Know Your Grains: Millet, Quinoa and Cornmeal

Grains are a great alternative carbohydrate but is there a difference between these popular grains: millet, quinoa, cornmeal?

First things first, their similarities are their high level of phytonutrient which are powerful anti-oxidants, essential for fighting free radicals. They are also high in fiber, which is great for improving digestion and prevents colon cancer. As for millet and quinoa, they are both naturally anti-gluten, therefore suitable for those with celiac disease.



Millet is a small grain, finer than quinoa. It is the 6th most planted grain in the world whose consistency depends on the method of cooking. You can make it creamy like mash potatoes or fluffy like rice. Millet has recently been known to carry high amount of phytochemical – antioxidants and fiber.

Preparing millet:

Rinse millet thoroughly under running water, remove any dirt or debris.  After rinsing, add 1 part millet to 2 1/2 parts boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. The texture of millet cooked this way will be fluffy like rice. If you want the millet to have a more creamy consistency, stir it frequently adding a little water every now and then.

Suggested recipes:

1. Spice up your dinner with millet because they are healthier alternatives to rice or potatoes.

2. For breakfast, mix cooked millet ‘porridge’ with nuts, maple syrup or fruits.

3. Prepare millet fries by mixing 1/4 cup of yeast, 1 tsp grated powder, 1 tsp paprika, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste into cooked and chilled millet. Spread unto baking dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours till hard. Cover pan with cling wrap. Once ready, slice and fry away.



Quinoa is one of the latest craze in health food because it was recently discovered to be high in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, it’s nutritional benefit does not easily alter with cooking, making it relatively stable. Because quinoa is often consumed the same way as cereals, they are often mistakenly grouped in within this family, together with rye, barley, wheat, etc. However, quinoa is actually a member of the same food family that contains spinach, Swiss chard and beets. In addition, it is a great source of protein for vegetarians as it is a complete protein-containing all 9 essential amino acids the body cannot produce. Not many vegetables fall under this category.

Preparing Quinoa:

Quinoa has a outer layer which has a bitter taste. To remove this layer,  place the quinoa seeds in a fine-meshed strainer and run cold water over the quinoa while gently rubbing the seeds together in your hands. Taste a few seeds to determine if a bitter taste remains. If it does, simply continue this rinsing and rubbing process until you no longer taste a bitter residue.

To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and after that, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. One cup of quinoa cooked in this method usually takes 15 minutes to prepare. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent.

Suggested recipes:

1. Make a quinoa salad by adding it into the mix, especially good with feta.

2. Cook quinoa curry by adding chopped onions, pre-packed curry paste (available in asian stores) and stir in hot oil. Add vegetables and raw quinoa and 1 liter of coconut milk, stir for 10 minutes, bringing the curry to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with naan bread.



Cornmeal is the flour you get from grounded maize (corn). It falls under the grain family. Recent studies show that cornmeal act as an effective probiotic, helping improve gut health by displacing bad bacteria with good ones. Cornmeal also provides powerful phytonutrients that functions as anti-oxidents, making it a wonderful prevention against colon cancer. 

Suggested recipes:

1. Prepare cornmeal pancakes by replace wheat flour for cornmeal in any recipe you have. Goes well with maple syrup and butter. Yum!

In conclusion, while many have tried, tasted and tested brown rice and didn’t embrace this change with open arms, you can now opt for either one of these grains. Essentially, they are superfoods that can be easily incorporated into our Asian diet because rice is a staple meal in this part of the world. For those who wish to cut down on their simple carbohydrate intake and control diabetes (an endemic among Asians), these ‘smart-carbs’ serves as tasteful alternative to rice. Easy to store, prepare, and cook, it’s a wonder why we’re not making changes to our diet sooner.