Perhaps your idea of a whole grain stops at some packaged cereal with a fancy “health” claim on the box.
Or, maybe you’ve been filling your stomach with overly processed, refined grains, in the form of white breads, cakes, and biscuits.
Either way, it’s time to change your eating.
Whole grains are the ‘good guys’ from the grain family, but what choices are available?
Here are 7 healthy whole grain foods to try out over the next few weeks:
1. Brown and Black Rice
White rice is highly refined, which means it has been stripped of many of its nutrients, and also much of the fiber.
However, the darker forms of rice are very good for you, being much higher in fiber and nutrients.
Brown rice is easy to substitute into your diet, simply use it as you would white rice, but remember to give some extra time, as it does take longer to cook.
Black rice is a relatively new contender for the “superfood” title. According to a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS),
One spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries and better yet, black rice offers more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants, but less sugar.
So, what is black rice exactly? Black rice is typically sold as unmilled rice, meaning the the fiber-rich black husks of the rice have not been removed.
Like other unmilled/less processed rice, black rice will take longer to cook, but rinsing and soaking before cooking will help to reduce the cooking time a bit.
As a general rule, one cup of black rice needs two cups of water. If you soaked it prior to cooking, around 20 to 30 minutes should be enough cooking time, or 60 minutes, if the rice is unsoaked.
Barley is another great whole grain option for adding to soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
It also contains important vitamins and minerals, and is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, making it another good choice for maintaining healthy bowels.
Barley can be eaten at breakfast in place of oatmeal, it is great made as risotto, or you could add it to your favorite soup or stew recipe.
Oats are one of my favorite options, and they release their energy slowly, which is why I always begin my day with a bowl of oats.
I also like to add oats to home baked recipes to increase the fiber a little, and I enjoy the nutty texture the oats give, too.
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) was a staple source of food for the Incas.
Try using quinoa in salads, stews, or here is a quinoa and barley breakfast recipe, if you want something a little different.
Spelt is similar to wheat, but some people find it is more easily tolerated, making it a good substitute in recipes which call for wheat flour.
Spelt has a higher level of nutrients than wheat, and is also higher in protein.
If you are allergic to wheat, you may be able to tolerate spelt. However, if you are celiac, spelt is not suitable for you, as it is still related to wheat, although not identical.
Spelt can be used in many of the same ways you would use wheat, such as bread making.
Studies have shown buckwheat may help to protect against diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Although buckwheat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb, most people think of it as a cereal grain, and from a culinary perspective, that is why I have included it here, too.
Buckwheat is gluten free, and also contains high levels of important nutrients.
You could add buckwheat to baked goods by combining with another flour, or eat it as a substitute for oats at breakfast time. Another idea is to add cooked buckwheat to soups and stews.
Amaranth is also very nutrient dense, containing around four times as much calcium as wheat, and twice as much iron and magnesium. It is also gluten free.
Amaranth can be used as a substitute for flour, or it can be cooked like a hot cereal (porridge-like), a pilaff dish, or even popped in a skillet as you would do with popcorn.
Writing this article has given me lots of fresh ideas of how I can change-up my normal menu plan. What about you — will you try any of these whole grain foods?