For ‘ancient grains,’ a future in the American diet
ALBANY, New York (AP) — Amid the aisles of spaghetti and canned peas, cereals and breads made with mysterious-sounding grains such as amaranth and quinoa are sprouting up at major supermarkets.
Wheat is still king of this country’s whole grains, but the appearance of such alternatives indicates consumers are beginning to expand a niche market once relegated to the obscure corners of health food stores.
“People are realizing there’s a benefit to eating a diversity of grains — and these grains have some incredible nutritional properties,” said Carole Fenster, an author of numerous cookbooks that incorporate wheat-free grains.
New federal guidelines recommending three servings of whole grains a day have put a spotlight on wheat, but exposure to barley, brown rice and other options has also grown, said Alice Lichtenstein, chair of the nutrition committee at the American Heart Association.
According to the marketing information company ACNielsen, sales of products with whole grain claims on their packages for the year ending April 22 increased 9.5 percent from the previous year.
NuWorld Amaranth, one of the country’s main buyers of amaranth, reported a 300 percent increase in sales in the past three years. Bob’s Red Mill, which sells alternative wheat-free grains, saw a 25 percent increase in sales in the past year, with quinoa driving the bulk of the growth.
Amaranth, grown for millennia by the Aztecs, has twice as much iron as wheat and is higher in protein and fiber. Quinoa, an ancient Andean crop, has less fiber but more protein and iron than wheat.
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