To get a balance of proteins the body needs, you must recognize which foods are legumes and which are grains.
There is a large variety of grains with differing flavors and textures to choose from. These seeds of grasses or similar plants have fed the earth's population for thousands of years, for they are rich in calories and several essential nutrients. Refined grains tend to be lower in these nutrients unless the vitamins and minerals have been replenished after the grain has been ground into flour. The refining process also removes a large portion of the protein, vitamin E, and fiber. Low blood levels of vitamin E are being investigated for their role in cancer and heart disease. Low dietary fiber is thought to be related to rectal and other gastrointestinal cancers, hemorrhoids, constipation and diverticulosis.
There are a few differences among various grains. Some listed below are not grains by the truest definition - amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and wild rice - but all can be prepared and enjoyed similarly. If you are looking for grains that are gluten-free, look to rice, corn, buckwheat, and millet. Avoid whole grain products that are not refrigerated in the grocery store, since the oil tends to become rancid more quickly. Whole grains can be kept for 5-6 months in a refrigerator or freezer. They can be kept in an airtight container in a cool spot in your home for up to 1 month.
Don't forget that grain products come in many forms. Pastas, breads including the whole wheat, white, and sprouted varieties, muffins, rice cakes, corn and wheat flour tortillas, breakfast cereals, oat and wheat bran are all there to add interest and variety of your meals as well as nutrition.
Eating processed, prepared foods is expensive - even if they are meatless. Buy grains in bulk and seasonal produce, and make as much as you can yourself. Then if you want to splurge on extra-juicy organic blackberries or time-saving convenience foods, do so with a clear conscience. You are likely saving plenty on medical bills.
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