Have you had any quinoa today? How about any amaranth? Bulgur, perhaps? These items have interesting names to say the least, and they could be tasty additions to the whole grain products in your pantry. The Whole Grains Council has designated September as "Whole Grains Month" so why not celebrate by trying a new whole grain?
At this point you may be wondering just exactly what a whole grain is. Whole grains contain all the essential parts of the grain seed (i.e. bran, germ and endosperm). Whether the grain has been processed or not, it should deliver the same nutrients found in the original seed. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains a day. Even children should consume at least 2 to 3 daily servings. Study after study has shown that eating whole grains, instead of refined grains, can reduce your risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as help you maintain a healthy weight.
Now let’s take a closer look at a few of the less well-known whole grains. Quinoa (pronounced like keen-wa) is commonly considered a grain, but is actually a seed that was a staple in the Incan diet. Higher in protein than other grains, it makes a great addition to soups, salads and casseroles and can even be eaten as a breakfast cereal. Amaranth was a popular food of the Aztecs and just one-fourth cup supplies 60% of the recommended dietary allowance of iron. Amaranth is gluten-free and can be added to gluten-free flour blends, sauces, soups and stews. Bulgur is a cereal made from several different types of wheat, and is most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine. Bulgur can be used in pilafs, soups, baked goods, stuffing and tabbouleh salad. Other whole grains include: barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, brown rice, wild rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale and, of course, whole wheat.
If trying a new whole grain isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to celebrate Whole Grains Month with simple substitutions like these:
· Buy whole grain pasta for your weekly spaghetti dish
· Try a cereal with the Whole Grain stamp*
· Make your favorite sandwich with a whole wheat bread or bun
· Serve brown rice as a side dish instead of white rice
· Try popping your own popcorn to serve as a snack
· Make your favorite soup recipe with added barley or wild rice
*For recipes and information on the Whole Grain stamp, visit the Whole Grain Council’s website at www.wholegrainscouncil.org
Brianna Peterson is a dietetic intern at Texas Woman’s University who completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva Cochran in September.