Get the Dish on Whole Grains

freekej grains
Grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  The USDA’s MyPlate guidelines recommend that at least half of your daily intake of grains come from whole grains.  So, what is a whole grain and why are they important? At HFA’s Symposium 2012, three whole grains were introduced to the attendees.  These grains included:  farro, freekeh and quinoa.   Let’s take a closer look at these grains and learn ways to incorporate them into our daily meal plans.
What is a whole grain? Grains are considered whole when all three parts – bran, germ & endosperm – are present.  Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin-E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitamins are found in the germ and the bran.
Why are they important?  They can reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.  They have also been found to reduce the risks of many types of cancer and may help regulate blood glucose in people living with diabetes.  Other studies have also shown that people who consume more “whole” products consistently weigh less than those who consumed less.
Common types:  wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat, oatmeal, barley, whole rye, bulgar, popcorn
Less common types:  amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, triticale, farro, freekeh
Check LabelsCarefully!

  • Foods labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products.
  • Color is also not an indication of the variety. Brown does not necessarily mean whole wheat or whole anything. Some brown bread has brown coloring added to achieve the brown color!
  • When determining if a packaged food product contains whole grain or not, look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list.

Farro:  Made from “emmer” wheat, one of the earliest domesticated crops.  Known as “spelt” in North America.  An important benefit is that some gluten-sensitive people have been able to include spelt-based foods in their diets.   It is increasing popularity on menus at top restaurants, onTVcooking shows and in popularmagazines.
Cooking Characteristics:

  •  Ready to eat in 15 to 20 minutes.
  •  Easy to reheat
  •  Use in place of barley and other grains for soups, salads and stuffing’s.
  •  Use in place of rice for a no-fuss risotto.
  •  Hearty texture and nutty taste.

 Health Benefits:
√ Rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E.
√Higher in protein than barley and rice.
√Lower gluten makes it a better choice for those with sensitivities.
√Easily digested.
√Part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Freekeh:  Freekeh (pronounced free-ka) is a new super food and ingredient. It is ‘roasted green grains.’ Freekeh is a process and not the name of a grain variety. Freekeh is 100% natural! The grains are harvested while still soft, young and green, then parched, roasted and dried.  The process captures and more importantly retains the grains at the state of peak taste and nutrition. Green grains are very different in properties to mature grains. The entire process is natural and only uses fire and air. No additives or preservatives are used.
The use of freekeh in recipes is endless.  From a side dish like rice or pasta, to soups and salads.  And, it is simple to cook and
use. Both cracked and whole grain freekeh is cooked just like rice on the stove, in the microwave or in a rice cooker. Cooked Freekeh will stay in your refrigerator for up to 8 days.
Health Benefits:
√Low in carbohydrates, high in fiber (up to fourtimes the fiber of brown rice)
√ Acts as a prebiotic, fueling the growth of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract.
√Low GI food with excellent insulin response. Good for preventing and managing diabetes.
√ Rich in lutein and zeaxathin – important phytonutrients for eye health and implicated in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
√ Increases concentration and excretion ofbutyrate which is associated with diminishing the risk of developing colorectal cancer and diverticulitis.
√ Good for general bowel health. Beneficial for preventing constipation and managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Quinoa:  Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a seed, not a grain and it’s grown high in the Andes Mountains of South America. Here in the U.S., quinoa has been discovered as a nutritious asset and enjoyed culinary popularity within only the last few years.  Quinoa cooks very easily, in about 15 minutes. Like cooking rice in a stove top pot.
Health Benefits:
√Packed with protein
√Rich source of fiber
√High in vitamins and minerals including: vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, iron and all 8 amino acids.
√Contains no gluten or wheat. Great for individuals with gluten sensitivities and/or wheat allergies.
Vegetarians would do well to incorporate quinoa into their diet often. It’s difficult for vegetarians to get all eight essential amino acids and an adequate source of protein from one food source. Usually, vegetarians and vegans need to combine foods like beans and rice to acquire all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
To find out just how easy it is to incorporate these whole grains into your menu, visit /news-stories/nutrition-news/ to find three (3) easy-to-make recipes your family is sure to enjoy!
**Enter the “Dishing It Out” Raffle by simply preparing your favorite ‘Whole Grain’ recipe and forwarding a picture of you and the prepared dish to HFA.  See /news-stories/2012/05/super-grain-raffle/ for details.