Despite what Paleo Diet promoters say, grains should be part of your diet. The key is to identify and choose whole grains, which contain all the essential nutrients found in the original grain seed. You want to mainly consume grains that have the original bran, germ, and endosperm because, during processing, many vital nutrients are lost or removed. I love that there’s a whole month devoted to whole grains—September!
I recommend whole grains because people who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet experience “successful aging,” defined as the absence of disability, depression, cognitive problems, respiratory problems, and chronic disease. Depending on your calorie needs, two to six half-cup servings of cooked grains are reasonable daily goals. These servings will help you obtain many essential nutrients in grains: fiber, niacin, thiamin, folate, iron, zinc, and magnesium. A one-ounce slice of whole wheat bread or one ounce of dry pasta cooked al dente replaces a serving of cooked grains but may be more likely to cause a blood sugar spike because the pulverized carbohydrates digest more quickly than intact grains.
A great way to celebrate Whole Grains Month is to sample some new grains. You have many grains from which to choose, including brown rice, oats, barley, and wild rice. I have a personal fondness for ancient grains. These hearty plants have not been modified during the more than one thousand years of cultivation. Ancient grains include the now-familiar quinoa in addition to some you may have never eaten, like amaranth, Kamut®, spelt, farro, sorghum, and millet.
Though millets have been a staple of diets in other parts of the world for decades, many Americans are not familiar with this ancient grain. Millets are highly nutritious, have a low glycemic index, and grow in areas with high temperatures and minimal water. Unless cross-contaminated, millets are celiac-friendly grains because they are naturally gluten-free. As for health benefits, a recent study revealed that diabetic people who consumed millets as part of their daily diet saw their blood sugar drop 12 to 15 percent. In pre-diabetic individuals, HbA1c levels lowered on average 17 percent.
Though millet is widely available and included as an ingredient in whole-grain bread, I’m confident that most of my readers have not considered using it as a breakfast meal. Go ahead, give it a try by making the accompanying recipe for Nutty Banana Porridge. Any leftover portions can be refrigerated and reheated with additional liquid.
If you need ideas on adding unprocessed grains to your diet, try some of the Whole Grains Council suggestions.
- Swap out half the white flour and replace it with whole wheat flour in recipes for homemade cookies, muffins, pancakes, and bread loaves.
- Use quick oats in baked goods recipes.
- Make a whole-grain stuffing for poultry using bulgur, wild rice, or barley.
- Add whole grains to soups. Barley is most familiar, but any whole grain will work.
- Try eating raw old-fashioned oats by trying out a new recipe for overnight oats.
- Use whole grains as a side dish instead of mashed potatoes.
- Buy 100 percent whole-grain bread, English muffins, pita, and pasta.
- Look for low-sugar cereals made with whole grains like amaranth, Kamut®, kasha, and spelt.
The Whole Grains Council website abounds with more information about whole-grain foods and their health beneﬁts. Their more than 500 recipes can be filtered by meal, by course, or by grain type. Check it out! Visit https://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes. Another great place to find recipes and purchase unique grains is Bob’s Red Mill (www.bobsredmill.com).