Grains, Greens and Beans

Do you read a lot? Research satisfies my curious nature. I might be searching for better products to offer on my websites or learning more about a subject that interests me, but cross-referencing data on the web or a stack of books can keep me busy for hours or even days. My interests can include anything from divine proportion to the nutritional value of grains from ancient cultures. A few of you have written to ask about alternatives to gluten-containing grains, so of course, that prompted new research.

Teff leads all the grains by a wide margin in calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. Teff is high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teff are resistant to starches. A gluten-free grain with a mild flavor, teff is a healthy and versatile ingredient for many gluten-free products. I buy teff from a few specialty health food stores in my area, but mostly I buy it online here.

Cooking instructions:
One cup of teff.
Add the teff and 3 cups of water to a saucepan.
When the water starts to boil, turn down the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
Stir often while letting the teff rest until all the water is absorbed.
I stir it into my oatmeal. That updated recipe is here.
Many recipes are using teff here.

Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It is also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. It’s a protein powerhouse. At about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains. You may hear the amaranth protein referred to as “complete” because it contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.

People with coeliac disease can safely eat many common plants, seeds, grains, cereals, and flour, including corn, polenta, potatoes, rice, and soya. However, they should avoid barley, wheat, rye, couscous, and semolina as they are some of the foods which contain gluten.

Adding some whole grain barley to a pot of soup will improve your health as well as the flavor of whatever soup or stew you’re cooking. I often add cooked unhulled barley to salads or cook it along with a pot of beans. Besides its robust flavor, barley’s claim to nutritional fame is based on its being an excellent source of molybdenum, manganese, dietary fiber, and selenium, and a good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin. Barley has high fiber for regularity, lower cholesterol, and intestinal protection. You can find barley in many grocery stores or at Bob’s Red Mill.

Buckwheat is a grain that is good for your cardiovascular system. Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The beneficial effects are due in part to its rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin, which protects against heart disease. Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium. This mineral relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure—the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.

The Whole Grains Council’s website provides more information on these and many other grains. According to the book “The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People” By Dan Buettner, the happiest, healthiest, most long-lived people on earth consume grains, greens, and beans daily. Read more about the Blue Zone Diet here.

The photos above are of the food I prepare for myself regularly. When I shop, I look for fresh organic vegetables and fruits in season. Shriveled skins or limp greens means produce has passed its prime. I will move to frozen organic fruits and vegetables in winter.

I rarely use a recipe. When the ingredients are of exceptionally high quality, they can be enjoyed most by washing, cutting, and arranging them on a plate. The plates you see here are about the width of my outstretched hand. I don’t always finish everything on the plate, and I never go back for seconds.

  1. Thank you for doing the research Susan. I have considered your way of eating for many reasons. Do you have or know of a complete out line I could reference? I am 65 and in basically good health. However at 5’ 41/2” and 176lbs I am fluffy to say the least. Blood presure and over all well being is my goal. I am very pleased to have found your blog and thank you very much for your real life application.

    1. I am currently changing my lifestyle to embrace Bright Line Eating for the health reasons you listed. Susan’s foods and philosophy are right there, too. Check it out…ten days in and I feel so different! I bet you would, too.

  2. I made your porridge recipe over the weekend. Very tasty. I wanted to see if it indeed kept me full for a long time as you said and it did. Will make again. Thank you.

  3. The fruit plate and salad in the last picture look scrumptious but I simply can’t do many types of beans. However I love barley and the Teff grain is intriguing and I will start looking for that. Thanks for doing the preliminary research and sharing.

  4. Hi Susan, I enjoy your blog for both the fashion and nutrition advice. If it’s not too personal I’d like to hear if you suffer from osteoporosis (or ever did) or if not, do you attribute it to a plant-based diet. I’ve read you no longer take meds and that’s a good thing. My ob/gyn wants me to start taking osteo drugs but I’d rather treat with nutrition, exercise and supplements. I’d love your insight on this topic. Thanks for all you do for your readers.

    1. Note to Leslie about the osteoporosis…. I was diagnosed with that and also didn’t want to go on the prescription drugs. I wound up buying Dr. Loren Fishman’s book …. Yoga for Osteoporosis. You can do this at home! (Not sure if this video link will come thru on a blog or not…. I also started using the Doterra supplements (vitamins and Bone Nutrient) plus I joined our local Senior Center and began an exercise program! Naturally, I was hugely interested in how my attempts at better health would help my numbers and when I had my last bone density test, my numbers had improved! So I applaud your desire to find alternatives to chemicals!

  5. I have been eating the breakfast porridge every morning for several years and enjoy it very much. I have branched out and added a variety of ancient grains such as teff and amaranth to it. It is such a versatile recipe! All I use is cinnamon for sweetening. It took about a week to get used to no sugar or honey, but after that I didn’t even notice and started to enjoy the more subtle flavors of all the grains, nuts and seeds etc. It gives me great energy until lunch. I have changed my eating considerably because of your blog and my husband tags along with me for most of it. He complained briefly , but then he realized the benefits too and is quite often asking for an all vegetable roasted dinner recipe that I found on Pinterest. So thanks for all your research and the photos of the delicious foods you prepare.

    1. No. I just cook the beans until they are almost tender and then add whatever spices I want during the last few minutes. Some of the spices and flavors I add near the end of the cooking process include:
      Powdered Garlic
      Minced Dried Onion
      Cayenne Pepper
      Dried Chives
      Plantation Blackstrap Molasses Unsulphured
      Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
      Aged Balsamic Vinegar
      Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
      Half a stick of real butter, never margarine.
      I often add the cold beans and whatever grains I have cooked for the week to a salad for lunch.

  6. Susan, thanks for sharing this information. I have never heard of Teff and look forward to trying it. As I’ve mentioned before, I lost over 25 lbs 2 years ago after discovering your blog and have kept it off.

  7. Which Teff are you buying from the web-site above. There is listed a variety. Ivory Grain or Brown grain,

    thank you,

  8. I very much wish I could follow the diet that works so well for you. However, the porridge sent my blood sugar soaring and most of the fruits, beans and grains are not part of the low fodmap diet I must follow for ibs. On the other hand, teff is something I’d like to try, so thank you very much for bringing it to my attention. Discovering one’s personal best diet can be quite the journey!

    1. I eat half an avocado on occasion, but I have never tried the oil since I never fry anything or use salad dressings. The only type of salad topping I add is aged balsamic vinegar or a fresh squeeze of lemon.

  9. Thanks do much for the links & info, Susan. I love to see people encouraged to try these grains. I eat a vague version of what started out as a Paleo diet: I do eat meat (sparingly, & mainly chicken & fish, both local), local farm eggs & a small bit of dairy (milk on my tea & in my porridge), tons of veggies & a bit of fruit, and absolutely NO wheat products, sugar, processed or “fast” foods (which are loaded with gluten, sugars & salt). I also never eat beans, because I loath them, or soy products. I loved the look of your “porridge” when I read the recipe, so now make a version with amaranth, teff, hemp hearts, seeds, buckwheat, steel-cut oats, barley flakes, quinoa, kamut, a tbsp of rolled oats, a few nuts & some kind of dried fruit: raisins, cranberries, dates, figs, whatever I have handy. It’s a glorious mess & incredibly filling — keeps me going until early afternoon, regardless of how active I am.

    Overall, I found that getting completely rid of gluten, processed foods, sugar & (alas, because I love it) cheese made a huge difference in how I feel: no more achy joints, stiffness, brain fog, wonky blood-sugar spikes, high BP, mood swings, sinus infections or those sneaky little weight gains I always seemed to be fighting. I still love bread but have learned the hard way (repeatedly: apparently I’m a bad learner) that eating even one slice of gluten-loaded toast makes me feel like crap for days (I could make/eat gluten-free breads, but find it simpler to do without than fuss around with poor substitutes. Same with desserts.)

    I really enjoy the variety of topics you bring into your posts, all aimed at some facet of living the good life well — & elegantly — into our later years. I sometimes think that a major cause of many of the illness (& ills) that are routinely attributed to aging are in fact a function of poor nutrition, poor hydration & attitude (our own & society’s). Before I “fixed” my decreasing mobility myself through diet, I dealt with a doctor (long gone from my life) whose every answer to my complaints about stiff joints was “Well, you need to expect these things now, you’re getting old”. Like you, I refused to buy into the paradigm that getting older means “getting old”. I found a (female) doctor whose attitude about life & wellness reflects mine & started being my own best advocate. Nothing beats solid research & an open mind!

  10. I realize that the foods you eat are very nutritious, but do you find that you are hungry between meals or at night, and if so, how do you handle it?

  11. Hi, Susan. Your emails and blogs are really sinking in to my brain and I realize what you are sharing, as far as healthy eating, is information I have needed to incorporate for a long time. I’m 66 and still have so much to learn! My husband’s health will also improve, thanks to your guidance. Thank you so much for everything you do — I wish you lived next door so I could soak up more of your ideas! Love your fashion sense, too!

  12. I love teff. It’s the smallest grain, and native to Ethiopia (I used to live there). Thanks for mentioning teff. It’s not widely known about.

  13. This aritcle is outstanding. You lost and maintained your weight off by following these rules on eating? And my joints are aching! Turning 60 soon. Any advice welcome or other posts I should read?….

    1. In changing my eating habits, my objective was to improve many health problems. A nice side effect was losing more than forty pounds and keeping it off for the past eight years. I do not eat any pork or beef, nor do I eat bread or desserts very often. I avoid all processed, convenience and fast foods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.