Does eating a balanced diet seem like a lot of work? If you’re looking to better your health, whole grains are a staple food. You might be surprised to know that most foods labeled with “whole grains” aren’t actually whole grains but food products featuring refined carbs. “Whole grain” breads are just one example. Such products won’t provide much in the way of health benefits and might actually impair your health instead. Here’s how to understand what “whole grains” really are so you can eat what your body needs, not what the large food companies want you to buy. Then check out the 7 easy and delicious ways to put these real grains into your daily diet.
What Are Whole Grains?
Unlike what most packaging and marketing wants you to believe about their products, whole grains are just that: they are whole, unprocessed grains like rice, millet, barley, buck wheat, quinoa, and corn. They are not your typical flours. Modern flour is grain that has been stripped of its nutritious parts, finely milled, usually bleached and treated to produce the common flours that makes up 99.9% of breads, pasta and other grain products on our grocery shelves. These flours are refined carbs and studies have linked such carbs to increasing rates of ill-health and disease.
Whole grains though are a whole food, meaning a one ingredient food that is unrefined and unprocessed or only lightly processed. A grain is a “whole grain” if it contains the three key parts of a seed: the bran (the nutritious outer layer), the germ (the seed’s nutrient-rich embryo) and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply, which is high in starchy carbs). Put simply, whole grains are grains that have all three parts intact. They’re typically high in iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, B vitamins and dietary fiber. Choosing whole grains over refined grains has been linked to lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and more (1, 2, 3, 4).
A bag of brown rice or quinoa or buckwheat is a whole grain. Sorghum, bulgur, oats and corn are other examples but there are plenty. These are what you want to consume and this is what nutritionists mean when they say daily servings of whole grains.
Here are 7 easy and delicious ways to get them into your daily diet.
#1 – Eat Them for Breakfast
Want to start each day on the right foot? Have grains as part of your breakfast. Porridges or oatmeals are easy to make. Combine them with fruit and seeds or nuts for flavor and added nutrition. These breakfast bowls come in a variety of shapes, sizes and ingredients so you should be able to find ones you enjoy. Check out these 11 Healthy Whole-Grain Breakfast Ideas that use anything from steel-cut oats to quinoa.
#2 – “Salad” Medleys
These simple, delicious and nutritious bowls make fantastic lunches. They’re made from one or several grains plus other ingredients like nuts, seeds, cranberries or raisins, and veggies like tomatoes, broccoli or bell peppers – just for starters. Dishes like tabbouleh are one example. For inspiration, check out Whole Grains for Lunch: 15 Hearty, Satisfying Lunch Salads.
#3 – Stir Fries & Curries
Who doesn’t love cooking with rice? Make your favorite stir fry or curry and serve it with brown rice, wild rice, forbidden rice, etc. or substitute rice with barley or quinoa or another whole grain of your choosing. The possibilities are endless.
#4 – Soups & Stews
Whole grains make wonderful ingredients in everyday foods like soups and stews. It’s easy to add in rice, corn or barley but other grains work just as well. For helpful suggestions for cooking with grains, visit Go With the Grains: 13 Soups and Stews With Whole Grains.
#5 – Substitute Them for Pasta
In America we love our pastas but you can usually exchange grains for the refined carb that is most pasta. Your waistline and glucose levels will thank you. Rice and barley substitutes well for risotto and other pastas so check out these 20 barley recipes for inspiration.
#6 – Substitute Them for Bread
If you’ve ever traveled to Asia then you know that in the East rice pretty much takes the place of bread, served alongside many meals. We could take a page from that healthier book and instead of having bread with our meals, eat a side of whole grain instead. Forbidden rice with mushrooms and sesame seeds makes a delicious side. Here are more than a dozen other fantastic whole grain side dishes.
#7 – Desserts
There are a ton of ways to cook with grains to sate your sweet tooth. Chocolate no bake cookies are a perennial American treat, as are chocolate oatmeal cookies. In the East, they’ve been making rice into amazing treats for centuries. Rice pudding and mango sticky-rice anyone? But you can do so much more with your grains. Here are 23 Whole-Grain Desserts You’ll Actually Love.
Jump on the Whole Grain Train
Eating whole grains is linked with reduced risks of inflammation, cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. This is because whole grains deliver many nutrients essential to our health. They are high in fiber, antioxidants, protein, and plant compounds that our bodies need to function properly and stave off disease. Whole grains are also high in B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin and folate. They contain a good amount of minerals, such as zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese. As you can see, choosing whole grains over refined flour products will do you a world of good. Follow this article’s 7 easy and delicious tips to start incorporating whole grains into your daily eating routine. Your body and health will thank you for it.
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