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DISCOVER THE BENEFITS OF WHOLE GRAINS (AND LEARN HOW TO COOK THEM!)

September 03, 2018 by Renee Tavoularis

DISCOVER THE BENEFITS OF WHOLE GRAINS (AND LEARN HOW TO COOK THEM!)

Not sure which grains are gluten-free? Struggling to make the perfect pot of brown rice? Curious about kasha? If you have grain questions, Well Within Beauty has the answers!

INTRODUCTION TO GRAINS

Grains have served as staple ingredients throughout the world for nearly 10,000 years. The most common grains, also called cereal grains, are the seeds of grasses. Cereal grains include rice, oats, and bulgur wheat. Seeds that come from other types of plants, such as quinoa and buckwheat, are called pseudocereal grains.

The healthiest grains are whole grains. Whole-grain seeds have not been modified in any way, so they retain all their essential nutrients. On the contrary, terms like “enriched” and “refined” indicate that a grain has been processed or stripped of vital nutrients. White rice and white pasta products are examples of refined grains, and should either be avoided or consumed in moderation.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF WHOLE GRAINS

Whole grains are an abundant source of dietary fiber, which promotes healthy elimination, digestion, and gut function. Fiber also slows carbohydrate absorption, providing you with even, sustainable energy—as opposed to a blood-sugar spike and crash. 

What’s more, whole grains possess an excellent nutritional profile. A few highlights include iron, manganese, copper, and B-complex vitamins. The vast benefits of whole grains include:

  • Decreased inflammation
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Boost in energy
  • Satiation and healthy weight loss 

HOW TO COOK WHOLE GRAINS 

Grains are easy to cook, and you can generally follow the same simple steps:

  1. Rinse grains in a fine mesh strainer. Drain well, then transfer the grains to a pot.
  2. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of sea salt if desired.
  3. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Fluff with a fork, season, and serve.

The ratio of grains to liquid, as well as the cook time, will vary from grain to grain. Look for specific measurements and times in the following section.

6 GO-TO GRAINS FOR HEALTH AND VITALITY

Well Within Beauty shares the health benefits of whole grains, and the best ways to cook them: 

WHAT IS IT
BROWN RICE is an abundant and nourishing gluten-free ingredient used in cuisines around the world.

WHAT IT DOES
Brown rice, a healthy carbohydrate, can help balance cortisol levels and increase satiation. It’s also a good source of fiber and selenium, which may help prevent colon cancer. It also contains manganese, a powerful mineral that controls blood sugar and fights free radicals. 

HOW TO USE IT
Add 2¼ cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice, and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. Cooked brown rice can be enjoyed as a side or in a variety of mains, from vegetable stir-fries to Spanish paellas.

 

WHAT IS IT
WILD RICE comes from a semi-aquatic grass that grows in waters that are about two to four feet deep. 

WHAT IT DOES
Wild rice contains niacin, folate, B vitamins, manganese, fiber, and more protein than most other grains. This gluten-free grain is also a rich source of antioxidants to help your body fight illness and disease.

HOW TO USE IT
Add 3 to 4 cups of water to 1 cup of wild rice, and simmer for 35 to 50 minutes, or until the grains pop. Use cooked wild rice in salads and soups, or combine with olive oil and sautéed vegetables.

 

WHAT IS IT
OATS: Their slightly sweet flavor make oats the perfect whole grain for breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. Rolled, instant, and quick-cooking oats are typically steamed and flattened, which compromises their nutritional makeup, so it’s best to opt for less processed options like oat groats and steel-cut oats.

WHAT IT DOES
Oats are touted for their cardiovascular and digestive benefits, which promote elimination and lower cholesterol. Nutritionally, oats contain manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, and copper. Together, these nutrients fight free radicals, increase energy, and support healthy bones, to name a few. While oats are technically gluten-free, it’s best to buy oats that are specifically labeled in order to avoid the potential for cross-contamination.

HOW TO USE IT
Add 4 cups of water to 1 cup of oat groats, and simmer for about 60 minutes or until tender. Steel-cut oats require a slightly different preparation from the instructions listed above: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, and add 1 cup of oats. Simmer, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top cooked oats with fresh fruit, toasted coconut, crushed nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

 

WHAT IS IT
BULGUR is a whole-wheat durum grain, and while it’s not gluten-free, it’s unrefined and packed with vitamins and minerals.

WHAT IT DOES
Bulgur, like other whole grains, decreases inflammation, lowers cholesterol, and increases digestive function. These factors make bulgur a smart choice for overall heart health. Plus, bulgur contains manganese, copper, magnesium, and pantothenic acid (also known as B5).

HOW TO USE IT
Add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of cracked bulgur wheat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cooked bulgur to vegan chilis to add texture. Or combine with fresh herbs, crushed nuts, and a homemade dressing for a quick and filling salad.

 

WHAT IS IT
QUINOA: A prized member of the Amaranthaceous family, quinoa is related to Swiss chard, beets, and amaranth.

WHAT IT DOES
Quinoa is a complete protein that contains all nine amino acids. It also contains prebiotics, or indigestible fibers, that support gut health. Quinoa is gluten-free and a good source of lysine, manganese, magnesium, and iron. 

HOW TO USE IT
Add 1¾ to 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Seek out recipes for seasonal quinoa salads and grain bowls, which make for colorful and wholesome meals and sides.

 

WHAT IS IT
BUCKWHEAT: Also known as kasha, buckwheat is another pseudocereal, related to sorrel and rhubarb. 

WHAT IT DOES
Buckwheat is gluten-free; good news for those on autoimmune and allergy-friendly diets. It contains a similar nutrient profile to other grains, with minerals like manganese, copper, and magnesium. It’s also high in fiber and phytonutrients.

HOW TO USE IT
Add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of buckwheat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. To prepare a pilaf, replace the water with vegetable broth and toss cooked buckwheat with fresh herbs. You can also add buckwheat to green salads for extra nutrition.


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