Like calcium, protein is an important nutrient for bone and muscle health especially in seniors, but also in growing children and in adults. Most people meet their daily protein needs by eating meat, fish and dairy products but certain grains can also provide protein, calcium, and several other nutrients that are good for overall health.
While those on a vegan diet have long looked to grains to meet their protein needs, more and more people are now beginning to look at alternative grains as a dietary option. It’s a good way to try new, more adventurous recipes, and to improve the diet by relying less on overly processed grains such as white rice or wheat.These are some of the reasons why the use of ‘new’ kinds of grains is growing at a remarkable rate.
Many of the ‘new’ grains that are being discovered by the Western world are actually ancient grains that have been staple foods in various parts of the world for thousands of years.
If you and your family would like to move beyond the staples of wheat, rice and corn – here are some of the many ancient grains which you can discover and enjoy – while boosting your bone-health too:
Amaranth: Both gluten- and wheat-free, this South American grain provides protein, calcium, and iron. It’s also the only grain documented as containing vitamin C. Gently boiled, Amaranth maintains a crunchy texture, and is a good addition to salads or soups.
Bulgur: Bulgur is a type of whole wheat that’s specially prepared to decrease cooking time. It’s a common ingredient in Turkish, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. As well as being a good source of fibre, iron and vitamin B-6, Bulgar is protein-rich, with 100 g containing 12.29 g of protein.
Chia: Technically a seed rather than a grain, Chia is considered a ‘superfood’ – extremely rich in fibre, omega-3 and other nutrients, including high levels of protein, calcium and magnesium. A 28 g serving (only roughly 2 tbsp!) of Chia contains 4 g of protein and 18% of most people’s required daily calcium needs. Crunchy and nutty in flavour, the seeds can be added to baked goods and sprinkled on yoghurt and cereals. Mixed with water, the seeds turn into a gel which can be used as an egg substitute for baking.
Einkorn: One of the most ancient of wheat varieties, Einkorn has a higher percentage of protein than modern wheats and is considered more nutritious because it is also higher in potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene.
Freekeh: Freekeh is a young green wheat, typically sold toasted and cracked, which is common in North African cuisine. Fibre-rich, it contains calcium (53 mg of calcium/100 g), potassium, iron, and magnesium. It can be used in place of brown rice in pilafs, risottos and salads, or used in tabbouleh.
Quinoa: One of the most widely used of the ancient grains, quinoa is a complete protein since it has all nine essential amino acids. A 185 g serving contains 31.5 mg of calcium, 8.1 g of protein, 118 mg magnesium and 281 mg phosphorus. Because it has become so popular, quinoa is easy to find on grocery shelves and recipes abound online.
Teff: Commonly eaten in Ethiopia, this nutrient-rich grain has a high calcium content. Just 1 cup of cooked teff offers 123 mg of calcium. It’s often ground into flour but also can be cooked for mixing in salads, soups or casseroles.
International Osteoporosis Foundation