Ok ladies this week we are going to switch it up. While many of you may find it easiest to diet if you eat the same thing every day I’m going to ask you to step out of your comfort zone and a tiny bit of experimenting this week.
I’m sure you can guess that if you eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner day in and day out you get the same nutrients and might be missing out on other important ones.
So what am I going to encourage you to try? GRAINS!
In our hurried and busy world- white bread has become the norm, while whole grains have been relegated to the back of the health food store. Refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life. The refining process also strips them of flavor, nutrients, and life -- leaving behind just the bland byproducts that have little value. If you asked my children what saying I most often quoted when they were growing up they would probably reply “The Whiter the Bread the sooner you’re dead.” Yes I am a whole grain advocate!
As the Whole Grains Council explains, whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Even if the grain has been processed (like cracked, crushed, rolled, or extruded), the product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain.
(Note: Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat are not official members of the grain family, but these "pseudo-grains" are included because their nutritional profile, preparation, and use are very similar.)
And so here are a few grains you might like to try! Note the listed links will take you to recipes on the Whole Grains Council Website
Health benefits: Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s the only grain confirmed to contain Vitamin C. Its protein content of 13-14% makes it higher than most other grains—and it’s a “complete” protein because it contains lysine, an amino acid that not many other grains contain.
Good for: Salads, baking, porridge, soups. And you can pop it, too!
Tips: Remains slightly crunchy, use at least 6 cups of water for every one cup of amaranth, cooks in 15-20 minutes.
Health benefits: Barley has the highest fiber content of all the grains, with common varieties ringing up about 17% fiber. It's high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Good for: Side dishes, barley bread, porridge, barley flour for baking.
Tips: Pearl barley is missing some or all of its bran layer, so look for hulled barley or hulless barley, both of which retain their nourishment. Whole grain barley can take 50-60 minutes to cook -- so cook a big batch then refrigerate it or freeze.
3. Brown Rice
Health benefits: Unlike white rice, brown rice provides vitamin E and is high in fiber. It also contains generous amounts of manganese, magnesium, and selenium, as well as tryptophan.
Good for: Replacing white rice in any recipe -- soups, stews, puddings, and pilafs
Health benefits: Buckwheat contains higher levels of zinc, copper, and manganese than most grains -- it also provides a very high amount of protein (second highest only to oats). It is rich in lysine, and its amino acid score is 100, which is one of the highest amino acid scores among plant sources!
Good for: Soba noodles, crepes, blinis, kasha, pancakes.
Health benefits: Bulgar is whole wheat berries that have been boiled, dried, and cracked. It has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn. It is commonly made from durum wheat, but almost any wheat, hard or soft, red or white, can be used.
Good for: Tabbouleh, side dishes, pilafs, salads.
Tips: Because bulgur has been precooked, it only needs to be boiled for 10 minutes or so.
Health benefits: Not just for the birds, millet is actually the main staple grain in India, and is popular in China, South America, Russia and the Himalayas. Millet is high in antioxidant activity, and especially high in magnesium. Research shows that millet is helpful in controlling diabetes and inflammation.
Good for: Indian roti, porridge
Tips: Millet has a mild flavor and is often mixed with other grains or toasted before cooking, to bring out the full extent of its delicate flavor. Its tiny grain can be white, gray, yellow or red. Most sources recommend cooking millet with about 2 ½ cups of liquid for each cup of millet grain.
Health benefits: Like barley, oats offer a unique kind of fiber known as beta-glucan, which is powerful in lowering cholesterol. Studies also show that oats also have a special antioxidant, avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
Good for: Oatmeal, cookies, veggie burgers, baked fruit topping.
Tips: Most oats in the U.S. are steamed and flattened to make regular (rolled) oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. Look for the chewier, nuttier texture of steel-cut oats (also called Irish or Scottish oats) which have the entire oat kernel which are sliced into smaller pieces for easier cooking.
Health benefits: Quinoa is a "pseudo-cereal" (it is actually related to beets, chard and spinach), but that doesn't make us love it any less. This superfood promotes super good health as it is one of the only plant foods that's a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids. Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
Good for: Pilafs, soups, porridge, risotto, puddings, salads, side dishes.
• Blueberry maple quinoa (pictured top)
Health benefits: Rye's not just for diner toast with eggs, rye berries are a rich source of fiber, particularly arabinoxylan, which is also known for its high antioxidant activity. Rye grain contains phenolic acids, lignans, alkylresorcinos and many other salubrious compounds.
Good for: Side dishes, pilafs, soup, salads.
Health benefits: Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat. It is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of protein, copper, and zinc. It is high in fiber, and contain notably more protein than wheat. Spelt is also higher in B complex vitamins, and both simple and complex carbohydrates.
Good for: Use spelt flour in place of regular four; spelt berries are good for side dishes, salads and cereal.
Tips: Spelt can be found in both whole and refined form in our food supply – so look for the words whole spelt.
Health benefits: Teff leads all the grains – by a long shot – in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123 mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient not commonly found in grains.
Good for: Teff is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians, who use it for their signature, spongy injera flatbread. Also used for porridge, baked goods, “teff polenta.”
Tips: Teff grains are Lilliputian – just 1/150 the size of wheat kernels. White or ivory teff is the mildest in flavor, with darker varities having more of a nutty, earthy taste. Many, having only eaten teff in injera, think it has a sour taste, but that's because it's fermented in that recipe -- in general, teff has a light, sweet flavor.
So while I would love to challenge you to eat ONLY whole grains this week or to cook something with a new grain every day I’m going to go a bit easier on you. Please do your best to try some new whole grains (there are many others I haven’t listed here- Black rice is my favorite rice) and to substitute whole grain products wherever possible for their less nutritious refined grain substitutes.
IF YOU TRY A NEW WHOLE GRAIN (OR ONE YOU DON’T EAT OFTEN) THIS WEEK YOU CAN CLAIM THE 35 BONUS POINTS.
Note: I would prefer you cook your grain at home from scratch but if you opt instead to buy a prepared whole grain product you will be able to make sure it is whole grain by looking for this label certifying the product! (Don't be fooled by the basic stamp that looks similar. Find the stamp with 100% whole grain as pictured below)