- Packed with nutrients: protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes and some types of cancer
- Keeps you feeling full longer and away from "carb crash" since your body does not absorb it as quickly
- Potentially helps lose belly fat
The refined stuff (white rice, white bread, bleached flour, etc.) has had most of the nutrition processed out of it. Grains are made out of three parts: 1) bran - the tough outside which is full of fiber and antioxidants, 2) the germ which becomes the new plant and is full of minerals and B vitamins, and 3) the endosperm which is starchy and feeds the germ. A whole grain still has all three parts. Refined grains remove the bran and the germ (the most nutritious parts!) to leave the starch. And in some messed up logic, some nutrients are then added back to "enrich" the stripped grains. Just stick with the whole grains!
What to do - Eat Whole Grains
- Replace your refined grains with the whole version. Do you have white rice, rolled oatmeal or pearled barley? That's all been processed to leave out the most nutritious part of the grain. Replace it with brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal and whole barley. You can use substitute any grain for white rice - quinoa, barley, millet, wheat berries...
- Soak your grains before cooking them. Grains contain phytic acid, which can leach nutrients, so you may want to soak them to neutralize. You soak them for 12-24 hours in water with 2T of vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, or whey. We haven't actually done this - we just learned it from our commenters below but we'll give it a whirl. (thanks all!)
- All pasta and bread are processed. Sorry. We hate to break the bad news to you, but flour is smushed grains - that's processing. However, they are staples of most people's diets. If you're going to have these, look at the ingredients list and make sure that the word "whole" precedes any grain. "Seven grain bread" does not mean there are seven whole grain types. Products with at least 51% whole grains will have the phrase ""In a low fat diet, whole grain foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancers" or a Whole Grain Council's whole grain stamped 100%. Experiment and find what you like. Different manufacturers make very different tasting products. We tried many different types of whole wheat pasta until we found the Whole Foods brand, which we like as much as white.
- Don't like the taste of whole grains? Try mixing it. My mother weaned my father into brown rice by mixing brown into white rice and gradually increasing the ratio.
- Look at the ingredients list in your cereal, and make sure it has whole grains. They are not only more nutritious; they will also "stick" with you to keep you fuller for a longer period of time. Kashi and Barbara's cereals are often made with whole grains.
- Irish steel-cut oatmeal is the real deal. It's delicious. I'm partial to McCann's. It takes longer to cook, but it's worth it. You can plan ahead by bringing it to a boil the night before, turning the heat off, and leaving the lid on overnight, or using a slow-cooker on low for the night.
- Ask for brown rice in Asian restaurants. Lots of them carry it now. Even if they don't, the more requests they get, the more likely they are to serve it in the future.
- Baking? Try substituting whole wheat flour, spelt wheat, and amaranth. You'll have to make adjustments so search out different recipes.
- Add whole grains (e.g. barley, quinoa) to soups.
- Make extra servings and keep it in the refrigerator. That way there's always something to snack on, and they work well in salads too. For extra credit, add ground flaxseeds. The flaxseed adds extra depth and omega-3's.
- You don't have to switch over 100% immediately. Remember, it's about increasing your batting average. Make gradual changes, and you'll probably find you end up preferring whole grains. We did!