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Cereals: Types And Properties

Grains, refined or whole meal, are foods rich in starch and provide our body with all the calories it needs.

Cereals Source Of Fiber And Energy

Cereals are foods full of starch, strongly recommended by nutritionists because they can ensure the supply of calories necessary for our body. Cereals form grains of a heart of starch (the substance that ‘supplies’ energy) covered by a layer of minerals and proteins and finally composed by an external layer of fibers.

They can be eaten refined or whole :

  1. the refined ones have only the part made of starch;
  2. the integral ones also keep the external factors;

The substantial difference between these two types is that refined cereals are more digestible, while whole grains are preferable for those suffering from constipation or hypercholesterolemia.

Cereals And Legumes: The Complete Meal

Then, when cereals are associated with legumes, the dish becomes truly complete because the proteins contained in grains are not sufficient for the daily requirement. Therefore it is necessary to integrate them with other more protein foods. Among these, preferably, the vegetable proteins contained in lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans are the most suitable for a healthy and nutritious diet.

Type Of Cereals: Wheat, Corn, And Rice

But do we all know about these cereals? We certainly know well the wheat, from which pasta and bread derive, corn and rice, which are the best-known cereals. Yet there are many others, which lately are slowly re-evaluating, especially thanks to the rediscovery of ancient Italian food traditions.

Here then appears:

  1. the vein;
  2. barley;
  3. The mile;
  4. rye;
  5. spelled in soups specially created to allow ‘contemporaries’ to taste the flavors of the past. So, let’s get to know these cereals one by one.


It is the best-known cereal. It is also a very rich cereal in gluten, whose proteins, mixed with water, produce a type of mass ideal for bread and pasta production. The difference between the two types found on the market, durum wheat and soft wheat, is essentially the amount of gluten present.


It is used essentially in two forms: flour for the preparation of polenta or in the form of canned grains to flavor salads or to sauté in a pan with butter. In the first form, corn is a good alternative to wheat for celiac disease, as corn is gluten-free, while corn kernels are more similar in composition to legumes and are rich in water.


Another well-known cereal in India, gluten-free, can be eaten white or whole meal. The white one has no fiber and, unfortunately, during refining, it is also devoid of fats and proteins; the whole meal one, on the other hand, preserves fibers, proteins, and fats, but has several disadvantages: it takes a long time to cook, it keeps little and badly and has a different texture than the white one that many do not like. The most used is usually parboiled rice, refined but steamed, to preserve the nutritional value and consistency during and after cooking.


This type of cereal is very useful in pregnancy and during growth. It has a very high content of folic acid, also associated with ideal quantities of phosphorus, potassium, and proteins. It is mainly used in whole meal flour to prepare bread and similar, with a sour taste and slightly laxative power.


It contains large quantities of phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B. It is recommended in depression, fatigue, and even anemia thanks to its substances, namely lecithin and choline. It is mainly used to prepare desserts, but it is also excellent in cereal soups, which are being rediscovered lately.


Ideal during growth, thanks to the content of magnesium and silicon, its protein, hordein, has a good cardiotonic effect. Barley is also often used to garnish cakes, but it is also tasty in cereal soups, especially pearled.


Second, only to wheat, oats are also a real concentrate of energy, thanks to their fat content; it contains plant hormones that stimulate thyroid function. It can be eaten in grains, soaking about two hours before cooking, or in flakes to add to yogurt or milk for breakfast.


Excellent for cereal soups, spelt has many elements useful for the body: fiber, vitamins B1 and B6 for the skin, proteins in large quantities, unsaturated fatty acids against cholesterol.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is chronic food intolerance to gliadin, a protein contained in gluten, found in many grains and making them breadmaking. In those suffering from this disease, even very small amounts of gluten can cause an exaggerated immune response in the intestinal mucosa and, consequently, inflammation and destruction of the intestinal villi.

There are no cures. The only effective weapon is prevention through diet, i.e., avoiding all gluten products, even tiny particles. For celiac, however, there are foods produced on purpose with the words ‘gluten-free’; even some cereals can be safely consumed because they do not contain this element: they are rice, corn, and millet; moreover, they can also take starch with different foods, such as chestnuts and potatoes.


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