Everyone says you should eat more whole grains but it isn’t that easy to figure out what the heck is a whole grain and where do you fit them in to your diet? A whole grain has not had its bran and germ removed while refined grains, such as white rice and white flour have been stripped. What’s the difference? The bran and germ are the fiber that your body can’t really digest-the same fiber that is so good for your system because it fills you up, helps your body process food and it contains more nutrients than a refined grain. Thanks to the Mayo Clinic, here’s a quick cheat sheet of what’s a whole grain and what is a refined grain product:
Bulgur (cracked wheat)
Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
Enriched macaroni or spaghetti
White bread (refined)
Here are some easy tips for cooking with whole grains:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
I think the easiest one to digest, pardon the pun, is oatmeal. Yep, that’s right, good old fashioned oatmeal is a whole grain and you can use it in so many ways. Recently I figured out that if you substitute oatmeal for all white flour or even reduce the white flour with some oatmeal when baking chocolate chip cookies, suddenly the cookie looks a whole lot healthier. Now if you add raisins and/or walnuts, you’re really getting much better off than you were when you used just plain old white flour and chocolate chips.
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When I first tasted whole wheat pasta I really did not like it but I shopped around a bit and found a few brands I liked. If I can find a way to make pasta good for me, that’s incentive enough to keep trying. If you happen to have a Whole Foods near you, their 365 brand ain’t bad, and Barilla is pretty good too.
Farro or Barley
Barley is a great alternative for white rice or pasta in soups like vegetable, chicken or Minestrone. You can also cook the barley and use it for stuffing or toss it with diced red onions, cukes, black beans and carrots to make a cold salad.
It takes a bit longer to cook, but you can use brown or wild rice instead of white with most dishes. It’s an easy switch to make.