Sometimes, it is really hard to be a nutrition consumer. There are so many nutrition messages that change- so many claims on food labels- so many different “fad” diets- it’s hard to know what’s right from what’s wrong. One of the foods that is the most confusing is the whole grain. What does whole grain even mean these days?
When I am talking whole grains, I am talking complex carbohydrates- grain products that are minimally, (if at all) processed from the natural form. A WHOLE grain is a seed with three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran. When a grain is processed and refined, only the starchy endosperm remains; this means the germ (which provides healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals) and the bran (filled with antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins and minerals) are removed, and their nutrition is lost.
Whole grains play a huge role in our health and nutrition. They have been found to lower your risk of heart disease, reducing risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, lowering changes of colon cancer, and helping you stay at a healthy weight.
So how do you pick up the true WHOLE grains from the imposters?
1) Read the ingredients list. The first ingredient should by 100% whole wheat/grain/corn/other whole grain. If there is a laundry list of ingredients after the whole grain, toss the product. The less ingredients, the better.
2) When buying whole grains, choose those without added sugar and salt to limited unwanted calories and sodium.
3) Stick to the unprocessed forms or 100% whole grains. These include:
- Brown rice
- Kamut Berries
- Wheat Berries
4) Know the imposters:
- Degerminated Cornmeal
- Unbleached or Enriched Flour
- Pearled Barley
- Wheat Germ*
- Wheat Bran or G. Oat Bran *
*note: these are high fiber options, but not whole grains. Use these products as a healthy addition to any 100% whole grain choice)
Take-Away Tip: Don’t skimp on whole grains to follow a fad diet. Read food labels to find 100% whole grains. Stick to the least processed forms and choose a small serving of 100% whole grains with most of your meals. The fiber will keep you satisfied and you will reap the health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and potentially weight loss!
Recipe for Success: Quinoa Salad with Rainbow Vegetables and Lemon-Honey Dressing
- 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 small yellow onion (or ½ large yellow onion), diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 cup frozen kale
- 1 16-oz can no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 Lemon (juice and zest)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly (it has a natural and bitter coating that is easily removed when rinsed).
- Add white wine, water and quinoa to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed into the quinoa and the berries have “blossomed” open.
- While quinoa cooks, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté onions until they start to brown. Reduce heat to medium, add peppers, carrots and kale and cook until vegetables begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Transfer vegetable mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add drained chick-peas and ½ the zest from lemon and stir well.
- In a separate bowl, make the dressing. Whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, the remaining lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon honey.
- Fluff quinoa once it has finished cooking (make sure there is no remaining liquid). Transfer quinoa to mixing bowl with vegetables and stir to combine. Next, add lemon-honey dressing directly on top of quinoa and stir well until completely combined.
Serve room temperature or chilled and enjoy a tasty, flavorful and SUPER nutritious whole grain salad for the rest of the week!
The best part about this salad is the versatility. I make a large batch and use it the rest of the week. Here are some ways to continue to zest it up:
- Eat it as is! This is a balanced meal in a grain dish loaded with protein, fiber and healthy fat (remember, quinoa is a complete protein).
- Add in toasted walnuts and sliced strawberries and serve over salad greens.
- Toss in rinsed canned tuna and capers for a Mediterranean flair.
- Serve alongside grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish
- Add to a 100% whole grain pita with shredded vegetables and ¼ cup low fat shredded cheese or sliced avocado.