Grains - part 2

Nutrition

It may be noted that the blend or amalgam of nutrients provided by the grains differs. However, since starch forms the major constituent of the grain seeds, anything around 65 per cent and 90 per cent of the calories provided by grains are carbohydrates. On the other hand, as much as 8 per cent to 15 per cent of the calories are obtained from the proteins present in the grains, while fat supplies the remaining calories from the grain. Since the proteins availed from grains are plant-based, they do not provide the entire amino acids required by our body. Amino acids are, in fact, the building blocks of proteins.

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Nevertheless, grains do not possess the double drawbacks of animal-based protein-saturated fat as well cholesterol - both of them related to cardiovascular ailments. It is possible to consume grains along with other food stuff, for instance legumes (beans), little servings of poultry and meat as well as dairy products, with a view to supply the entire balance of amino acids. Iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc are some of the essential elements present in whole grains. In addition, the whole grains are also a natural resource of B vitamins, for instance thiamine, niacin and riboflavin, as well as antioxidants, for instance selenium and vitamin E. It may be mentioned that currently scientists are simply beginning to discover the health role of materials called 'phytochemicals' that are also present in whole grains.

Cereal grains have a rich content of dietary fiber, including insoluble fiber, which assists in the functioning of the bowel system as well as lower the hazards of certain types of cancer, and soluble fiber, which may perhaps be responsible for lowering the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

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Processing as well as getting rid of impurities from the grains may divest them of the natural nutrients enclosed by them, since they are removed during the process known as milling. In fact, wheat flour, which has been processed and refined do not enclose the germ present in the grains. Nevertheless, there are numerous grain products that are supplemented. This means that the original nutrients present in the grains are restored to the grains in even after they are processed and refined. In other word, the nutrients that are removed during the milling process are restored to the grains. However, the fact is that it is not possible to restore all the original nutrients enclosed in the grains after they are processed and refined. For instance, the insoluble fiber is separated from the grain when the bran is removed. Similarly, even the antioxidants are not restored to the refined or processed flour. In some cases, even the phytochemicals enclosed by the grains may not be restored in the refined products.

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Selection

All grains, even after being processed, refined or gently cooked, enclose some amount of their natural oils. However, over a period of time, they are likely to decay or become rotten and this is the reason why while you are buying them it is important to make sure that they are fresh. Always try to find grains that are sealed in packages, as this helps to protect them from being exposed to air, moisture as well as decay. While some grains may be available fresh, there are others whose packages state 'best if used before' a specific date to guarantee their quality. In case you are purchasing grains in large amounts, it is important to verify if the store has a brisk turnover of that particular product. For instance, bulgur may not be in high demand in the supermarkets and, therefore, it is natural that the product may have been stored for a considerable period of time resulting it to become stale. On the other hand, stores that are dedicated to selling natural foods or specialty food markets might have an increased demand for the product, and sell the product more and, hence, must always be fresh. In addition, it is also important that grains have a fresh smell as well as have a clean and free from debris appearance.

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Storage

Since grains are likely to draw insects or might turn out to be rotten if they are exposed to moisture, it is advisable to store them in tightly closed containers or packets that are moisture proof. It is possible to store grains in room temperature; however they will stay fresh for longer periods provided they are stored in the refrigerator. In fact, they will remain fresh for many months when stored in a refrigerator. Majority of the cereal grains may be stored for a longer period provided they are kept in the freezer. In this case, it is also not necessary to defrost the grains prior to cooking. Even grains can be cooked and stored in the refrigerator for many days and subsequently reheated.

Preparation

It may be noted that the whole grains are usually hard and arid. Hence, when you cook whole grains, it not only entails applying heat to them, but also requires dehydrating. This is the primary reason why whole grains, excepting in some instances, are always cooked in liquid. There is another traditional process of cooking whole grains and it is explained below.

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Take water or any other liquid, for example, stock, and boil it. Majority of the cooks following this traditional method generally use a ratio of one part grain and two to three parts of water. When the water/ liquid are boiling, add the grains and other seasonings to it. Cover the container containing the mixture and lower the flame to a seethe. Continuing to simmer till almost all the liquid is soaked up by the grains. Subsequently, remove the mixture of grains and seasonings from heat and if required, pour away any excess liquid left in the container. Allow the mixture to settle for around five minutes and then shake it using a fork.

The time consumed for cooking whole grains differ depending on the type of grains that are being used, the manner in which the grains have been processed and also if the grains have been pre-cooked. In fact, grains like kasha and bulgur are generally delicately cooked and subsequently dehydrated before they are sold in the stores. Generally, cooks suggest that you should cook whole grains in the same way as you cook pasta. Just cook them till they become soft - it may take around eight minutes to cook the 'instant' variety rice to over an hour for cooking whole grains or any other grains that have not been milled (processed and refined). There are some grains that are especially hard, for instance rye, and it would be much easy to cook if you soak them in water or any liquid first. In addition, it is advisable that you also wash the whole grains prior to cooking with a view to get rid of any residues or debris that might be present along with them.

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