Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains include all three parts of the grain kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. By having all three parts of the grain present, whole grains pack a mighty punch in the nutrient content department. Along with being an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants and prebiotics, whole grains are also rich in vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium and iron. Nutrient dense whole grains are a part of a balanced diet and contribute to your overall health by helping to prevent chronic disease; by increasing them in your diet, you help to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and high cholesterol.
Whole grains are very versatile and there is a variety of them to choose from. They differ in their taste, texture, flavor and color but the one thing they all have in common is the rich goodness of their nutrient content. Not only do they contribute to your overall long-term health, they keep your taste buds happy. Whole grains can be prepared in an assortment of ways and can easily be added to soups, salads and casseroles or used as side dishes. They also make easy, satisfying snacks when paired with protein sources. Make at least half of your grains whole grains every day to reap the benefits and positively contribute to your health.
How to Cook Whole Grains
Whole grains can be cooked in a variety of ways, the easiest being purchasing pre-cooked grains which can be found in your local grocer’s grain aisle. Products such as “90-second brown rice” or “quick cooking oats” are available in most all grocery stores.
Alternatively, if you want to hone in on your cooking skills, consider buying whole grains in their simplest form. Most grain products bought at the store will have cooking instructions on the container, but for the more adventurous soul buying grains out of the bulk containers here are some quick tips for preparation: boil them like you would rice, add water or broth to a pan and bring to a boil and then allow the grains to simmer until they turn tender, or brown the grains for a short time in a saucepan then add broth or water and allow the liquid to be fully absorbed before the grains are done.
Swap This with That
Whole grains can easily be swapped with white flour or refined grain food products. Try adding oats to recipes (such as chocolate chip cookies) by using them in place of some of the flour. Another way to sneak whole grains into your diet is by adding uncooked oats to ground meat when making meatballs, burgers or meatloaf. Whole grain or whole wheat breads are an easy switch to make, and substitute some of your white pasta for whole wheat pasta to make a more balanced meal.
Where to Buy Whole Grains
Purchase your favorite whole grains at your local grocery store – don’t forget to check the bulk section for organic options and discounted pricing. Utilize your local farmer’s markets for homegrown options to add to your pantry at home.
Try These Common Whole Grains
Considered a pseudo-cereal but not really categorized as a grain, the whole quinoa plant can be eaten including the leaves. Quinoa has been designated by the United Nations as a “super crop” because of its ability to grow in tough climates with minimal resources. Quinoa is gluten free which makes it popular among the celiac disease and wheat intolerance communities. Quinoa is rich in protein as well as potassium, which helps to control blood pressure. Quinoa is also rich in fiber, iron and B vitamins.
Farro is a term that encompasses three types of ancient wheat including einkorn, emmer and spelt. According to research, farro has shown to be higher in antioxidant content and contains magnesium, selenium and zinc- trace minerals needed for several body functions. Farro cannot be considered gluten free.
Spelt (farro), freekeh, black pearled barley:
Barley is rich in fiber, B vitamins, calcium and several trace minerals. This grain contributes to good bone health by way of these nutrients. It is not considered gluten-free.
Deemed an ancient grain, freekeh is most typically derived from the wheat grain and made through the process of picking young grain plants then roasting and rubbing the grain off the wheat head. Therefore, freekeh is not considered gluten free. Freekeh is high in protein and fiber, and low on the glycemic index profile. Due to the time-period of its harvest, Freekeh is considered to be more nutrient dense than other whole grains which contributes to a greater “bang for your buck” when consumed.