By now you’ve heard we should be eating 3 to 5 servings or more of whole grains every day. What does that mean? Well, if you ask most people what their idea of a whole grain is, they will probably say whole wheat bread and maybe brown rice and whole wheat pasta. But these are just the tip of the whole grain ‘iceberg’. There are so many more whole grains out there to choose from such as barley, corn, oats, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, farro and couscous.
What is a serving? Well, it’s:
- ½ cup cooked rice, bulgur, barley, pasta, or cooked cereal like oatmeal.
- 1 slice bread
- 1 cup of most cold cereals
Don’t be fooled!
Many food companies know people are interested in whole grains so they plaster the fronts of packages with clever claims like “made with whole grain” or “multigrain” which don’t necessarily mean much but help sell their products. The only way to know if an item is a 100-percent whole-grain food is to flip over the package and read the ingredients list. If the ﬁrst ingredient—or the second ingredient, after water – is something like whole wheat, oats, whole grain barley, brown rice, or whole millet then it’s made with whole grain ingredients. By the way, “wheat bread” on the label is no guarantee the flour is from whole wheat. It’s simply telling you the bread is made from wheat flour vs. let’s say, rice flour or buckwheat flour. Read the ingredients. If “enriched” is the first ingredient, it’s refined white flour. And, if the claim on the front says “multi-grain”, it just means the item contains more than one grain, but they aren’t necessarily whole grains.
So why the push for us to eat more whole grains?
Here’s a snapshot of what you stand to gain by including whole grains in your diet daily:
- Reduced risk of stroke and heart disease (thanks to the sterols, stanols and different kinds of fiber whole grains are rich in).
- Lowered rate of inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes (whole grains are low glycemic which means a slow and steady rise in your blood glucose levels).
- Less gum disease.
- Reduced risk of colorectal cancer (thank fiber again as well as the many antioxidants and phytochemicals in whole grains).
- Healthier blood pressure levels.
- Better weight management through a greater sense of fullness from the fiber and protein – HELLO! Who doesn’t want this? Get healthy, lose weight AND feel full while losing weight? Are you saying ‘Sign me up!’? Isn’t that one of your biggest complaints about ‘dieting’- feeling hungry all the time?
Trying to get more whole grains in your diet? Here are a few of my top tips followed by a couple recipes to get you started.
- Use barley as a side dish instead of rice.
- Cook up a big pot of brown rice, barley, rice, quinoa, etc. on Sunday. You’ll be left with a batch of grains you can toss into salads, use as a side dish or heat up the next morning as a breakfast cereal in place of oatmeal.
- Throw in ½ cup of uncooked grains into a pot of soup while it’s simmering.
- Sprinkle some raw oatmeal and diced fruit into your plain Greek yogurt.
Have you checked out my One Pan Mexican Quinoa Recipe? It’s and easy to prepare as well as clean up. Click here for the recipe
Risotto Style Barley
Risotto is traditionally made from rice but to pump up the nutrition, barley is used to up the protein and fiber content.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion (about ½ a large onion)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ cups brown mushrooms, chopped
Fresh black pepper, ground and added to taste
1 pkg (8.8 ounces or 250 g) 10 minute, pre-cooked barley
1 quart low Sodium Vegetable Stock (I like Trader Joe’s)
2 Tablespoons butter for a little extra creaminess but this can be omitted if you desire
4 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup cilantro + 2 Tablespoons, chopped
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat it slightly before adding onion. Saute 4 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add mushrooms and saute until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in barley and coat with oil mixture. Saute for 5 minutes to toast the kernels. Season with black pepper.
Add the vegetable stock ½ cup at a time. Stir and allow the stock to fully absorb into the barley mixture before adding the next ½ cup. Continue stirring and adding stock until the barley is just a little al dente (a little chewy but soft to taste), about 20-25 minutes.
Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Remove pan and plate your risotto style barley. Stir in chopped cilantro. Garnish with the 2 Tablespoons of cilantro.
Makes 5 one cup servings
NOTE: Feel free to add more or different veggies. Use what you have in your fridge. As you may see in the picture, I’ve added roasted butternut squash and bell peppers. Use this recipe as a place to start. Change things up to suit your style then share with me what you did. I’ve love to know. Your creation could be inspiration for me.
Adapted from Trader Joe’s recipe