Despite fad diets that encourage you to cut out carbs, current research continues to support the idea that complex carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. In this post, we will focus on whole grains, which provide lasting energy, vitamins & minerals, and fiber to keep you feeling full. If you are tired of whole wheat bread and brown rice, keep reading to learn about other healthy and delicious whole grains.
Some foods are considered whole grains from a culinary perspective, but they are actually seeds, or the fruit of plants. Amaranth is one of these grains, and is rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium. It also provides plenty of protein with 7 grams in ¼ cup, dry.
Amaranth has a distinct, almost grassy, flavor. You might find you prefer it when added to a mixture of other grains instead of eating it alone. The whole form can be cooked and eaten as a hot breakfast cereal. Wheat flours can be partially substituted with amaranth flour in baked goods such as muffins.
Barley comes in several forms, but choose hulled barley to ensure you eat the whole grain with the most nutrients. It is loaded with fiber and is a very good source of selenium. Scotch barley and pearled barley are more refined forms of the grain and contain fewer nutrients.
Barley has a chewy texture, and it can take the place of your morning oatmeal. Use hulled barley in place of Arborio rice for a whole grain risotto, or add it to soups and stews for texture and extra fiber.
Black rice is often called Forbidden Rice due its status as a food of royalty in Chinese legend. As its purplish-black color indicates, it is full of antioxidants, specifically anthocyanin, similar to those found in blueberries, blackberries, and grapes.
All black rice isn’t whole grain so be sure to look for “whole black rice” on the label. This tells you that the nutrient-rich bran is still present in the rice grain. Serve black rice as a side dish for roasted vegetables or meat, or make it into a rice pudding for dessert.
Much like amaranth, buckwheat is the fruit of a plant. Treated as a grain for culinary purposes, it can be found in the form of buckwheat groats, or as flour. Buckwheat is an excellent source of magnesium and a good source of fiber.
When the groat is roasted, it is called kasha and can be eaten as porridge. You can incorporate buckwheat flour into baked goods, and use it to make pancakes and crepes. Japanese Soba noodles are also made with buckwheat.
Couscous is a small, round pasta, not a grain. Israeli couscous, also known as ptitim, is similar to standard couscous, but it is larger and resembles a small pearl. Israeli couscous is most often made with refined white flour, but whole wheat Israeli couscous is a fun whole grain option.
Whole wheat Israeli couscous has a pleasant nutty flavor and makes delicious hot or cold pasta salads. Dice up fresh vegetables such as carrot and green onions with black olives, and toss it with a vinaigrette dressing. It also good topped with a lamb or beef stew, or with sautéed leafy greens such as kale.
Yes, millet can be found in bird feed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from eating it too. Colors vary, but much of the millet available for cooking is a small, round, yellow grain. There are 3 grams of protein per half cup, and millet is a good source of the B vitamin niacin.
The final texture of millet depends on the cooking process. If left undisturbed during cooking, it will turn light and fluffy still maintaining the texture of grains; if stirred, it will become creamy like mashed potatoes. Serve millet with beans for a protein-rich dinner, or mix it with raisins and honey for a whole grain breakfast.
Quinoa is also a seed and can be found in a variety of colors, but tan and red quinoa are most commonly available. Unlike other grains, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids making it an ideal part of a meatless meal.
Quinoa cooks to a fluffy consistency with a seed-like crunch, and a nutty flavor. It makes a good substitute for rice, and pairs nicely with sautéed greens. With cinnamon, honey, and milk it becomes a filling breakfast. Cooked quinoa can also be incorporated into vegetarian, grain-based burgers.
Spelt is a whole grain closely related to wheat. It is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of niacin, protein, and fiber. Spelt is becoming more readily available in packaged foods such as spelt breads and spelt pasta.
When using the grain in your own cooking, keep in mind that whole spelt berries need to be soaked in water for eight hours before cooking. Spelt flour is also a good substitute for wheat flour in breads and pizza dough.
A cereal crop from Ethiopia, teff is most often found as flour. In Ethiopia it is fermented and used to make the flatbread, injera. Teff stands out among other grains because of its calcium content. There is 174 mg in a half cup, uncooked.
It is referred to as the world’s smallest grain, and does not undergo the processing that removes so many of the valuable nutrients in refined grains. The flour can be added to a variety of baked goods from cookies, to breads, to cakes.
The wheat berry contains the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat kernel. This means that, unlike refined flours, it retains many nutrients such as fiber, protein, and iron.
Once cooled after cooking, wheat berries can be turned into delicious cold grain salads. Toss them with shredded vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, and summer squash. Dress the salad with lemon juice, a sprinkle of smoked paprika or cumin, and a pinch of sea salt.
If you require gluten-free grains, according to the Whole Grains Council amaranth, buckwheat, rice, millet, quinoa, and teff are all gluten-free. Check labels carefully when shopping. Grains that are naturally gluten-free are sometimes processed in facilities with other grains causing cross contamination of gluten.
Many of these grains are becoming more readily available in grocery stores, but health food stores, international markets, and the Internet are other good sources. For the most affordable options, seek out the bulk bins in the health food section, or find an international market in your area that specializes in Indian or Asian foods.