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Whole Grain Isn't a Food Group

Health experts keep telling us to eat whole grains, but can you spot one when you see one?

Most of us have a vague idea. Grains aren’t a food group like fruits and vegetables even though it’s on the My Plate guidelines. This isn't a new fad, they have tremendous health benefits that reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

First lets examine its parts. When it comes from the ground, it has three parts:

Bran is the outer skin of the seed that contains antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber (oat brain)

Germ is what produces a “baby” or new plant when pollinated and has vitamins, protein, minerals and healthy fats (wheat germ)

Endosperm gives the plant energy to grow and is largely carbohydrates and lesser of other vitamins and minerals.

Processing and refining removes the bran and the germ leaving only the endosperm with all the carbs and less nutrients. Why buy enriched flour that attempts to add back all the good stuff when you can start with the good stuff. One item usually not returned is fiber. Dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed in the small intestine. Add complex carbohydrates to your diet not simple carbs.

Most of us know that oats are what you are looking for, but did you know that popcorn is also. What a wonderful snack! Remember-not too much butter or salt.

The U.S. government 2005 recommendations suggest at least three servings per day. Change over from refined and processed to whole- breads, brown rice, oatmeal, pasta.

My Plate

Whole Grains Other Than Whole Wheat

Amaranth has a delicious nut-like flavor and contains more protein, lysine, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium than any other grain. It is also a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene. Amaranth is commonly made into flour for use in breads, noodles, pancakes, cereals and cookies. To prepare, add 1 cup of amaranth to 2 cups of boiling water for a rice-like texture or 2.5 to 3 times more water for cereal. Cook until tender, about 18-20 minutes.

Barley is used in main dishes and soups and can be ground into flour
for baked goods. The flavor is sweet and nutty. High in protein,
niacin, folic acid, thiamin, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, it
is a good substitute for rice and millet in recipes and rolled barley
may be used in place of rolled oats. To prepare, boil 4 cups of water
and add 1 cup of barley; reduce heat, cover, and cook 1 hour.

Brown rice is a good source of B vitamins and Vitamin E and may be
ground into flour for baking cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles and
breads. Use this instead of white rice, even the "enriched" type. To prepare, boil twice as much water as you have rice. Stir in rice, return to boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the rice to steam for another 15 minutes or more, then fluff with a fork.

Buckwheat is also known as groats or kasha. Whole grain buckwheat
may be used as a main or dish, added to casseroles or soups or ground
into flour for pancakes, waffles, muffins, and breads. The flour is
dark, robust, and slightly sweet and is best used in combination with
blander flours when baking. It contributes bioflavanoids, protein,
folic acid, vitamin B6, calcium, and iron to your healthy diet. To prepare,
use about 2 cups water per cup of buckwheat. Bring to boil, reduce
heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or until tender, not crunchy (add extra
water, if needed).

Bulgur is duram wheat that is coarsely milled. Because only the husk is removed during processing, it has all the same nutrients and vitamins as whole wheat. Bulgur contains protein, fiber, iron and manganese. To prepare, melt 2 T bullter and add 1 cup of bulgur. Coat for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 cups of liquid. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Kamut is a type of wheat. It is a good source of protein, pantothenic
acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. To prepare,
use kamut flour in place of wheat flour in most recipes, especially
pasta. Rolled kamut is available in some natural foods stores and can
be used in place of rolled oats.

Millet may be prepared like rice and used for hot cereal and pilaf or
cooked with spices and served as a side dish, in soups and in
casseroles. Ground millet “meal” and millet flour are used to make
puddings, breads, cakes, and cookies. Millet is bland tasting, so it
is best used in combination with stronger flavors. Millet contains protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous.

Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wa," is higher in unsaturated fat and lower
in carbohydrates than most grains (technically, it’s a seed), and it’s
also a complete protein, since it contains every essential amino acid.
It is an excellent replacement for rice or millet in cereals, main
dishes, soups, side dishes, salads, and desserts and it cooks in half
the time as rice. Quinoa may be ground into flour for use in breads,
cakes, cookies and used in making pasta, and it also provides protein,
calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin E, and lysine. To prepare, bring 2-3 cups water to boil and add 1 cup quinoa, reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes or until tender.

Spelt is an excellent gluten substitute for those allergic to
wheat and it can be substituted for wheat in almost every recipe,
including pasta. Spelt is easier to digest than most grains and is
full of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin, as well
as iron and potassium. To prepare, pre-soak 1 cup spelt in 2.5 cups
water several hours or overnight. Change the water, bring to boil and
then simmer for 45-60 minutes until tender but chewy.

Learn to read your food labels. Multigrain, stone ground, cracked wheat, or even seven grains doesn’t mean it’s made using whole grains. When reading the ingredient list at the bottom of the nutrition label, the first on the list is the largest quantity. If sugar is at the top- look out! Finding “whole” at the top is better.

You can’t tell just by looking at it. Brown bread may simply have added coloring.Like most new habits, changes take time. The new taste and texture may put you off. Cooking techniques should be changed. Watch the whole grain pasta, over cooking makes it mushy.

How to Cook Whole Grains

For the most flavor, you can cook grains in bouillon or another
flavored liquid (such as vegetable broth or chicken stock) to enhance

On the stovetop: Any whole grain can be cooked in a pot but will take longer than some other methods. Watch your pot (yes it will boil) because the time will vary for different types of grains.

In an electric steamer: This inexpensive countertop unit is the
easiest, most convenient way to cook all types of whole grains. Read the instruction for your steamer and simply follow the directions.

In a pressure cooker: Adjust the cooking times as you would for any other food—whole grains typically take about half the regular stove top cooking time.

In a rice cooker: A rice cooker may be used to cook many whole
grains—not just white rice. Your cooker may have a sensor to determine
when the liquid has been absorbed. But you will need to experiment a few times before you find the ideal amount of liquid to use to cook the specific whole grains.

Add More Whole Grains to Your Meals

  • Spread your whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of all-fruit jam instead of butter 
  • Instant oatmeal is fast and easy
  • Add low fat granola to your yogurt
  • Throw some barley in your soup
  • Buy whole wheat round bread and use it for a soup bowl. Then eat the bowl!
  • Mix steamed vegetbles with bulur or couscous and sprinke with parmesan cheese.

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