Content

Introduction

Introduction

With the term cereal we mean any herbaceous plant belonging to the family of Grasses, which produces starchy, floury, edible seeds - defined kernels but commonly, and improperly, called "Seeds or grains”- used both in human and animal nutrition and from the grinding of which flour is obtained.

Wheat, corn, oats, barley, spelled, their flours and the foods derived from them (bread, pasta, rice) play a fundamental role in human nutrition as they bring carbohydrates, the main energy source of the organism, to the organism. vitamins of the B complex and minerals, as well as small amounts of proteins and various essential amino acids and are, especially when integral, an important source of dietary fiber, which does not have its own nutritional or energetic function but is involved in the regulation of intestinal activity , improving the transit and elimination of feces.

Furthermore, numerous beneficial compounds are located in different parts of the caryopsis. They include beta-glucans, lignans, tocotrienols, folates, fructans, phytosterols, polyphenols, policosanols, phytates, pentosans, arabinoxylans, substances that perform numerous biological activities (prebiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic) and contribute to the reduction of the risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and neural tube defects.

Classification

Classification

On the market we can find whole grains, hulled and pearled: three stages in the processing of the grain that give the cereal itself different characteristics.

There caryopsis (grain) has an external coating layer, called bran, an intermediate layer and the embryo that represents the seed (germ): if the grain is ground whole, whole flours are obtained; if the bran is eliminated, instead, flours are produced refined.

According to the manufacturing process, we can distinguish:

  • Whole grains, when they also include the outer shell of the grain (bran) which is the richest part of fiber, minerals and vitamins of group B
  • hulled cereals, which are obtained after an initial refining process with the loss of a large part of the bran
  • pearl cereals, result of a further degree of refining which leads to the total loss of bran and germ. Only the called part remains of the grain endosperm, rich in starch, therefore carbohydrates, and low in vitamins and minerals

According to the type of cereal, the following are distinguished:

  • wheat or grain, of two main varieties: wheat or durum wheat and wheat or soft wheat. From the grinding of the soft type we obtain the flour which is then used for bread making, while from the hard type we obtain the semolina which is used for the production of pasta.
  • triticale, much more resistant cereal, of artificial origin, originating from the crossing with rye
  • barley, it contains good amounts of starch, protein, fiber, phosphorus and niacin. It has a processing similar to that of rice and in addition to food consumption in grains (polished barley) it is used as a raw material for other productions: blown to obtain flakes, toasted and ground to prepare the common drink. From the germination of barley kernels, malt is obtained which is widely used for the production of beer, whiskey and vodka
  • Emmer, it has a caryopsis characterized by an external coating that remains even after the various refining treatments, so much so that the seed is defined as "dressed". Spelled contains starch and simple carbohydrates, protein and fiber in good quantities, potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins
  • rice, it has a good supply of B vitamins, compared to other cereals it contains more starch, is gluten-free and has proteins of greater biological value. On the market there are several varieties that are distinguished by the size of the grains: common rice, semi-fine, fine and super-fine. There is also the parboiled type, subjected to a pre-cooking process
  • corn, also called corn or maize; there are several varieties used for different purposes. The guy toothed is intended for animal feed, the vitreous is ground for the production of flour, the perlino is used for popcorn, the sweet is what is commonly found on the market, the tender it is used for the extraction of starch (cornstarch) and the dress it is used as an ornamental plant.Corn flour compared to wheat flour has a higher content of fats and carbohydrates, but it has proteins with a lower biological value; has a good content of phosphorus and potassium and does not contain gluten (read the Bufala)
  • buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa (also called pseudocereals because they do not belong to the Graminaceae family), together with millet and sorghum, such as rice and corn, excellent for celiacs as they are gluten-free
Nutritional indications

Nutritional indications

On a nutritional level, cereals represent an "excellent energy source as they are rich in carbohydrates. According to the Guidelines for proper nutrition, about 45-60% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates, of which at least three quarters in the form of complex carbohydrates and no more than the remaining quarter in the form of simple carbohydrates.

The importance of carbohydrates derives from the fact that they are easily absorbed and used by the body, ensuring the cells a supply of glucose and therefore of energy. Starch requires some digestive work to turn into glucose, which is why it is absorbed more slowly and provides energy for a longer period of time.

Cereals are the basis of the Mediterranean diet and due to their intake of complex carbohydrates they should be consumed daily.

In the face of a large amount of different cereals, the respective nutritional tables can undergo variations in the nutrient content. In this regard, it would be a good idea to vary your choices as much as possible as well as use unrefined cereals and flours, which therefore contain a higher percentage of fiber (wholemeal or type 1 and type 2 flours compared to 0 and 00 flour).

LARN and daily intake

LARN and daily intake

The latest revision of the Nutrient and Energy Reference Intake Levels (LARN) prepared by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition (SINU) provides precise indications on the recommended daily doses for cereals and derivatives.

Bread

For bread, the portion is 50 grams (g); this weight refers to 1 small sandwich, 1 small rosette or michetta (empty), ½ ciabattina / francesino / ferrarese, 1 medium slice of loaf / loaf, 1/5 of baguette.

Pasta

For semolina pasta and dried egg pasta, couscous, semolina, rice, corn, spelled, barley, etc. the portion is 80 g, but in soups it is 50 g. The portion of fresh egg pasta is of 100 g and of 125 g that of the stuffed egg pasta.

Bread substitutes, breakfast cereals and biscuits

The reference portion is 30 g, corresponding approximately to 3-4 rusks, 1 packet of crackers or breadsticks, 1 fresella, 3-4 tarallini, 3-8 tablespoons of breakfast cereals depending on the type, and 2 -5 biscuits depending on the type.

Salty baked goods

The portion of savory baked goods has been reduced to 30 g both because they are richer in energy and salt than bread, and because the portions actually available on the market vary from 25 to 35 g.

Brioche, croissant, croissant

The standard portion is 50 g, but differences are reported depending on the types of product. Stuffed croissants have a heavier weight (about 70 g) and packaged snacks have an average weight of 40 g.

Conservation methods

Conservation methods

Cereals and their derivatives (flours, baked goods, dry pasta) must be stored in well-closed packages, in rooms with a temperature not exceeding 15 ° C, naturally in the absence of humidity and mold. In the case of filled or egg "pasta, it is necessary to use low temperatures, so we are talking about refrigeration, freezing or deep-freezing according to the expected storage times. In the case of packaged baked goods, the storage time is much longer because they are added preservative chemical additives with antimicrobial and antioxidant function.

The storage of cereals on farms and their transport is regulated by ministerial and regional regulations and laws. What is good to keep in mind is that even in the pantries of the house there are small tricks that allow us to avoid nasty surprises.

We always remember that flours have a short life and are very afraid of humidity, so it is a good idea to always check the labels and store them in a dry place.

Cooking methods

Cooking methods

Cereal grains are mostly marketed as flour, therefore as a product obtained from grinding, used in the production of pasta, bread, confectionery etc.

We can find cereal grains on the market, as well as whole, also puffed, toasted or crushed. In these varieties, we can eat them cooked or raw, depending on what you want to get. The grains can then be sprouted by using the sprouts in salads.

Cereal flours are used in cooking as thickeners for sauces, dressings.

In-depth link

In-depth link

Italian Society of Human Nutrition (SINU). LARN - Reference levels of nutrient and energy intake for the Italian population: quantitative standards of portions. 2014; IV revision

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