Let’s talk Whole Grains
Wheat, rice, oats. Those are the only grains, right? Thankfully, this is not the case. There are so many different kinds of grains, maybe ones you’ve never even tried!
Keep in mind, it’s not completely necessary to include grains, but if you choose to eat grains, go whole grain for added benefits! Also, maintaining variety in your life is important. It staves off boredom with our food and helps us get a breadth of different nutrients. Hint, hint…let’s try some different whole grains 🙂
First, some info about grains.
Whole or refined grains—What’s the difference?
Grain—wheat, or any other cultivated cereal crop. A grain is made up of three key parts: bran, germ and endosperm. A whole grain has all three components. A refined grain, on the other hand, is missing at least one of these parts, but usually both the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. The refining process reduces the protein content of the grain and also reduces several nutrients, becoming a mere shadow of the original whole grain. Some of the nutrients most affected by the refining process include vitamin E, folate, antioxidants and B vitamins including folate, thiamin and riboflavin.
The refining process was originally intended to increase shelf life—as the bran and germ are highly perishable—but was also found to remove much of the nutritional value. Once it was realized that refining grains removed important nutrients, they started enriching these refined grains. This means they add nutrients (specifically the B vitamins) back in. This sounds like a good idea, but these added nutrients are not as bioavailable and are a large downgrade from simply keeping the nutrients there in the first place. It seems like a big hassle to take nutrients away and then add some of them back when we could just keep grains whole, with all their original nutrients intact!
Now let’s talk about buying whole grains. It can be hard to make healthy choices at the grocery store because there are just too many options. Much of the labeling today can be misleading, so here are a few tips to help you sort through the graininess.
What to look for…
When choosing any grain-based products:
- Choose 100% whole grain
- Look for 100% whole grain on the label and make sure whole grain is the first ingredient. Often times for example, a loaf of bread may list whole grain or whole wheat on the front of the package, but may contain only some whole wheat. It may also have enriched flour and caramel coloring.
- Choose minimally processed products that are as close to their natural state as possible. With that being said, grains inherently need some processing, but the less processing the better.
Looking for these key features will help you make better choices when it comes to your grain-based food items.
On another note, there are several pseudo grains that we include in the whole grain category. Many are seeds like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. Although technically not grains, most people treat and eat them like grains so I’ve included them in our whole grain discussion.
A whole lot of choices!
Whole wheat, quinoa, oats, steel cut oats, corn, wheat berries, amaranth, farro, freekah, buckwheat, brown rice, black rice, wild rice, barley, kaniwa, teff, rye, bulgar, spelt, millet, triticale and the list goes on…
Choosing whole grains instead of refined grains is an important way to improve nutrition and can reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk.
Check out our whole grains guide for more information about different whole grains including cook times and recipe ideas!
Want some more ideas for recipes with whole grains? We’ve got you covered with more recipes featuring different whole grains including the delicious apple wheat berry salad below!Print
Sweet, nutty, chewy and delicious! This fiber-packed salad will become your new salad staple!
- 1 cup wheat berries
- 2 cups water
- 1 apple, chopped
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon mint, chopped for garnish
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine wheat berries and water in a 2 quart pot over medium heat, bring to a boil and let simmer until wheat berries are tender, about 1 hour.
- Drain wheat berries (if needed), then transfer to a medium bowl. Add apple, walnuts and green onions to bowl with wheat berries.
- Prepare dressing: whisk lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt and pepper until combined.
- Add dressing and mint just before serving. Enjoy!
Prepare the wheat berries ahead of time for a quick salad in about 10 minutes!
Check out our FREE Whole Grains Guide!→→→→→→→→→→→