If you’re paying attention to all the low-carb, gluten-free diets out there these days, whole grains may not be making it onto your plate on the regular—and many nutritionists say that would be a shame, given all of their nutritional benefits.
In contrast to refined grains, which contain only the endosperm (or starchy middle) of the grain, whole grains also contain the germ (where you’ll find most nutrients) and the bran (or outer hull).
An outstanding source of fiber and essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, selenium, iron, and zinc, depending on the grain, whole grains are lacking in most of our diets, which tend to be high in animal protein and refined grains.
“When we look at the healthiest populations, most of them have diets that are very high in whole grains, along with lots of plants and minimal animal products,” says vegetarian nutritionist Alex Caspero, R.D., owner of Delish Knowledge. “We tend to be obsessed with protein, but I wish that would turn to an obsession with fiber. We are learning more about gut health every day, and it usually comes back to the balance of gut flora. Fiber feeds the gut, and whole grains are a great source.”
A sub-type of whole grain, “ancient grains” haven’t been modified or cross-bred by modern agriculture.
“Some theories say that the recent uptick in gluten-intolerance isn’t related to gluten, but more to the processing of the grains,” says Caspero. What’s more, many ancient grains are naturally gluten-free, making them a good choice for those who may be intolerant.
Quinoa, Caspero says, was the first ancient grain to appear on the market around 2010 and has since become a staple in kitchens. “From there, I think people were looking for other alternatives to wheat, and ancient grains are not only delicious and hearty, but they may be easier to digest than traditional wheat,” she says.
However, as delicious as it is, one can only eat so much quinoa. So if you’re craving something different in your ancient grain routine, but don’t know where to begin, try Caspero’s top six recommendations. (Note: all of the nutrient information is for one cup cooked; for denser grains like farro, you can serve half a cup for a lighter portion). You’ll find your grain bowls will thank you for it!
“I love the nutty taste of farro, especially when it’s mixed with hearty roasted vegetables for a yummy salad. If you’re looking for a new grain to enjoy in a grain bowl, try this,” says Caspero. An ancient variety of wheat also known as emmer, farro is higher in fiber than most other grains, making it super-filling. It’s also an excellent source of magnesium (120 milligrams, or about a third of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)), and iron. With a nutty flavor and chewy texture, it’s a delicious addition to hearty soups and stews. Caspero toasts it and prepares it like risotto to make “farrotto.”
- Calories: 400
- Protein: 14 grams
- Carbs: 74 grams
- Fiber: 14 grams
- Iron: 3 milligrams
“If farro is my ‘winter grain,’ I eat a ton of bulgur wheat during the summer. It’s so light and chewy,” says Caspero. Bulgur is high in minerals like manganese (1.1 milligrams; over half your RDA), magnesium (58 milligrams), and iron. With a consistency that goes great in grain-salad dishes, make tabouli by mixing bulgur with lots of chopped parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Calories: 151
- Protein: 5.6 grams
- Carbs: 33.8 grams
- Fiber: 8.2 grams
- Iron: 1.75 milligrams
These whole-grain breakfasts will keep you full all morning long:
“This is one of my favorite ancient grains. It’s got a great nutty flavor,” says Caspero. “Most of the crop in this country goes into animal feed or is used for biodegradable packaging, but it’s gaining popularity as a food.” Gluten-free sorghum contains a phytochemical called policosanol, which may help manage cholesterol levels. Although sorghum is most often used as flour to make gluten-free breads, Caspero suggests trying it as “popped sorghum,” an alternative to popcorn.
- Calories: 360
- Protein: 10 grams
- Carbs: 72 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Iron: 3.6 milligrams
We all know wheat berries in their ground form: whole-wheat flour. This ancient intact grain, however, contains all parts of the wheat kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. “Like most ancient grains, it has a yummy chewy, nutty flavor, plus it tastes like wheat,” says Caspero. She suggests trying it cooked, cooled, then tossed with your favorite salad dressing and chopped vegetables for a hearty grain salad.
- Calories: 280
- Protein: 9 grams
- Carbs: 62 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Iron: 2.3 milligrams
“If you’ve eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, you’ve had teff,” says Caspero. Along with sorghum, the flour is used to make the spongy Ethiopian sourdough-flatbread, injera. Gluten-free and high in calcium (123 milligrams per cup), teff also serves up nearly a third of your daily iron requirements.
- Calories: 255
- Protein: 9.75 grams
- Carbs: 50 grams
- Fiber: 7.1 grams
- Iron: 5.2 milligrams
SOURCE: (WOMEN’S HEALTH MAG)