You may have seen the term “whole grain” in while doing your grocery shopping, or reading food magazines or cookbooks. Now more than ever, experts are recommending consuming more whole grains due to their health benefits. Whole grains are a great source of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals, and research has shown that they can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
So what exactly makes a grain a “whole” grain? In order to be a true whole grain, the grain must still contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire grain. Basically, for a grain to be considered whole, 100% of the original kernel should still be present. All of the endosperm, bran and germ must still be intact. This also means that the grain is higher in fiber and protein, which is an added health bonus.
So what kind of grain is considered a whole grain? Some that you may be familiar with but not realize they are a whole grain:
Bulgur is partially cooked cracked wheat. It’s quick cooking and delicious in grain salads like tabouleh or this Middle Eastern Bulgur Salad.
Barley is pretty well-known in the food world as being a great addition to soup. It’s also a great addition to salads, stews, or just as a tasty side dish, like in Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Chicken. Using a slow cooker makes it even easier to prepare!
Yes, popcorn is a whole grain! And who doesn’t love a bowl of Buttered Popcorn while watching movie on the couch?
Say it with me, “keen-wah,” you’ve probably heard the name of this whole grain (which is actually a dried seed) on restaurant menus and seen it stocked on your grocer’s shelves lately. That’s because it’s extremely versatile.
Oatmeal cookies gain a health benefit now that you know the rolled oats you made them with are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron and more. So, now that you know- go ahead and have another Best Ever Oatmeal Cookie.
Whole Wheat Flour
Just like all-purpose flour, except this flour is ground from the entire wheat kernel, which gives it a coarser texture and a full-bodied flavor. Since the kernel is whole and contains the germ and oil, the flour can go rancid faster than all-purpose flour. Storing it in the refrigerator or freezer can extend the shelf-life of the whole wheat flour. Whole Wheat Apple Crisp puts a healthier twist on a classic.
Whole Grain Tips:
- Buying: When buying grains, look for ones with kernels that have the outer layer intact and look generally undamaged. The outer layer, bran, protects the nutrients and flavor.
- Storing: Keep whole grains in airtight containers in a cool, dry place, out of direct light.
- Working them into your diet: It's easier than you think to work whole grains into your day. Eat oatmeal for breakfast, have a bulgur salad for lunch, or use quinoa instead of rice as a side dish with your protein at dinner. Now that you have a basic knowledge of whole grains and have some recipe ideas to go along with it, it will be easy to work wholesome, whole grains into your daily diet.