Grains are celebrated all over the world for their hearty taste and are staples in a variety of cultures.
Rice is a mainstay in Asia, quinoa has been consumed in Peru for centuries, and farro was fed to Egyptian kings.
Consumption of whole grains is associated with reduced risk of type two diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even strokes. Interested yet?
grains aren’t all the same
BROWN VS. WHITE RICE
I always advocate whole foods. Avocado over avocado oil, potatoes over french fries, you get where I’m going with this…
Brown rice is a whole grain. It contains the bran, germ, and endosperm (more of this science stuff below).
White rice, however, has the fibrous bran and the nutrient dense germ removed.
As a result, white rice contains less fiber and fewer nutrients than brown rice. One cup of brown rice contains 14% of the DV of fiber whereas white rice only contains three.
When whole grains are processed to prolonge shelf life many of their nutrients are stripped. This is why companies fortify grains and food products so there is still a significant source of nutritional value to proceseed foods they sell.
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Whole grains are composed of three main parts – the bran, endosperm, and germ.
The bran is the hard outermost layer of the grain that is rich in dietary fiber. It acts as a protective barrier for the endosperm and germ. It contains antioxidants, protein, and B vitamins. It also has trace amounts of iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phytochemicals found in the bran. One negative antinutrient found in the outer bran is phytic acid. Phytic acid can prevent our bodies from absorbing some of the nutritional properties of whole grains. This is why I soak and sprout my whole grains before cooking them (more on that later).
The middle layer of the grain is the starchy endosperm which holds the nutrient-rich germ. The endosperm is what most processed flours are made of.
Inside the endosperm, you have the germ or “seed”. The germ gives the grain the ability to sprout and become a plant.
Refined grains undergo a milling process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to prolong the shelf life of grains and to create a finer texture. Essentially processing the whole grain into a flour.
In the 1930’s food scientists realized that processes of creating refined grains stripped the whole grains of there nutritional properties. Along with greatly reducing the amount of dietary fiber. Because of the lack of nutrients in refined grain, a fortification process had to take place to enrich the processed powder with vitamins and minerals that were present prior to processing. Essentially the whole grain has been milled and processed to the point that is contained little to no nutrients. The World Health Organization describes enrichment as “synonymous with fortification and refers to the addition of micronutrients to a food which is lost during processing.”
Refined grains = processed grains with nutrients removed, then fortified back into the flour before being used to make some of your favorite junky shelf-stable products.
health benefits of whole grains
Whole grains are full of fiber.
15 WHOLE GRAINS TO TRY /
AMARANTH, BARLEY, BROWN RICE, BUCKWHEAT, BULGAR, CORN, KAMUT, MILLET, QUINOA, RYE, SPELT, SORGHUM, TEFF, WHEAT BERRIES, WILD RICE
guide to buying whole grains
Whenever I’m buying whole grains I tend to gravitate towards bulk bins. They offer a far better bang for your buck. You don’t have to stick to Whole Foods to find whole grains. Several grocery chains and even independent stores will have several varieties to test out.
As with trying anything new, start slow, and build your grain collection up over time. Couscous is one of the fastest cooking grains and is a great first go at grains. Farro and quinoa also cook quick. Pick one and try it out.
Grains are not resistant to mold, and if they are exposed to moisture, this will allow the germination process to begin. Make sure the grains are dry and there isn’t discoloration (especially black or green) which could indicate mold.
Once you have those little guys back in the kitchen store them in a cool dry place. I love to put mine in clear glass containers. Easy access and a good visual reminder they need to be eaten.
how can you tell if your food product contains whole grains?
Picture should be of three breads on the ground grocery store with my shoes from above
tips on finding if whole grains are in food products
Extra stuff about bread that isn’t in the above about finding if it’s whoel grains or not
how to cook grains
1. SOAK TO SPROUT
Sprouting the grain will do two things. First, it will begin the sprouting process of the seed. By adding water this ____________ and initiates the growth process. It also helps to reduce the phytonutrients or anti-nutrients that keep the grain from growing too early. Both are a win-win.
Instruction: I measure out the number of grains I want to cook the following day. I then cover it with 3 times that much in filtered water. Then I let it sit for about 12-24 hours. Any longer and you run the risk of starting the fermentation process. No one is trying to make beer here.*Practical tip: soak and sprout them the night before you want to cook them.
2. DRAIN THE GRAINS
That water is no filled with dirt, debris, and any other bacteria that may have been coating the grains from their journey from the fields to your table. It’s very important to drain and discard that water. You might be surprised just how dirty it becomes.
Place the soaked grains in a fine mesh colander and rinse, rinse, rinse.
This parts simple. Put the grains in the pot and add twice the amount of water as grains. One cup of quinoa equals two cups of water (1:2 ratio). Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
The cooking times of the grains vary which is why I made this handy little chart and a video showing you how to cook each and every one of my favorite grains (shameless youtube channel plug, subscribe ok?). Remember if you soak your grains they will take less time to cook, if you rinse and cook them from a dried state, it will take a little longer.
Feel free to cook your grains without anything but a pinch of salt, however, a few spices can really pack a punch. Many whole grains are quite plain in taste which essentially makes them a blank canvas for seasoning. I always throw in a garlic clove or two, a dash of oil, and several types of spices. Another option is to substitute some of the cooking water for vegetable broth. That alone will elevate the natural flavor of the grains.
how to eat more grains
Yay, you made them! If you Instagrammed your cooking success tag me or use my hashtag so I can see (#imahealthybabe). Now, what to do with your freshly cooked babies?
Rice alone is boring as F. But add some tamari, tempeh, and fresh veggies – girl you just made yourself a meal!
GET MORE OUT OF GRAINS
Batch cooked grains will go a long way in your fridge. Speaking of rice I can think of three meals I could make based on this one batch cooked item.
- Veggie Stir Fry as listed above
- Black bean burritos with rice, chopped bell peppers, kale, green onion, guacamole, and pico de gallo.
- Salmon with a side of green beans, chopped salad, and rice sauteed with mushrooms and pecans.
The options are endless. As are the varieties of grains.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: BATCH COOK
This is what I do once a week. I pick one or two grains and I cook with the mindset of using each type of grain for a few meals. Practical, affordable, and downright convenient.
Couple that with some batch cooked beans and meal prep for the week is halfway over.
Just in case you need a little more meal inspirations for rad whole grains check out my grain Pinterest board that is full of flavorful recipes that are all based on these batch cooked babies.