Get Your Whole Grains!
More people are enjoying whole grains as part of their daily eating plan and for good reason. Whole grains are rich and flavorful and loaded with satisfying dietary fiber. Beyond taste, whole grains offer many health benefits to keep you looking good and feeling well.
People who eat three or more servings of whole grains have been shown to reduce risk for heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, diabetes 21-27%, digestive system cancers 21-43%, and hormone-related cancers by 10-40%. The combination of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants give whole grains their significant health promoting qualities.
Want a smaller waistline? People who eat whole grains regularly have lower body mass index (BMI) scores and smaller waist circumference measurements as measured by their waist-to-hip ratios.
Choose whole grain breads, pasta, rice and cereals and be sure to eat at least three servings of whole grain foods each day. Beyond wheat, there are many other whole grain options to add variety and flavor to your meals. Use NuVal™ to help you select the healthiest grains; the higher the NuVal™ score, the better the nutrition.
April 4 is whole grain sampling day – a great time to experiment with a new grain. Find delicious recipes for a variety of grains using Mealbox at Meijerhealthyliving.com.
De-Mystifying Whole Grains:
Whole grains are made using the whole kernel of the grain including the outermost layer of bran (fiber), the softer center known as the endosperm (this is isolated to make refined grains), and the innermost center known as the germ (loaded with nutrients and healthy fats). Each part of the grain kernel provides flavor components and health benefits.
What is White Whole Wheat? This type of flour is whole grain flour produced from white wheat – a milder tasting form of wheat which produces a lighter in appearance grain product. This is still a healthy whole grain and is often an acceptable alternative for picky eaters who want white breads.
What is a Sprouted Grain? There is no legal definition for “sprouted grains” which are grain kernels that have been allowed to sprout and produce enzymes that alter the grain composition. Proponents of sprouted grains claim that grains that have just begun sprouting – those that are straddling the line between a seed and a new plant — offer all the goodness of whole grains, while being more easily digested.
Sprouting may also increase the amount of some vitamins and minerals making these grains “super foods”. You can purchase sprouted grain products (such as breads, sometimes in the freezer section at Meijer like Ezekiel bread), or purchase sprouted grain products in the grain aisle (dry sprouted grains) or as a puree (wet sprouted grain, typically found in freezer sections of some stores).
Great Grains (from the “Whole Grains Council):
Amaranth (Gluten Free Grain): Amaranth is tiny kernels that are a "pseudo-grain" – like quinoa and buckwheat, but is listed with other grains because its nutritional profile and uses are similar to "true" cereal grains. Amaranth is one of the rare plant products that contain a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids for health. Amaranth has no gluten, so it must be mixed with wheat to make leavened breads. It is popular in cereals, breads, muffins, crackers and pancakes.
Barley: Barley has a particularly tough hull, which is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran. Lightly pearled barley is not technically a whole grain (as small amounts of the bran are missing) – but it's full of fiber and much healthier than a fully-refined grain. Soluble fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol.
Buckwheat (Gluten Free Grain): From pancake mixes to Japan’s soba noodles buckwheat is a delicious grain-like food. The nutrient profile and the nutty flavor and appearance have led to buckwheat’s ready adoption into the family of grains. Buckwheat is easy to grown and doesn’t require growth assistance from chemical pesticides. The high levels of antioxidants in buckwheat help to improve circulation and reduce LDL cholesterol.
Bulgur: When wheat kernels are boiled, dried, cracked, then sorted by size, the result is bulgur. This wheat product is sometimes referred to as “Middle Eastern pasta” for its versatility as a base for all sorts of dishes. Bulgur has been precooked and dried it needs to be boiled for only about 10 minutes to be ready for quick side dishes, pilafs or salads like tabbouleh. Even though it’s lightly processed, bulgur is still considered whole grain and a good source of fiber.
Corn (Gluten Free Grain): Fresh corn on the cob. Popcorn. Corn cakes. Polenta. Tortillas. Corn muffins. Though sometimes dismissed as a nutrient-poor starch – both a second-rate vegetable and a second-rate grain – corn is lately being reassessed and viewed as a healthy food. Corn is a good source of fiber and antioxidants, like lutein, that promote vision health.
Kamut: Years of selecting, testing and propagating eventually brought the grain – now called Kamut, an ancient Egyptian word for wheat – to prominence. Today, millions of pounds of this rich, buttery-tasting wheat are grown on organic farms and made into over 450 whole-grain products around the world. Kamut provides higher levels of protein and Vitamin E than traditional wheat.
Oats (Some Oats are Gluten Free—read labels): Oats have a sweet flavor that makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the ingredient label you will be eating whole grain. Oats contain soluble fiber (beta-glucans) the help lower total cholesterol. Oats are also rich in antioxidants the help protect blood vessels from damage by LDL cholesterol.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah; Gluten-free) Historically cultivated by the Inca, quinoa is a relative of Swiss chard and beets rather than a “true” grain. Quinoa is a small, light-colored round grain, similar in appearance to sesame seeds. But quinoa is also available in other colors, including red, purple and black. Rinse before cooking, to remove the bitter residue of saponins, a plant-defense that wards off insects. Quinoa cooks in about 10-12 minutes, creating a light, fluffy side dish. It can also be incorporated into soups, salads and baked goods. Commercially, quinoa is now appearing in cereal flakes and other processed foods. Quinoa is rich in complete protein, making it a great ingredient in meatless meals.
Rice (Gluten Free Grain): White rice is refined, with the germ and bran removed. Whole-grain rice is usually brown – but, unknown to many, can also be black, purple, red or any of a variety of exotic hues. Regular brown rice is lower in fiber than most other whole grains, but rich in many nutrients.
Converted rice is parboiled before refining, a process which drives some of the B vitamins into the endosperm so that they are not lost when the bran is removed. As a result, converted rice is healthier than regular white rice, but still is lacking many nutrients found in brown rice.
Rye: Once thought of as a weed that grows well in wet environments, rye is unusual among grains for the high level of fiber in its endosperm – not just in its bran. Because of this, rye products generally have a lower glycemic index than products made from wheat and most other grains, making them especially healthy for diabetics. The type of fiber in rye promotes a rapid feeling of fullness, making rye foods a good choice for people trying to lose weight.
Triticale (trit-i-KAY-lee) is the “new kid on the block” and is a cross between wheat and rye. Predominantly grown in Europe, this grain is hearty and can be grown with no or little commercial fertilizers and pesticides making it a good fit for organic farming.
Sorghum (Gluten Free): A hearty grain that can survive drought, sorghum, also called milo and believed to have originated in Africa, can be eaten like popcorn, cooked into porridge, ground into flour for baked goods, or even brewed into beer. Sorghum is gluten free and often used in gluten free foods making it a good fit for those with celiac disease.
Spelt: This variety of wheat can be used in place of common wheat in most recipes. Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat. Whole grain spelt provides fiber and antioxidants with a milder flavor as compared to other forms of wheat.
Teff (Gluten Free): A tiny form of millet (a grain used in bird feed and human foods), teff is a leading source of nutrients in Ethiopia. Teff is popular for its sweet, molasses-like flavor and its versatility. Teff can be cooked as porridge, added to baked goods, or even made into “teff polenta.” Teff grows in three colors: red, brown and white.
Wheat: has come to dominate the grains we eat because it contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein that enables bakers to create satisfying risen breads.
Two main varieties of wheat are widely eaten. Durum wheat is made into pasta, while bread wheat is used for most other wheat foods.
Bread flour, made from hard wheat, has more of the protein gluten and is best for breads. Soft wheat such as white refined flour is best for light baked goods like cakes. Choose baked goods and cereals that list “whole wheat” or “whole grain wheat” first in the ingredient list on the food label.
Wild rice (Gluten Free): Technically not rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.
The strong flavor and high price of wild rice mean that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.
Source: Whole Grains Council, wholegrainscouncil.org. The whole grain stamp – helps identify foods that are made with whole grains