Defining Whole Grains
Let's face it, most of us simply don't eat our whole grains, as we should. We know brown rice is better than white and that whole wheat is better than Wonder Bread, but how often do we actually act on that information? It's tough! It's also something we should make more of an effort to do.
Packed with fiber, protein and carbohydrates, whole grains can take a merely average diet to the next level. Processed grains such as white flour and white rice are stripped of nutrients during milling. The bran, removed during processing, contains most of the fiber in grains and the germ (also removed during processing) packs significant quantities of heart-healthy vitamin E.
Many of us are not aware that there are options beyond brown rice and whole-wheat bread. There is a whole world of grains out there! Bulgar, kasha, barley, to name a few, have flavors and textures all their own.
Definitions of Grains
Following are the definitions of grains and a few suggestions as to how you can incorporate them into your diet.
The same grain that is malted to make beer and whiskey gets teamed and polished into pearls. Pearl barley can be ground to make barley flour, or whole, makes a great addition to soups and stews.
Oats are the most nutritious of the cereal grasses (with instant oatmeal some of the fiber gets lost in the processing). Use oats in muffins, cookies, snacks, etc.
Wheat Berries are whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat with a nutty, crunchy texture. Look for them in health-food stores or large supermarkets and add them to soups, breads and hot cereals. Whole grain wheat berries are very nutritious, containing 7 grams of protein, over 20 percent of your daily value for dietary fiber and 10 percent of your iron. They have a great taste and are a good source of fiber.
An unmilled version of white flour, whole-wheat flour makes hearty pasta and deeply flavored breads.
To convert a regular bread recipe into a whole-wheat recipe, substitute half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour.
Made by grinding dried corn kernels, cornmeal can be yellow, white or blue, depending on the type of corn used. Water-ground 9rather than the more common steel-ground variety) is healthier because it contains some of the hull and germ. It can last up to four months in the refrigerator.
Wheat germ is the nutrient-packed center of the wheat berry, the source of all the vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It adds a nutty flavor to hot cereals and yeast breads.
Bulgur is made from wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried, and crushed. Middle Eastern cooks favor its tender, chewy texture.
Flaxseed has calcium, iron, niacin and vitamin E and is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids.
One-third of the world's population eats millet as a staple of their diets. Rich in protein, the tiny grains are prepared like rice, or ground and used like flour.
Kasha, aka roasted buckwheat groats, have a nutty, toasty flavor that makes them perfect for pilafs.