What are cereals?


A cereal is any grass cultivated for the edible components of its grain. This belongs to the monocot families ‘Poaceae or Gramineae’ which are cultivated widely to obtain the edible components of their fruit seeds. Botanically, a type of fruit called ‘caryopsis’ composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran.

Cereal grains are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop and are therefore staple crops.

In their natural form (as in whole grain), cereals are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein. When refined by the removal of the bran and germ, the remaining endosperm is mostly carbohydrate. In some developing nations, grain in the form of rice, wheat, millet, or maize constitutes a majority of daily sustenance. In developed nations, cereal consumption is moderate and varied but still substantial.

The word cereal is derived from Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvest and agriculture.

Types of cereals

Rice: Rice is possibly the most familiar, cultivated kind of cereal in the world. Though consumed in all parts of the world; rice cannot grow especially in cold regions. Most countries use it as their main food and some restaurants have invented some interesting recipes that go along with it.

Wheat: Wheat is one of the dominant cereals consumed. Commonly in India, Australia, North America, Europe and New Zealand. Wheat is a significant ingredient in our foods especially in Bread, biscuits, pastries, porridge, cakes, crackers, pancakes, pies, cookies, rolls, muffins, doughnuts, and also some breakfast cereals. It rich in nutrients and has a lot of health benefits in humans body. It is also in a different form and has different species too.

Brown Rice: Brown rice is another delicious of rice that contains a lot of nutrients vitamin B group, particularly riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Maize: This is a vital cereal in continents like Africa, South America, and it is also used as animal feed all over the world. We all know ‘Cornflakes’ are nothing but the flaked form of maize. A well-known corn product which is called Popcorn has been one of the best snacks for ages all over the world. This cereal is native to Mexico, here the maize corn is ground into a flour called as ‘masa harina’ or cornmeal; this is quite different from the cornflour. Makki roti from Punjab is made from corn meal. Polenta from Italy is also made from cornmeal. This is one of the flours that is free from gluten.

Oats: Oats are well known as breakfast in almost all the countries. It’s contains a lot of fibre property. They are vital for all ages and also used as livestock feed. Broken oats are called as grits; which is commonly eaten for breakfast.

Barley: This is a cereal, and it’s a highly nutritional one. It’s usually grown for malting. The husked and polished Barley is known as Pearl Barley, is used in soups or salads.

Sorghum: This is also consumed more in Africa and Asia. It also serves as a good livestock feed. Sorghum can grow in an environment where other crops do not grow well.

Millet: This is widely grown in Africa and Asia Countries. Countries like Russia, China and Germany used it to prepare porridge. Usually used for alcoholic beverages and also used for animal feed and birds.

Rye: This is a key cereal grown in cold climates. They are used for making breads, beer, whiskeys, vodka and also used animal feeds.

Buckwheat: This cereal is mainly used in pancakes, noodles and porridge. It is used as wheat cereal, but its characteristics are not the same as wheat. This cereal is also very high in protein and amino acids.

Source: Davis, B., 1987. Food Commodities. Second Edition ed. Wiltshire: Heinemann Professional Publishing Ltd.

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