Whole Grains

Carbs get a bad rap because so many people reach for the wrong ones: refined carbohydrates in white bread, cookies, sugary cereals, etc.  Research shows that 95% of the grains we eat as part of a Western diet are refined.

Eating too many foods with these adulterated ingredients isn’t just bad for watching your weight; it can also raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes, plus raise your levels of blood fats called triglycerides, putting you at risk of a heart attack, stroke, or other health issues.

The flip side is that by focusing on including only the healthiest grains into your diet, you can help prevent these health problems. Eating whole-grain foods made that include the whole grain (instead of having it stripped away as in refined grains) can help protect you from heart problems, diabetes, colon cancer, and possibly asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

“100% whole grains are a key component of any nutritious diet,” confirms Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “They’re a great place to start if you’re looking to make a healthier choice that doesn’t disrupt your whole routine”. Start slow and keep it simple by replacing your usual refined-grain ingredients with 100% whole-grain versions.

Whole grains have beneficial nutrients that have been stripped away from refined (processed) grains. They deliver magnesium, which helps the body produce energy, and fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer and prevents unhealthy blood sugar spikes.

Trade your refined grains for whole grains by swapping out white pasta, rice, flour and bread for whole-wheat or whole grain versions.  Add variety to your meals with whole grains like quinoa, freekah, brown rice, couscous, oats, whole wheat couscous (make sure it is whole wheat) or barley.

Follow the 1-ingredient rule when it comes time to shop for these foods. In otherwords, to keep it clean and as healthy as possible the package should contain just 1 ingredient (ie: the rice, or the quinoa, etc.) – and nothing else. No salt, no seasoning, no flavoring. Nadda.  You’ll add that yourself. Because this is real food.

Terms like “multigrain” and “wheat” don’t cut it. When you’re shopping for any whole-grain product, look at the ingredients and make sure the whole grain is at or near the top of the list. Each serving should contain at least 2 or 3 grams of fiber.

 

Whole Wheat:

Whole Oats:

Oats are particularly rich in an antioxidant that protects the heart called avenanthramide. When you’re shopping for this whole grain, whether you see the word “whole” or not doesn’t matter the way it does with wheat products. Oats in the ingredients list mean the product is made from whole oats.

But, if you are buying something like instant oatmeal, avoid those that contain high-fructose corn syrup or other added sugars. As always you are best to avoid convenience food and opt for good old-fashioned steel cut pats or quick oats which you can sweeten yourself by adding in some fruit, a drizzle of healthy raw honey, pure maple syrip (not your typical pancake syrpri_ or some coconut sugar (similar to brown sugar but way healthier).  Heck, if you really, really had to, using a little bit of Steiva brown sugar blend would be a better option that buying the pre-sweetened oatmeal packages.

Brown Rice:

Do you know what happens when you choose white rice instead of brown?  You deprive yourself of about 75% of the nutrients nature intended for you to consume. White rice started out as brown rice – and then went through the refining process where the nutrients -all the good stuff – were stripped away and left of the mill floor. Crazy, but its true.  We;re talking nearly all the antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins contained in the healthy bran and germ  of the rice.  Always opt for brown rice, never white because it truly has next to no food value left. You can even get brown basamati and jasmine rice, which are more aromatic varieties of rice which many people favor.

Ever tried red and black rice? These are also whole grains and a little more exotic.  Both are rich in antioxidants (anything natural with rich color typically is) of which are considered whole grains and are high in antioxidants.

Wild rice is also considered a whole grain (even though its technically a grass) and is rich in B vitamins, such as niacin and folate.

Whole Rye

According to nutritional research from the nonprofit The Organic Center, rye has more nutrients per 100-calorie serving than any other whole grain. It has four times more fiber than standard whole wheat and provides you with nearly 50% of your daily recommended amount of iron. The problem is, most rye and pumpernickel bread in grocery stores is made with refined flours. Be persistent and look for “whole rye” topping the ingredients list to get the healthy benefits.

Freekeh

This Arabic grain is a low-carb form of ancient wheat that has up to four times more fiber than brown rice. Freekeh kernels are harvested while they’re young and then roasted. They contain more vitamins and minerals, such as immune-boosting selenium, than other grains. Once in your stomach, freekeh acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria that aid digestion. (This is different than a probiotic, which is a beneficial live bacteria you consume). Look for it in Middle Eastern markets, natural food stores, and on Amazon.

Whole-Grain Barley

People who ate a half-cup of whole barley regularly during a five-week period USDA study saw their cholesterol levels drop by nearly 10% compared to those who went without. Try adding raisins or dried apricots to quick-cooking barley and serving it as a side dish. Just make sure it’s whole-grain barley, not “pearled,” which means the bran and germ have been removed.

Buckwheat

Many people living with celiac disease can tolerate this whole grain, along with quinoa and amaranth, so that says something. It’s one of the best grain-based sources of magnesium, a wonder mineral that does everything from ease PMS symptoms to improve nerve functioning; and manganese, which boosts brain power. And thank goodness for that, because who doesn’t enjoy a good buckwheat pancake from time to time?

Bulgur

, bulgur is considered a whole grain, even though up to 5% of its bran may be removed during processing. It’s so good for you, though, we’re putting it on the list. The grain, which is used to make tabbouleh salad, is a great source of iron and magnesium. The fiber and protein powerhouse (a cup contains nearly 75% of the dietary fiber you need for the day, and 25% of the protein you should get) can be used in salads or tossed in soups. Plus it cooks in only a few minutes.

Quinoa

Though it’s technically a seed and not a grain, this ancient South American power food is packed with more protein than any other grain, and each uncooked cup of the stuff (about three servings) has 522 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. Your family will likely enjoy its light, nutty flavor for a change of pace at the dinner table. And it keeps well, so makes an easy make-ahead lunch to pack to work or school.

Whole-Wheat Couscous

Most of the couscous you see is a form of pasta made from refined wheat flour. So when you’re eyeing the aisle for the healthiest couscous pick, look for the whole-wheat kind, most easily found in natural-food stores. Skipping the refined version and going with the whole-grain type will net you 5 additional grams of fiber per serving.

 

Corn can be extremely healthy for you when it’s whole. A good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus, whole corn is also thought to increase healthy gut flora, which can ward off diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. Yellow corn is also high in antioxidants.

The easiest way to eat it? Popcorn. You can buy the kernels and pop them in a microwave using an ordinary paper bag