Just when we thought we’d uncovered all of the amazing ancient grains out there, we’ve stumbled across yet another hiding in plain sight. In this case, it’s actually a grain mixture known as pinole, which can promote weight loss, regulate blood sugar, keep energy levels up, and more!
Pinole dates back centuries to the Aztecs of Mexico. It’s sort of like grits, but with purple maize (or corn) rather than yellow as the main ingredient. It is also traditionally roasted with cacao before being ground into a fine powder. Most mixtures include warm spices like cinnamon and a small amount of sugar for sweetness, too.
The use of purple corn provides this dish with a ton of nutrients. Perhaps most notably, researchers recently found that the high level of anthocyanins (the antioxidant compound responsible for the veggie’s vibrant color) can help ward off obesity, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. It’s the same antioxidant found in similarly hued foods like blueberries, cherries, and blackberries.
Roasting the corn with cacao not only gives it a rich, slightly bitter flavor, but also more antioxidant power that’s been shown to ward off fatty liver disease and regulate metabolism. Plus, the common addition of cinnamon is another great way to keep blood sugar in check.
According to Alex Caspero, a registered dietician who wrote about pinole for Food Network, the mixture also has ample amounts of fiber and complex carbohydrates — two helpful nutrients for maintaining a healthy gut, keeping energy levels up, and shedding a few pounds. She added that the indigenous Tarahumara community in Mexico, who are renowned for their long-distance running, famously rely on pinole as fuel for their impressive endurance.
You can find pinole mixes at Mexican grocery stores or online, like The Pinole Project (Buy on Amazon, $8.95) which offers blends with other healthy ingredients like chia seeds and rolled oats. Give it a try and you might just find yourself feeling like you could run a marathon! (Or at least get through the day without an afternoon coffee pick-me-up.)