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Cereals & Whole Grains Print

A cereal is a grain used for food, for example wheat, maize, or rye. Our Mother Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrates that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Honour bread.” [Ibn Asaakir]

Wheat and other cereals have the greatest nutritional value in wholegrain form when they contain more B vitamins and fibre. They also provide carbohydrates and protein. The germ at the base and the endosperm provides most of the wheat grain’s fibre, oil, B vitamins, iron, Vitamin E etc. Refined products contain less fibre than wholegrain foods. Fibre helps to prevent constipation and may help to reduce the risk of bowel disorders such as haemorrhoids and bowel cancer.    

Common Cereals
  • Barley – a staple food in the Middle East. Pearl Barley is added to soup and stew. It offers plenty of carbohydrates but few vitamins and fibre due to its refined nature. Barley flour is used to make Talbeenah.

  • Maize/ Corn/ Mealies – are gluten free (a complex mixture proteins found in wheat, rye and oats). They are used for a variety of foods, e.g. popcorn, cornflour, cornmeal (pap) and breakfast cereals. Corn syrup is a sweetener used in many desserts.

  • Millet – also gluten free, hence cannot be used for raised breads, only flat breads. Millet is staple in North Africa and Asia.

  • Oats – are relatively high in oil and protein. The soluble fibre in oats has been found to be particularly useful in lowering blood cholesterol levels.

  • Rice – staple food for about half the world’s population. Brown rice is a good source of B vitamins, calcium and phosphorus. White rice has mostly carbohydrates and little protein. It is low in thiamine, unless parboiled before milling.

  • Rye – contains enough gluten to make a weak dough. The grain is also used in crispbreads.

  • Wheat – can be hard or soft according to the gluten content of the particular variety. Durum is the hardest and is used to make pasta. Softer flour is used for cake, pastry and biscuits.

  • Semolina – consists of course bits of wheat endosperm.

  • Whole-wheat flour – includes the bran and germ. It is good source of fibre and B complex vitamins.

  • Bulgur or Cracked wheat – contains similar nutrients.
Whole grains contain more vitamins, trace minerals, magnesium and fibre than refined cereals. Breakfast cereals are often loaded with sugar, with the accompanying negative health connotations, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain etc.
An analysis, published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2008, found that children’s cereals have more sugar, sodium, carbohydrates, and calories per gram than cereals not marketed to children. They also have less protein and fibre.

Try these alternatives for breakfast

Breakfast smoothies, muesli, almond butter and banana toast, fruit topped yoghurt, eggs, quinoa, egg white and avocado scramble, chia pudding, fruit with unrefined oatmeal, granola, boiled unrefined porridge.
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