I’ve learnt a lot thus far in my few weeks at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. The health issues with white flour, for example, which make a strong case to switch to whole grains. White flour robs your body of nutrients and the refining process removes most of the nutrients that are in the whole grain to begin with. White flour doesn’t pack as much healthy fibre as whole grains, nor does it have the rich natural compendium of vitamins and minerals.
I have a sensitivity to wheat (although I can eat it in small amounts) which has pushed me to seek out other delicious whole grains. Brown rice, for example. Oats. Qunioa. I can tolerate gluten, so am loving kamut bread. But I had yet to try the fascinating grain millet.
Millet is a recent addition to the North American diet, although it’s been used in Asia for thousands of years. A whole grain, it has some protein but no gluten, making it a smart choice for those with gluten intolerances. It is also the most alkaline of the grains; our bodies are alkaline and therefore we generally want to eat a diet richer in alkaline foods over those high in acid. This pertains to how foods break down in our bodies, so sometimes foods that are acidic in nature (ie citrus fruits) actually leave an alkaline ash in our bodies. For the most part, fruits and vegetables are alkaline while meats and starches are acidic. Too much acid can upset the pH balance in our bodies and cause congestion. Millet being the most alkaline of the grains is thus potentially the least congesting.
It is high in fibre and contains good amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and a little vitamin E. It is especially high in the minerals iron, magnesium and potassium. It’s a terrific grain to consume in Winter or colder weather as it is a warming grain and helps to heat the body. (all information on millet from Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Haas, MD)
One of my nutrition goals is to increase the amount of fibre I eat. Also, with the amount I train, it’s important for me to consume plenty of protein. All that coupled with my intense desire to try millet led me to come up with a high-fibre high-protein vegetarian chili.
It’s packed full of chickpeas and mixed beans for fibre. Quinoa provides a healthy dose of protein while the combination of lentils and millet add even more. I threw in some turnip on a whim.
I encourage you to experiment with the recipe. Change the grains- omit millet if you can’t find it. Throw in some brown rice. Substitute or add other vegetables. Play around with the spices (although the combination of turmeric, cinnamon and cumin is quite delicious). Throw in whatever you have slowly rotting, erm, ripening, in the back of your fridge (just make sure it hasn’t spoiled yet!) Add fresh herbs at the end. Just don’t omit the zucchini- it becomes delectably sweet with a little cookery.
I enjoy leftovers and could eat this chili for a week so amounts are generous. Feel free to slash everything in half. I particularly like generous helpings of spices, so definitely doctor those to your preference.
VEGETARIAN CHILI STARRING MILLET
1 can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 can tomato sauce (pick something with the words “zesty” or “chiles” in the label- or make your own!)
1 can mixed beans, drained and rinsed well
1 can chickpeas, drained and mixed well
1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup millet
1 can green chiles
1 turnip, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 tbsps cinnamon
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsps cumin
Salt and pepper to season
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chickpeas, beans, lentils, quinoa, millet and turnip chunks to a large pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boil, making sure to stir often so the grains and other ingredients don’t clump and stick to the bottom.
Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and let cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and all spices (but not salt or pepper). Continue to cook, covered and stirring often 7-10 minutes or until all grains, lentils and turnip are cooked through. If too liquidy, leave uncovered for the last 5 minutes of cooking, but make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate too much or everything wil stick to the bottom.
Season with salt and pepper. Leave the cinnamon sticks in to add flavour if storing leftovers but remove before eating.