Whole Grains You Should Add To Your Diet ASAP
With all the low-carb diets out there these days, it’s easy to think the way to health is by avoiding them altogether… but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, grains are crucial for a healthy diet. They regulate your blood sugar, provide energy, and assist with weight loss—that is, provided you’re choosing the right ones.
Below, I am sharing the grains you should add to your diet—effective immediately—along with some easy recipes that’ll make meal prep a breeze.
I promise: You’ll never fear your carbs again.
Whole Grains That DO NOT Contain Gluten
Of all the types of rice out there, brown rice is decidedly the healthiest and my favorite! Unlike white rice, from which the hull and bran have been removed, brown rice still has the bran, leaving most of the nutrients intact. B vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids are all found in the bran, making brown rice substantially more nutritious than its more refined cousin.
And it’s easy to make, too.Brown rice is a versatile whole grain that lends itself very well to a variety of cuisines and dishes. Being a gluten-free grain, it’s also easy on digestion, and has many anti-inflammatory qualities. I love this Southwest Brown Rice Bowl by What's Gabby Cooking.
Although not really that well-known in the US, barley is actually one of the most ancient grains on the planet. Barley has a mild, nutty flavor and chewy, almost pasta-like texture that is unique amongst whole grains. Higher in fiber than many other whole grains, barley is excellent for heart and digestive health, cholesterol, and weight management. Barley is also high in molybdenum—which supports liver detoxification, nervous system metabolism, and antioxidant protection—and selenium, which protects against some forms of cancer and promotes healthy thyroid function.
However, similar to the difference between brown and white rice, hulled barley still has its bran (which is where most of the nutrients reside), whereas pearled barley has the hull and bran removed, so it’s no longer considered a whole grain. This delicious barley soup should be on your winter recipe radar—There’s just something about the classic combination of mushrooms and barley that is supremely comforting. This vegetarian soup is a perfect dinner for a cold winter evening!
Vegetarian Mushroom Barley Soup
- 1 cup barley
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, scrubbed and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/4 lb button mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Soak porcini mushrooms in 3 cups boiled water.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauce for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add barley and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
- Remove the porcinis from the water and reserve all liquid. Sort through them and remove any hard bits.
- Add porcinis to the pot and cook, stirring for about a minute. Add the soaking liquid and 3 more cups of vegetable broth, as well as the bay leaves and fresh thyme.
- Bring to a boil. Then, lower heat and simmer, covered, until the barley is soft—about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Millet is high in fiber and protein–it contains all amino acids, making it a “complete” protein too. It’s great to use as a side dish just like you would any other carbohydrate, such as rice. Try adding millet to your salad or use as a cold “pasta” dish with your favorite dressing and vegetables, as it keeps well warm or cold. It is light, fluffy, slightly nutty, and great at soaking up any flavors you pair with it. It is slightly chewy grain, and doesn't get totally soft after cooking.
It is great for indigestion or morning sickness as it helps with nausea.
To prepare millet, use 2 1/2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry millet. Simply boil the liquid, add the millet, and simmer for 25 minutes until soft. Fluff with a fork before serving. Check out this recipe for Sweet Potato Millet Falafel from Oh My Veggies.
Quinoa’s suddenly hit peak “health food” status… and for good reason. Technically an ancient seed, quinoa is one of the most protein-rich plant foods we can eat, containing all nine essential amino acids. It’s high in the minerals iron, magnesium, and manganese, keeping red blood cells healthy and aiding in energy production. Quinoa also contains nearly twice as much fiber as other grains, which promotes digestive regularity, lowers cholesterol, and keeps you fuller longer, thus reducing cravings and stabilizing blood sugar.
And it's super versatile too—quinoa can be made into flour for baking, and is even used in salads and porridges. But I am totally crushing on this Curried Quinoa Salad right now!
Buckwheat, despite its name, is actually another delicious gluten-free grain. With all the fiber, protein, and minerals contains in these little seeds, it’s super nutritious. Like amaranth, buckwheat isn’t actually a cereal grain–it’s a fruit seed high in manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium.
Buckwheat is slightly sweet, nutty and chewy. Use in porridges, raw and soaked overnight, sprouted for granola, pilaf, or use buckwheat flour for baked goods.
To prepare, rinse the buckwheat well. Use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry buckwheat. Boil for about 25 minutes or until tender.
Try these Buckwheat Hemp Banana Pancakes from Spabettie.
Popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Ethiopian cuisines, farro is technically a form of wheat. Farro is high in B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, all of which play an important role in the body. With high protein and fiber levels similar to that of quinoa, farro is equally filling, stabilizing to blood sugar levels, and beneficial for weight loss. It’s also high in antioxidants like plant polyphenols, which can protect against diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The easiest way to fit it in your diet is in a salad. This heartier take on a traditional Greek salad is more filling and satisfying than its grain-free counterpart!
Mediterranean Farro Salad
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed and drained
- 1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
- 2/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup sheep’s milk feta cheese, chopped
- 1/2 a red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 can organic garbanzo beans
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- A pinch of garlic powder
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Combine the stock and farro in a medium saucepan, and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Remove from heat and drain. Let cool.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Transfer cooled farro to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss with the dressing until combined.
Keep doing your morning oatmeal… oats should be a healthy diet staple. Known for their cardiovascular benefits, oats are high in soluble fiber, beta glucans, and antioxidants, making them amazing for lowering cholesterol and protecting against heart disease. Oats stabilize blood sugar, and are an important food for managing and preventing diabetes, as well as encouraging healthy weight loss. The high concentration of lignans also makes oats a powerful food for lowering the risk of hormone-related cancers.
Another perk? Oats are excellent for digestion and regularity, making them one of the healthiest ways to start the day. Take your trusty oats to the next level with this raspberry overnight oats recipe, which can easily be prepared the night before. It’s a perfect, super quick, and easy breakfast option that could last for a couple of days—or be a lovely breakfast for mama and a little.
Raspberry or Strawberry Coconut Overnight Oats
- 1/2 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2/3 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk*
- 1/3 cup coconut yogurt*
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
- 2 tsp organic maple syrup
- 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup organic raspberries or strawberries (whatever is in season)
- Whisk together all ingredients (aside from the raspberries) in a bell jar.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, top with raspberries and some extra shredded coconut. Enjoy!
- Coconut milk yields a thicker oatmeal, whereas using almond milk will make it come out a little runnier.
- I used coconut yogurt to make the recipe vegan, but feel free to use organic Greek yogurt if you prefer it.
Whole Grains That Contain Gluten
Einkorn is an ancient wheat mostly grown in Europe that contains more phosphorus, vitamin B6, and potassium than regular wheat. Einkorn is a “pure” form of wheat, as it contains all the nutrition from harvesting without processing the hull away from the grain. When cooked, einkorn has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Einkorn flour can be used to make bread, muffins, cakes, and other baked goods. To prepare, use 5 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry einkorn. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender.
Coach Note: Some individuals suffering from wheat intolerances or sensitivities may consume einkorn without any negative side effects, but that’s not always the case. It’s different for every individual, so it’s best to play it safe. Try using it in these Homemade Fig Newtons from Healthy Green Kitchen.
Spelt is an ancient grain rich in fiber, protein, and minerals such as iron and manganese. Spelt berries are great to add to salads (they work especially well with kale!), used in soups, stews, or as a side dish like rice would be used. Spelt is also sold and used as a flour to make baked goods such as breads, cakes, pancakes, muffins, and much more. The taste and texture is sweet, nutty, chewy, and the grains stay fluffy after cooking, unlike other grains, which can lose their “al dente” texture when cooked for too long. To prepare this grain, use 3 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of spelt. Cook for 1 1/2 hours at a simmer or until the kernels have become tender. If you enjoy a chewier texture, cut down the water to 2 cups!
Try using it in the Blissful Blueberry Banana Spelt Muffins from Oh She Glows.
GET EVEN HEALTHIER!
Are you curious about how to harmonize your health goals? How to fit wellness into your busy schedule? Let’s talk! Schedule an initial coaching session with me today – or pass this offer on to someone you care about!