of the community developed around these crops. Around 3000 BC, the Egyptians were already separating the grains to arrive just 1000 years later at the birth of wheat as we know it today.

Cereals were named after the goddess Demeter, protector of the fields and crops. They contain starch, and lipids that also allow the extraction of vegetable oil. The kernel is enclosed in a husk and its outer cellulose coat , is a key component of the fiber. They are used for our food but also in animal breeding, as well as in industrial food production.

Modern cereals, mainly wheat and maize, are the result of genetic selection during the green revolution (second half of the 20th century) to achieve high-yielding varieties. The processes resulted in increased production but not nutritionally satisfactory, with low-quality protein and an increased percentage of carbohydrates.

The cereal family includes:

Kinoa

It was first cultivated 5000 years ago in the Andes. It is not actually a grain as such, but it is commonly included in the family. Its small round grains are more and more often found on our table. It is cooked quickly, is easily digestible and has a high nutritional value. It is high in protein (twice as much as rice), high in lysine, a key amino acid, and rich in calcium (much more than milk).

Bulgur

Bulgur is nothing more than whole grain durum wheat that has been specially processed. The sprouted grains are steamed for a while, then dried and broken. This process makes them particularly easy to digest. Pulgur is rich in fibre, vitamins, especially B vitamins, minerals and is also low in fat.

Amaranth

Known as “the gold of the Aztecs”, ancient and precious, it is rich in vitamins, minerals but mainly protein and lysine, and is gluten-free. Its grains are small and very tasty.

Millet

In trend in recent years, millet is an ancient cereal that has been widely consumed since Roman times and before corn was discovered in America. Rich in iron, magnesium and vitamins, it is gluten-free and strengthens nails and hair, is diuretic and very nourishing. Excellent for dental and skin health, it is also known as bird food. Apart from that, it is increasingly used in our diet instead of rice. It is easy to use in the kitchen as it needs no soaking and is ready to use.

Oats

Oats are the cereal of choice for athletes, because beyond its support of thyroid function, it activates the metabolism and provides the necessary energy for physical activity. Its amino acids and lysine give it its tonic properties, which remain intact when consumed raw. It is very much in demand among those who follow a healthy diet and is also consumed in the form of vegetable milk. It has a high protein value and a high percentage of linoleic acid which helps to counteract bad cholesterol and keep the body functioning well. Normally it does not contain gluten, but as with other cereals of this category, because the crop can be contaminated, as there are mixed neighboring crops, it does not get the gluten free certification.

Buckwheat

It was introduced from Russia to the rest of Europe in the Middle Ages and is very much linked to the Italian food tradition, especially in the north. In recent years many have become aware of the benefits of this cereal. It is gluten-free (as it is not really a cereal but a similar family), and rich in protein, iron, zinc and selenium, it helps in the treatment of diabetes and bleeding. It is an essential ingredient in healthy cooking and is known for its energizing effect on hair.

Barley

The oldest cereal in human history, it was highly valued, especially by Hippocrates, who advised its consumption as it is rich in phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamins, especially E. It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps intestinal function with its rich fiber. It is the main ingredient for brewing beer, but has many applications in the kitchen. And let’s not forget its very important use as a coffee substitute.

Rice

This is one of the most well-known and widely consumed cereals in the world. It has a wide variety of uses, is easy to digest and regulates bowel function. It does not contain gluten, so it is the most suitable for those who suffer from celiac disease, it is high in fatty acids, potassium, and therefore helps in the fight against hypertension. It is also widely used to produce plant milk, an excellent choice for those who need to avoid drinking animal milk. It has countless applications in the kitchen and is found daily on tables all over the world.

The ancient cereals

When we talk about ancient grains, we mean those varieties that have remained as close as possible to their original form over the millennia, without the mutations caused by human intervention. Growing them also means methods that do not harm the environment, and these are varieties that are more resistant to climatic conditions as they have adapted over the centuries.

There are several types of ancient cereals, including farro, the first cereal grown in the world.

Kamut

Kamut is the name under which this variety was registered by the American company of the same name. It is a sub-variety , Triticum turgidum Turanicum, also called Khorasan. This cereal is grown mainly in the USA although there are small areas of cultivation scattered throughout Europe. It is rich in minerals, in particular selenium, vitamins and proteins. The cereal retains its properties from its original form as it has never been hybridized or genetically improved. It is light and easily digestible, and is used in the manufacture of bread and similar products.

Farro (wheat)

Highly prized by the Romans, farro (triticum dicoccum) is grown today in Italy, Greece and other parts of Europe. There are three main typologies: the small (monocot), which is less cultivated because it is not very productive, but is the most digestible and has the lowest gluten content; the medium (dicot), which is the most common and the ancestor of today’s durum wheat; and the large (spelt), which is the most common in the rest of Europe. The latter came from the crossing of Triticum dicoccum and a wild variety and is the ancestor of today’s soft wheat, and is what in Germany is called Dinkel.

The term gluten was often mentioned above. So what is gluten that so much is said about it? It is a protein complex that gives elasticity to dough. Getting better and better over the years the finished product has a high gluten content, and the fact that our diet today consists largely of yeast products has resulted in us hearing more and more often about diseases associated with it. Gluten intolerance, celiac disease, allergies, dermatitis and various neurological conditions are associated with it, and many other diseases are being diagnosed day by day. Gluten is also considered one of the most important factors in increasing intestinal permeability.

The truth is that the more refined the food, the more dangerous it is to health. This is something that we have become more and more aware of in recent years, which is why there is a big shift towards a healthier diet.

The wonderful base of our food chain, grains, are heavily used to make dough products, but they are excellent for many other preparations as well. Winter soups, summer cold salads, nutritious breakfasts, healthy snacks and so much more. The less processed the better and more delicious!

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