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Easy Ways to Add Whole Grains
Whole grains are good for you, with benefits including lower cholesterol, better insulin regulation and improved digestive health. Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and flavonoids, whole grains can protect against a variety of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But you don’t have to live on a diet of oatmeal and bran muffins to get the amount of whole grains you need to reap these and other benefits. Whole grains can be slipped virtually unnoticed into a variety of foods.
What are Whole Grains and Why Are They Good For You?
As the name implies, whole grains are intact and unprocessed, unlike the nutrient-stripped, refined versions found in many processed foods and baked goods. In order to be labeled a whole grain, the grain must retain all the natural parts of a seed: the germ, endosperm and bran, or outer hull. These parts of the grain contain most of its nutrients, including the B vitamins and minerals including selenium, magnesium and zinc.
During the refining process, the nutrient-rich bran and endosperm are stripped out, crushed or cracked, so that the remaining processed version is low in both nutrients and fiber. For good health, nutritionists recommend avoiding highly processed grain products and foods made from them, such as white flour, commercially produced pastries and other baked goods. Instead, they advise incorporating at least three servings of whole grains daily into a healthy diet.
Kinds of Whole Grains
In addition to the familiar oats, corn, barley and rice, other kinds of grains are available from both supermarkets and natural food outlets. Whole wheat can be purchased in forms such as spelt, faro, bulgur and durum. Less common grains such as buckwheat and the “ancient” grains amaranth, quinoa, millet and teff can also be used in a variety of foods for a change in flavor and texture. While rich in nutrients, seeds such as flax, sunflower seeds and chia are not considered part of the whole grain family by food regulatory bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration.
Sneaky Ways to Get the Grains
Available in flour form as well as loose, these versatile grains can be built into a balanced diet in a number of tasty ways.
1. Substitute half the white flour in recipes with a whole grain version such as whole-wheat flour when making cookies, muffins and other baked goods. Whole wheat and other flours made from whole grains provide a chewy texture with more protein and fiber than white flour, and keep insulin levels regulated.
2. Or, mix two or three whole grains such as buckwheat or sorghum with white flour in bread, muffin or waffle recipes to add protein, vitamin B and thiamine as well as selenium and magnesium.
3. Replace up to one third of the flour in a recipe with oats, either the quick or old-fashioned variety. Oats add texture and significant amounts of fiber, which benefits digestive and heart health.
4. Add about three quarters of a cup of oats or cooked brown rice to each pound of ground beef or turkey in recipes such as meat loaf, burgers or meatballs to stretch the recipe and add heart-healthy fiber and minerals.
5. Add cooked whole grains such as barley or millet to soups and stews of all kinds for additional texture, fiber and nutrients such as heart-healthy selenium and magnesium.
6. Use buckwheat noodles in Asian style dishes and other recipes calling for pasta and noodles. Buckwheat contains more antioxidants and flavonoids than most other whole grains, offering potent protection against heart disease, cancer and immune system disorders.
7. Add quinoa to a pot of chili. This “ancient” grain has a distinctive sharp taste that blends with the spices in chili and provides a significant amount of magnesium, selenium and zinc. Also high in protein, quinoa can be added to salads and stews.
Whole grains form the cornerstone of a healthy diet. These versatile grains can be “sneaked” into dishes of all kinds for a nutritional boost that keeps the heart strong and the immune system running smoothly.
“7 Whole Grains To Add To Your Diet.” Care 2 Green Living.
Whole Grains 101: What Are the Health Benefits?” Whole Grains Council.
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