Suzanne Proulx, MS, RD, LDN
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Previously published on Intelihealth.com
We were advised to eat less fat, so we piled on the pasta, bit into bagels and crunched on low-fat cookies. Popular diet books condemned carbohydrates, so countless sank their teeth into sausage, eggs and T-bone steaks. Either way, whole grains lost out, and in the process we missed out on their powerful health benefits. But what exactly are whole grains? What benefits can we hope to gain from eating them, and how can we easily fit them into our busy lives?
Whole grains contain all three edible parts of a grain: the inner germ, the middle endosperm and the outer bran covering. This makes them rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and a multitude of disease- fighting substances. By contrast, refined grains have most of their germ and bran removed during processing, resulting in a depletion of many of these nutritious compounds.
Buckwheat, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), wild rice and amaranth are not botanically true grains but are typically associated with the grain family due to their similar composition. They are also considered whole grains and can be found at health-food stores along with other less common grains.
The regular consumption of whole-grain foods can be an important step to:
This last point may seem shocking - after all, aren't carbohydrates fattening? Don't they raise blood sugar and insulin levels and make our bodies store fat? Well, that depends on what type of carbohydrate we are talking about. Both whole grains and refined grains are high in carbohydrates, but their effects on the blood sugar differ. Refined grains quickly raise the blood sugar while the fiber in whole grains help slow down this rise. In addition, whole-grain fiber helps us feel full so that we may be less likely to reach for that second helping.
Grains are widely used in the making of bread products, muffins, breakfast cereals, crackers and pastas. How can you tell if these products contain whole grains? Skip right over the fancy names on the packages and read the ingredient list.
If you are currently lax in eating whole grains, add them in gradually. This will give your body a chance to adjust to the fiber. In addition, include at least 64 ounces of fluid a day. Finally, keep in mind that each type of whole grain provides a unique set of nutrients. So be adventurous regarding variety, and remember: Don't put it in your bowl if it doesn't say whole!
Never tried whole grains? You're missing out on some scrumptious flavors and interesting textures! The following guide may help:
|GRAIN||UNCOOKED GRAIN-TO-LIQUID RATIO (cups)||COOKING TIME||YIELD (cups)|
|Amaranth||1:3||20-30 minutes||2 1/4|
|Barley (hulled)||1:3||60-75 minutes||3|
|Brown rice||1:2||35-45 minutes||3|
|Buckwheat groats||1:2||15-20 minutes||3|
|Kamut berries||1:3||90 minutes||3|
|Oat groats||1:3||45-60 minutes||3|
|Rye berries||1:3||60 minutes||3|
|Spelt berries||1:3||60 minutes||2 1/2|
|Teff berries||1:4||15 minutes||2 1/2|
|Triticale berries||1:3||60 minutes||2 1/2|
|Wheat berries||1:3||45-60 minutes||2 1/2|
For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.