Pseudo-Grains in a Plant-Based Diet

By Marni Wasserman

Carbohydrates that are similar to ancient grains are called pseudo-grains. They’re actually seeds but have grain-like characteristics. The following table shows you more about the ones you should add to your plant-based diet, as well as how to cook and store them.

Pseudo-Grains
Name of Grain Health Benefits How to Use It How to Store It
Amaranth: The seed of a plant from Central America that
has a nutty flavor and can be combined well with other grains
Higher in protein than many other grains, amaranth also
contains the essential amino acid lysine, which is hard to find in
plant-based foods. It’s a good source of calcium and iron,
which are important for bone health.
Use 1 part seeds to 2-1/2 parts water. Bring to a boil and then
reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Keep amaranth fresh in a tight-fitting container with a lid.
It’s best stored in a cool, dry, dark place.
Buckwheat: A fruit seed that’s related to rhubarb
and sorrel, making it a suitable grain substitute for people who
are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain gluten
Buckwheat is rich in flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that
protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and
acting as antioxidants. It’s a great source of protein,
manganese, and vitamins B and E. Buckwheat helps balance and lower
cholesterol levels while also protecting against heart
disease.
After rinsing, add 1 part buckwheat to 2 parts boiling water or
broth. After the liquid returns to a boil, turn down the heat,
cover, and simmer for about 30minutes.
Place buckwheat in an airtight container and store it in a
cool, dry place. Always store buckwheat flour in the refrigerator;
keep other buckwheat products refrigerated if you live in a warm
climate.
Millet: Millet is a varied group of small-seeded
grasses, central to the diet in India, Africa, and parts of Europe.
It has a corn flavor and is good for people with celiac disease or
other wheat allergies.
Millet is high in iron, B-complex vitamins, and
phosphorus.
Toast 1 cup of millet in a skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5
minutes to bring out nutty flavor. Add 2 cups water or broth and
bring to boil. Lower heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15
minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes covered.
Store millet in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It
can be kept up to two years if stored properly.
Quinoa: A seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly
crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked
Quinoa is a complete protein, providing all eight essential
amino acids. It’s also high in fiber, calcium, and iron.
Add 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid in a saucepan. After
bringing the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and
cover. One cup of quinoa cooked this way usually takes 15 minutes
to prepare.
Store quinoa in an airtight container. It will keep for a
longer period of time, approximately three to six months, if you
store it in the refrigerator.
Teff: A grain that appears purple, gray, red, or
yellowish brown; the seeds range from dark reddish brown to
yellowish brown to ivory
Teff leads all the grains by a wide margin in its calcium
content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123 milligrams.
It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient not
commonly found in grains. It’s a source of dietary fiber that
can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon
health.
Cook teff for about 20 minutes, with 1 cup of teff in 3 cups of
water.
Store teff seeds or flour on your shelf for up to one year in a
dark, cool place, sealed in a container.
Wild rice: An aquatic seed found mostly in the upper
freshwater lakes of Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin;
when cooked it has a nutty flavor
Wild rice is a source of lysine (an essential protein) and B
vitamins. It has almost twice the protein content and almost six
times the amount of folic acid as brown rice.
Put the grains into a saucepan with warm water to cover, and
stir the rice around to allow any particles to float to the top.
Skim off the particles and drain the water. It’s best to
repeat the rinsing one more time before cooking. Use 1cup dry wild
rice to 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and steam for 45 minutes to 1
hour.
Seal wild rice in a dark glass or opaque container in a cool,
dark place for up to three years.