Grains, contrary to carb-phobic belief, are good... but supergrains are even better. Admittedly, adding "super" to any food can make it sound healthier (supercheeseburgers!), but as with other superfoods, supergrains offer ample bang for buck when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They just might help you live forever.
Living forever means little, though, if the environment's in dire straits. Simply put, relying on wheat and corn production is just as disastrous for sustainability as gorging on them is for a person's diet. The Rise of Quinoa made the world realize that there's more to grains than wheat and corn -- it helps that it happens to be absurdly nutritious. But since overreliance on quinoa production is no better than dependency on wheat or corn (even if it's, you know, "super-reliance"), it's time for some supergrain diversification.
What is it, and why is it super? One of the most ancient ancient grains out there -- cultivated by the Aztecs between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago! -- amaranth is a veritable nutritional storehouse. The tiny seed is a huge source of plant protein, with 9g of protein per cup, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians looking to up their amino acid intake. It's also big on calcium, iron, and, according to noted physician and holistic health practitioner Dr. Andrew Weil, has three times the fiber content of wheat. All signs point to a waistline-friendly grain that's also low-cost to produce; it may even help Mexico in fighting obesity and combatting malnutrition.
How farm-to-table-menu-ready is it? In 1984, The New York Times called amaranth, "Ancient, Forgotten Plant Now 'Grain of the Future.'" Well, the future is right about now, so... where's that amaranth? Popped amaranth is a frequent star ingredient in packaged nutrition bars, but it's not often that you'll see the seed pop up on a menu -- and there's not a whole lot of rationale why. It's cheap to grow, cheap to buy, and low-maintenance to cook. Plus, it's versatile: it can be cooked like rice or quinoa, used to thicken up soups and stews, popped for snacking or breading meats, and pronounced in a wide variety of accents to great comical event.
What is it, and why is it super? Millet may be the primary ingredient in birdseed, but it's not just for the avian creatures who will someday make you their prey. It's packed with nutrients hard to come by among other grains, namely copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. The resilient crop with a short growing season was critical in transforming Chinese and Mongolian nomads circa 5400 BCE into settled farmers. So the next time someone asks you for some super on-the-go snack tips, you can impress them with your knowledge of the ancient seed's agricultural history.
How farm-to-table-menu-ready is it? Millet may be cropping up on some trendy menus, but NPR reports that the not-just-birdseed is in dire need of an image makeover, one that will convince people who feel iffy about eating what birds eat that millet isn't just for the winged ones who will soon inherit the Earth. If that weren't enough, Paleo diet proponents warn against incorporating the post-Paleo grain into their neo-Paleo lives, claiming, "From an evolutionary perspective, these foods were rarely or never consumed by our hunter gatherer ancestors," and going on to argue that high-millet diets increase the rate of iodine deficiencies and thyroid dysfunction.