Even if you have been living under a rock for the past few years I’d be willing to bet that you have heard something about whole grains. We are often told we need to eat more whole grains, but why? And what is a whole grain? And where do we find them? And once we find them, how are we supposed to cook them?
In this post, I would like to provide you with some basic background on whole grains – what they are, why they are beneficial, and which ones to look for. Over the next few weeks, I am going to post recipes using different whole grains. These recipes will be simple, easy to prepare, TASTY, and good for you.
The anatomy of a whole grain:
All grains start out as whole grains. Whole grains contain three parts – the germ (vitamins), the bran (fiber), and the endosperm (starch). If a grain is milled and it retains all three parts, then it is considered a “whole grain”. In general, refined grains have had the bran and germ removed from the wheat kernal leaving behind a less nutritious product.
Why whole grains are good for us:
- Cancer – the fiber and antioxidants in whole grains help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
- Constipation & Diverticulosis – the fiber in whole grains helps to prevent constipation and keep your colon healthy.
- Diabetes – whole grains are digested more slowly than refined grains which means that blood sugar and insulin levels are less likely to spike.
- Heart Disease – whole grains have been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
List of 20 whole grains and their specific health benefits:
- Amaranth FACT: High in protein.
- Barley FACT: The fiber in barley may lower cholesterol even more effectively than oat fiber.
- Buckwheat FACT: Buckwheat contains an antioxidant called rutin, which has been shown to improve circulation and prevents LDL cholesterol from blocking blood vessels.
- Bulgur FACT: Bulgur has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn.
- Corn FACT: Although corn is often mocked for it’s common use as cattle feed and use as a sweetener, corn has surprisingly high levels of antioxidants.
- Cracked wheat FACT: Cracked wheat is high in fiber and fast cooking.
- Farro / Emmer FACT: Farro is an ancient whole grain that is also versatile, high in fiber, and high in protein.
- Grano FACT: Grano is the Italian word for grain. When durum wheat kernels (“wheat berries”) are lightly polished, they become grano. Grano is high in fiber and proten.
- Kamut® Grain FACT: Kamut® grain is very high in protein and has more vitamin E than wheat.
- Millet FACT: Nutrient dense whole grain high in magnesium.
- Oats FACT: Oats may help to lower blood pressure and protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Quinoa FACT: Quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own.
- Rice FACT: Rice is an ideal grain for those on gluten restricted diets because is naturally gluten-free. Rice is also easily digested. Brown rice is considered a whole grain, but white rice is not because it has been refined (bran and germ removed).
- Rye FACT: The fiber in rye promotes a rapid feeling of fullness, making rye foods a good choice for people managing their weight.
- Sorghum / Milo FACT: Sorghum is another gluten-free grain and it is also popular among those with celiac disease.
- Spelt FACT: Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat.
- Teff FACT: Teff has more than twice the iron of other grains and three times the amount of calcium.
- Triticale FACT: Triticale is a hybrid between wheat and rye. It is high in protein and relatively easy to find at the grocery store.
- Wheat (durum wheat berries FACT: Wheat is a highly versatile whole grain with a chewy texture and lots of protein
- Wild Rice FACT: Nutrient dense and high in fiber.
Where can I find more information and recipes for whole grains?
- The Whole Grains Council
- The Mayo Clinic
- Nutrition Action Health Letter
- Whole Foods Market
- The Nutrition Source (Harvard School of Public Health)
Which of the following cereals are considered “whole grain”?
A. Special K
C. Puffed Wheat
D. Corn Flakes