Trying to eat more whole grains? Keep trying! Grains provide a healthy boost of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Grains are also rich in carbohydrates—the body’s main fuel supply—so we need a fair amount daily (despite what low-carb/no-carb gurus say).
The key is to keep portions moderate and skew strongly to whole-grain versions as often as you can. While the government guidelines urge you to “make half of your grains whole,” we say aim for making most, if not all, of your grains whole. You’ll feel fuller longer, since whole grains and fiber take longer to digest.
The first place to look for whole grains, especially more common ones like bulgur and barley, is near rice at most markets. Less common grains can be found in the bulk bins at well-stocked supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Here are some shopping tips and basic prep and cooking instructions.
Barley has a tough hull that is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran. Hulled barley, available at health food stores, retains more of the whole-grain nutrients but cooks slowly. More readily available, and more convenient, are “pearled” barley (the bran has been removed) and “quick cooking” barley (parboiled). Technically neither are whole grains but nutritionally speaking they count toward your whole-grain servings because of their high fiber content.
Bring 1 cup barley and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes 3-3 1/2 cups.
97 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 73 mg potassium.
Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 2 cups.
86 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 64 mg potassium.
Brown rice has been minimally processed, just enough to sort and remove the inedible outer husk, leaving the nutritious outer bran layer intact. You can find brown versions of most types of rice, including short-,medium- and long-grain, jasmine and basmati.*
Bring 1 cup rice and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Makes 3 cups.
108 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 42 mg potassium.
*You can also find “quick-cooking” or “instant” brown rice, which is ready in 5-10 minutes. Follow cooking instructions on the package.
Bulgur is available in fine, medium and coarse textures. (If it’snot labeled, it’s usually fine or medium.) Unless a recipe calls for a specific texture, any type can be used. Don’t confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which is simply that—cracked wheat. Cracked wheat must be cooked for up to an hour; bulgur is cracked wheat that’s been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses.
Bring 1 cup bulgur and 1 1/2cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered,until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 10-15 minutes.Or pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand,covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed let the bulgur stand longer, or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid. Makes 2 1/2-3 cups.
76 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 4 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 62 mg potassium.
Farro (or Emmer) is usually sold in the U.S. semi-pearled (sometimes labeled semiperlato), meaning some of the bran layer has been removed. If you find farro that is not semi-pearled, it needs to be soaked in water overnight before cooking and will need to cook for 30 to 45 minutes more to become tender. Farro has a satisfying chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be used in baked goods and soups.
Bring 3 cups water or broth and1 cup farro to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to a simmer and cook,uncovered, until the farro is tender, 15 to 25 minutes. Drain. Makes 3cups.
111 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 gprotein; 3 g fiber; 0 mg sodium; 139 mg potassium.
Millet is hulled (the outer husk has been removed and the grain isleft intact), leaving tiny yellow balls. Toasting millet in a large dry skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes before cooking helps it retain its shape. It does not contain gluten, so may be tolerated by some people with celiac disease.
Bring 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup millet. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered,until tender, 20-25 minutes. Makes 3 cups.
104 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 54 mg potassium.
Quinoa is a delicately flavored grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet. Toasting the grain before cooking enhances its flavor and rinsing removes any residue of sapon in, quinoa’s natural,bitter protective covering.
Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Makes 3 cups.
111calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 6 mg sodium; 159 mg potassium.
Spelt is a cereal grain with a mild nutty flavor and a relatively high protein content.
Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup spelt. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender, about 1 hour. Makes 3 cups.
123 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 139 mg potassium.
Wheat berries of any variety (hard, soft, spring or winter) can be used interchangeably. Labeling is inconsistent—you may find them labeled “hard red winter wheat” without the words “wheat berries.” Some recipes instruct soaking overnight, but we found it unnecessary.
Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones, and rinse with water. Bring 4 cups water or broth and 1 cup wheat berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still a little chewy, about 1 hour. Drain. Makes 2 1/4 cups.
151 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber; 263 mg sodium; 0 mg potassium.
Wild rice, a staple of Native Americans in Minnesota, is not a rice at all, but rather the only aquatic-derived grain native to North America.*
Cook 1 cup rice in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water—at least 4 cups—until tender,45-55 minutes. Drain. Makes 2-2 1/2 cups.
83 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 83 mg potassium.
*You can also find "quick" wild rice—a whole-grain rice that cooks in less than 30 minutes—or "instant" wild rice that's done in 10 minutes or less. Follow cooking instructions on the package.
Grains are made up of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the high-fiber outer coating. The germ is the protein- and nutrient-dense portion. The endosperm is a source of carbohydrate along with some protein. A grain is “whole” if these three parts have been left intact. If it’s processed (e.g., cracked, rolled or cooked), it’s still considered a whole grain if it retains its original balance of nutrients. When grains are refined the bran and germ are removed(taking many nutrients with them), leaving just the endosperm. Examples of a refined whole grain are white flour or white rice (though usually white rice is enriched to replace some of the nutrients stripped during processing).