Whole Grains

I use a lot of whole grains in my healthy family recipes. Whole grains, as a general rule, are rich in protein and in complex carbohydrates. They are also rich in fiber and keep you fuller longer.

I am familiar with the Paleo theory, which claims grains are unnecessary. I am also familiar with the fact that cave men (whose diet Paleo is telling us to imitate) usually were dead before they reached the age of thirty. Having said that, here’s what I think: while  there is scientific evidence which supports limiting the consumption of wheat and possibly other gluten-containing grains. However, gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and buckwheat are beneficial to health and should be eaten on a regular basis.

Here’s a list of the most common whole grains and some advice on cooking them:

This small-grained sticky grain is high in fiber and rich in nutrients. It has a high concentration of lysine, an essential amino acid.

Barley contains a lot of B-vitamins as well as minerals, like selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper.

Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain, rich in protein and iron, as well as in B-vitamins. Use buckwheat to make pilafs, casseroles and stuffings. Substitute up to 1/3 of ground meat for buckwheat in hamburger, meat loaf and virtually any other recipe.

This ancient Egyptian wheat was recently rediscovered. It’s rich and buttery with a great, chewy texture. I use it as a substitute for brown rice.

This mild, very digestible grain is a great wheat substitute. Millet has a good balance of essential amino acids and is delicious with sautéed vegetables and beans.

Quinoa contains all essential amino acids, making this grain a complete protein! It is actually a small dried seed with a great nutty flavor. I used it to stuff peppers, make casseroles, salads and more!

These are steamed and cut whole oat groats (a.k.a. hulled grains). They’re chewy and make a delicious hot cereal. I also make a nice savory oat dish.

Early oriental writings mention the calming and soothing effect of brown rice which has been confirmed by modern science. Brown rice is rich in the B-complex vitamins , low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and hence makes a perfect food for those with high blood pressure and requiring a low-sodium diet. The calcium in rice (especially brown rice) helps lower blood pressure.White rice is one of the easiest and quickest foods to digest requiring only an hour to completely digest it. As such, rice is an ideal health food for those who are debilitated and weak and require easy assimilation and quick energy.

This high-protein, low-gluten grain is more slowly digested than other grains.

Spelt, while similar to wheat, actually has 30% more protein. Use spelt just as you would wheat.

This ancient grain has a sweet and malty flavor; it’s a rich source of calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorus and zinc, too. Contains twice as much iron as wheat and barley!

Many people are allergic to this most commonly used grain, but don’t know it. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, is difficult for many people to digest. If you are sensitive or allergic to gluten, you can experience bloating, constipation or gas after eating wheat and other glutenous grains. Other related problems are allergies, celiac disease, brain fog, chronic indigestion and candida.

How To Cook Whole Grains:

Rinse: Prior to cooking, rinse whole grains thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear then strain them to remove any dirt or debris.
Cook: You can cook whole grains by simply boiling the water, then adding the grain, return water to a boil, then simmer, covered, until tender.  You can also use broth instead of water or add a sheet of  kombu seaweed for even more flavor.
Test: Always test whole grains for doneness before taking them off of the heat; most whole grains should be slightly chewy when cooked.
Fluff: When grains are done cooking, remove them from the heat and gently fluff them with a fork. Then cover them and set aside to let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.
Serve: I like to serve my whole grains with a some olive oil and sea salt.

Some people have trouble digesting whole grains. Soaking grains, or fermenting them by soaking in hot water with vinegar, neutralizes the phytic acid and makes the grains easier to digest. All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer of the bran. Phytic acid combines with certain minerals in the body, such as calcium, magnesium, copper and iron, and can block absorption in the intestines, which may lead to digestive disorders, mineral deficiencies and bone loss. Eight hours of soaking in warm water will neutralize the phytic acid, and greatly improve the nutritional benefits of grains. Even an hour of soaking will help.