Cereals, besides being a delicious alternative for breakfast, are very present in our diet. They are at the base of the food pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet. In addition, they are a good source of nutrients and different vitamins and minerals, essential to maintain a varied diet. To raise awareness and promote their consumption, World Cereal Day is celebrated every March 7. Therefore, today we want to know more about cereals as food; we will see some types and we will go back to its origins. Join us if you want to celebrate Cereals Day with us.
World Cereals Day
If you remember our gastronomic calendar for 2023, March 7 is World Cereal Day. Like most anniversaries, the origin of this celebration was in the United States, when cereals began to gain popularity in the area.
The purpose of this event is to highlight the importance of cereals as food, both as human food and animal feed. For, cereals, besides helping in times of famine, thanks to its easy cultivation, are also used as food for livestock, thus favoring, economizing and facilitating their breeding. That is why cereals are a very important food.
Cereal Day gives greater visibility to the cereal industry in general. Regardless of the different products produced by this industry. Because we use cereals for so many purposes.
But what are cereals?
Cereals are plants of the family Poaceae, which are cultivated for their grain. The size of the grain of some cereals has been the product of the domestication of this crop over thousands of years.
Its name comes from the Latin, Ceres, who was the goddess of agriculture.
They are very important foods in our diet and nutrition, and are at the base of our Mediterranean Diet. We also find them at the base of the pyramid, and one to two servings are recommended at each main meal. They are also rich in proteins, vitamins A and B, amino acids and other minerals.
In addition, if we combine them with legumes, we get the perfect couple; which will provide us with high quality nutrients thanks to the combination of nutrients of both, which favor the assimilation of their contributions, as we saw in: Legumes and Cereals, a combination with high protein intake.
Cereal Day: What are the benefits of cereals?
Cereals are a good source of nutrients, essential for a balanced and nutritious diet. In general terms, they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats and proteins.
They are also high in carbohydrates and mineral salts. And, if we talk about whole grains, they also provide a large amount of fiber.
They are rich, above all, in group A and B vitamins. But with refining, cereals lose a large amount of vitamins and mineral salts.
But, in addition to the benefits that their consumption brings us, cereals are also used in other industries. For example, in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, vitamin supplements, pharmaceuticals or personal care products.
These are the contributions of some of the best known ones
There are many types of cereals in our diet, each one has different vitamin and nutrient contributions. But some of them, to celebrate World Cereals Day, are:
- Wheat, stands out for its enormous energetic contribution. It is also rich in protein, calcium and iron.
- Barley is a source of potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. It is also a great natural antioxidant, thanks to selenium, zinc, magnesium and copper.
- Rice. One of the most basic cereals in our diet. In addition, it is one of the most consumed cereals worldwide, only behind wheat. It has an important contribution of easily digestible carbohydrates. It is also a source of thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
- Corn, it is a source of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron and copper. It also contains important minerals such as selenium.
- Rye, an important source of protein, contains B vitamins and minerals such as selenium and zinc.
- Oats, oats contain vitamins of group B, E and zinc. It also provides us with proteins and carbohydrates. And it is a good source of fiber.
- Barley, it provides us with vitamins of group B and vitamin K. In addition to folic acid and choline. It is also remarkable for its contribution of trace elements such as iron, sulfur, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine…
Celebrate Cereal Day by learning about their origin.
It is believed to have emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the development of agriculture. It was introduced into the human diet more than 10,000 years ago.
At that time, human beings went from a diet based exclusively on hunting and gathering products to a diet with a high cereal content.
Centuries later, between the 20th and 21st centuries, the so-called green revolution took place, which consisted of an enormous increase in agricultural productivity. And with it, the increase in the cultivation of cereals.
Uses of cereals
The main use we know of cereals is as food, mainly for human consumption, where the most commonly used are wheat, rice and corn. In that order. Perhaps the first food that comes to mind when talking about cereals is bread.
But we can also find vegetable milks thanks to cereals, for example oats or rice are used for them.
Another of the main foods that are elaborated with cereal is the pasta, which we can find it of multitude of types. For example, it can be elaborated with wheat, rye, rice, corn?
And, finally, the sweetest form that we have of consuming cereal (but not for it less healthy, whenever we choose well), in flakes. For this, the most used are oats and corn.
In addition to all these uses that cereal has in human food, it has also become a staple in animal feed. This has helped to increase its production, since most animal feed is made from cereal. And not only for farm animals, but also for domestic animals, which may not like it because cereal is not part of their diet.
We end with the industrial uses of cereal. It is used in the production of ethyl alcohol and alcoholic beverages such as beer, gin, vodka, whiskey and shake.
The gluten present in cereals is widely used for its viscoelastic capacity; therefore, it is found in many processed foods as a binder. But it is also used in pharmaceutical products such as medicines, vitamin supplements, adhesive bandages and adhesive plasters… It is used to make various cosmetics and personal care products ranging from lipstick to toothpaste.
But are grains healthy for everyone?
Although they are found in the food base of our Mediterranean Diet, most cereals contain gluten. All those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease cannot eat these foods.
There is also a trend that claims that consuming cereals is very harmful to health, and that they promote overweight. But here we are already entering into arduous debates where there are interests at stake.
Are all cereals equally bad? The basis of the diet of one of the longest-lived and healthiest cultures, for centuries, is and has been rice. We are talking about the Chinese culture, where rice is an essential ingredient. Or when people say that they are bad, they are referring to cereals or ultra-processed derivatives; to which many more “ingredients” are added along the way; on the other hand, not healthy at all?
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