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What About Grains?

In the United States, we eat a lot of grains. We eat grains for breakfast in the form of cereal, various types of bread and breakfast bars. And for lunch and dinner we eat them as pastas, desserts, breads, soups, side dishes, and so many other ways. What are the most popular? We like corn, wheat, rice, and oats. Generally speaking, they give us energy and contain nutrients such as B vitamins, fiber, and an array of minerals such as selenium and iron. However, there are other grains to include in a healthy diet.

Five Grains Worth Putting on the Dinner Table


(Pronounced “keen-wah”). This grain originates from South America and has picked up popularity in the United States. It is a great source of protein and can be eaten just like rice. Soups, grain snacks, and savory dishes include quinoa, but it can be eaten as a breakfast cereal with nuts, dried fruit, and milk.


This grain is used in Ethiopia to make their famous flatbread called, Injera. Teff is red in color and is the world’s smallest grain. It can be used in several ways including a hot breakfast cereal. One of the favorite techniques is to toast the grain, then boil in three parts water to one part grain. Add a little powdered clove, chopped dates, honey, and mix with yogurt. It is so delicious!


This is a common seed grain used in various products. Even though it is called “wheat,” it is not a grass grain like wheat. It is gluten-free and can be eaten by those who are gluten sensitive. The toasted version, often called groats, mixes well with other grains but can be eaten with eggs or tofu as a breakfast food. It is popular in Ukraine and Poland. 


Barley is a common grain found in most supermarkets but often gets overlooked. Experts are not sure where it comes from, but some say Egypt, Tibet or the Eastern Mediterranean areas. Researchers believe it has a history as old as 3,000 years (1). One of the best ways to use barley is in soups. Just toss a couple of handfuls in a bean or vegetable soup. It takes about an hour to cook, but parboiled barley takes only 20 minutes. 


This is another ancient grain that may have been around for several thousand years. It is believed to come from Africa, but it has also been found in parts of Asia. It is often added to flour blends to support a gluten-free diet. When it has been dried, it can pop like popcorn. Sorghum is also used in the Ethiopian flatbread, Injera. It can be added to salads and savory dishes. 

These are just a few grains that are available. Why not explore these and others? Visit and learn more about these wonderful foods. 


1. Barley. Accessed February 3, 2019.

Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

is a dietitian, photographer, and writer in Southern California.

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