article by Marygrace Taylor
Prevent diabetes and other chronic conditions by expanding your whole grain horizons. These new additions to your repertoire aren’t just healthy, but tasty as well!
We’d never limit ourselves to just one type of fruit or vegetable. But when it comes to whole grains, we tend to stick with what’s familiar: a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, whole wheat bread for our sandwich or the occasional scoop of brown rice alongside chicken and vegetables.
Not that eating lots of oatmeal, whole wheat bread or brown rice is bad–far from it. All whole grains are a good source of belly-filling fiber, which might explain why one major review found that people who eat them have less body fat that people who don’t Research also shows that diets rich in whole grains are associated with a reduced risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and depression as well as colon and breast cancers.
But just as it’s smart to eat a colorful variety of fresh produce, it’s also a good idea to eat plenty of whole grains. The nutritional composition of broccoli is not the same as the nutritional composition of peas. And the same stands for different whole grains. That’s not all. Eating the same old brown rice or whole wheat pasta can be as boring as earing the same outfit every day. By switching things up, we can keep meals interesting–and stay more motivated to continue making healthy choices.
Different types of whole grains offer a chance to explore a variety of textures, shapes, and flavors. Start here! Each of these grains is versatile and tasty–and offers something suprising and unique in the nutritional department.
- Why It’s great: It’s one of the best whole grain sources of magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. It’s also good for overall muscle health and helps your muscles relax after exercise.
- How to eat it: Sweet and mild, tiny amaranth grains (which are technically classified as seeds) cook up like a thick, creamy porridge that’s delicious tipped with sautéed spinach. It’s part of the spinach family.
- Why it’s great: To do good by your gut, eat more of this fluffy, dark red grain. Buckwheat delivers prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the probiotic (or good) bacteria in your belly, supporting healthy digestion.
- How to eat it: Look for toasted buckwheat groats–their rich nuttiness goes well with other intense flavors. Add the uncooked groats to chocolate cookie batters for added crunch, or serve cooked buckwheat with caramelized onions and a dollop of sour cream.
- Why it’s great: At 6 g of fiver per cooked cup, barley packs more roughage than almost any other whole grain. Some of that fiber comes in the form of beta-glucans, an important type of soluble fiber that may play a role in preventing weight gain and high cholesterol as well as high blood sugar and diabetes. Most grains provide insoluble fiber, but soluble fiber like beta-glucans can slow digestion and bind with cholesterol inside the small intestine to help it exit the body.
- How to eat it: Mild an quick-cooking, pearl barley is ideal for adding to soups. It’s great at absorbing flavors, so use a nice flavorful stock like beef or mushroom.
- Why it’s great: This ancient strain of wheat is surprisingly high in protein, which helps you stay fuller longer and plays a role in building and maintaining muscle mass. A cup of cooked Kamut packs nearly 10 g of protein.
- How to eat it: Sweet, buttery, and chewy, Kamut can hold its own in grain salads with other hearty ingredients–like nuts or dried fruit.
- Why it’s great: Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only places to find the antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals in the body. Rye is rich in polyphenols, a family of antioxidants that may play a role in preventing heart disease and cancer.
- How to eat it: Try swapping up to 1/2 cup of the wheat flour in baked goods for sweet rye flour. Rye flour retains it antioxidant activity even after baking.
- Why It’s great: Not all grains pack a calcium punch, but tiny teff does. A cup of the cooked stuff delivers more than 120mg of this bone builder–about equal to what you’d find in half a cup of cooked spinach.
- How to eat it: Teff has a sweet, molasses-like flavor and a creamy texture that can help thicken soups and stews. You can add it to chili or to q chunky sweet potato and tomato soup.
Go Grain Shopping!
You don’t have to hit an exotic health store for a wide variety of grains–many major manufacturer are beginning to include them in cereals, bars, crackers, and rice blends. Here are a few easy-to-find favorites.
- Cheerios and Ancient Grains–in a 110-calorie bowl, you’ll get a dose of crunchy quinoa/oat clusters, puffed spelt, and Kamut
- Kashi Organic Promise Sprouted Grains Cereal: Oats, barley, amaranth, and more make up this low-fat breakfast pick
- Quaker Super Grains Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cereal: This filling breakfast contains 7 g of protein, thanks to oats, barley, rye, quinoa, and flax
- Cape Cod Ancient Grain Tortilla Dipping Shells: With quinoa, black sesame, and amaranth, these dippers pack 19 g of whole grains per serving
- Seeds of Change Seven Whole Grains: Swap out plain old riced for this pilaf blend made of barley, quinoa, bulgar, rye, and other whole grains, available at major grocery stores