Brown rice, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, quinoa and other whole grains can be served sweet, savory or deliciously cheesy, but when unfamiliar brown grains appear on the family’s plates, they may cause hiccups around the dinner table. The benefits of whole grains include better diabetes management, as well as reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers. And with the growing popularity of gluten-free eating styles, unique varieties of whole grains are becoming easier to locate in supermarkets.
By definition, whole grains may be ground or cracked in processing, but otherwise must contain all the components of an intact grain, including the nutrient-rich germ, fiber and the oil. Whole grains are actually the fruit of a plant and are high in antioxidants similar to other fruits. In fact, an average serving of whole grain breakfast cereal has slightly more antioxidant capacity than the average serving of fruit, and more than four times the capacity of many vegetables.
To spot whole grains in the supermarket, check the ingredient label for the words “whole grain wheat flour,” (not just “wheat flour”) or “whole grain [name of grain.]” Look for the yellow and black Whole Grain Stamp on packages of breads, cereals, pastas and boxed grain mixes.
Start switching to whole grains by mixing half whole grain brown rice with half white rice. Quick-cooking whole grains like high-fiber bulgur (cracked wheat) or high-protein quinoa can be stirred into more familiar grains like whole wheat couscous. Both old fashioned and quick-cooking oatmeal are whole grains; for a slightly sweet, nutty addition to oatmeal, mix in cooked teff, a tiny seed-like grain originally from Africa. Buckwheat flour, rye flour, amaranth flour and stone-ground whole grain cornmeal can be mixed with all-purpose flour to add hearty flavor to pancakes, muffins or breads. Almost any cooked whole grain will be satisfying when mixed with dried fruits, honey and cinnamon. And don’t forget popcorn, it’s also a whole grain!