First of all, it is interesting to start by distinguishing between seeds and grains. Even though they are very similar and both are plants, they are not exactly the same thing. Indeed, grains are not intended to be planted to grow another generation of cereals. The seeds are the ones we plant in the hope that a new plant will grow.
Read more about grains and cereals
Etymologically, the word "cereal" was chosen in the mid-18th century in honour of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest. It replaces the term "wheat" used in a very general way.
After this change of name, the designation of the word was reduced to "non-emulsifying (oily) seeds that are easy to digest for humans and therefore not leguminous. "Prior to this, the term "wheat" was used to designate all edible seeds that can become flour, leguminous plants being included in this designation.
Cereals have been cultivated throughout the world for centuries. As there is a great variety of them, not all civilisations have been built around the same ones.
In China, it was millet, rice and wheat.
In sub-equatorial Africa, millet was the most widely cultivated cereal.
In Europe and the Middle East, wheat fields were the most common.
In North America, maize was discovered first.
It is thanks to the cultivation of cereals that these civilisations were able to expand and become more complex. The relatively easy preservation, high yields, and the complete composition of the cereals allowed them to develop more easily.
A closer look at cereal grains
Cereal grains do not have an important place in our diet for nothing. They contain many different nutrients such as carbohydrates (in the form of starch), some lipids (less than 5% of the grain), mineral salts and proteins (such as gluten). Some cereals can also be pressed to extract vegetable oil.
Each cereal grain is made up of three distinct parts:
Each of these parts contains specific nutrients. Depending on the cereal, the nutrients in these three parts will vary. Whole grains are so called because they are the only ones that have retained all three parts, as opposed to refined grains that retain only the almond, for example.
The most nutritious grains
Grains and seeds are the great forgotten items in our diet. Usually overlooked due to a lack of knowledge about how to cook them, they have a lot of nutritional value to offer us. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some grains and seeds to add to your diet.
Linseed is a good source of omega-3 and contains antioxidants that are useful against free radicals in our bodies.
Chia seeds are becoming more and more popular in our culture every day. They have approximately the same nutrients as flax, i.e. omega-3s and fibers. They also contain proteins, vitamins B9 and calcium.
Barley grain comes in two forms: pearl barley and hulled barley. The latter is the more nutritious of the two because it still has the germ, unlike pearl barley. This grain is full of antioxidants and fibers.
Bulgur is sprouted durum wheat that has been pre-cooked with steam and then dried and crushed. It has a nutty flavour and is high in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Spelt is an ancient variety of wheat. It contains the same nutritional values as wheat and bulgur. It is found in many forms: flakes, grains and also in pasta and bread.
Buckwheat has the same taste as hazelnuts and it can take some time to get used to this flavour. This cereal is rich in fiber and protein and contains no gluten.
Oats are very well known in the form of flakes, but these are only the processed grains. This cereal is very rich in fiber and protein but also in vitamins and minerals. Thus, oats have many benefits for the body.