Friday, March 4, 2011

A few words about Whole Grains

I want to type a little bit about grains today. Grains are the edible seeds of plants that belong to the grass family but there are other forms of grains that do not belong to this family like quinoa or buckwheat. In general the grains consumed in the US are super processed. Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ which is where the nutrients reside leaving mostly starch behind. It is important to choose whole grains when shopping. Whole grains contain several essential amino acids, B complex vitamins, Vitamin E, minerals like iron and zinc, phytonutrients, etc.
Label reading is important. For instance Whole Wheat bread can be labeled as such as long as some portion of the grain used was whole but unless it say 100% whole wheat it is most likely not. "Wheat Flour" on a label is refined and not whole grain. Brown Rice is a whole grain but white rice is not same with flours.
Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Nine of them are essential meaning that our bodies cannot produce them and we need to obtain them in our diet. Grains usually need to be combined to form a complete protein. Legumes and grains will make a complete protein. So beans and rice, rice and soybeans or dried peas are complete proteins.
Whole grains have a much different glycemic index level than refined grains. Whole grains and things made from them are slower to digest because they have greater fiber and nutrient content. This slower rate gives them a lower glycemic number than their refined counterparts.

A few grains to try to incorporate into the diet are Millet, Barley, oats, Brown Rice and Quinoa.

Cooking these is easy...
*Quinoa should be rinsed first and for 1 cup quinoa add 2 cups water. Cooking time is 15 to 25 minutes
*Short Grain Brown Rice 1 cup rice to 2 cups water and cook for 45 minutes
*Long Grain Brown Rice 1 cup rice to 2-21/2 cups water and cook for 45 minutes
*Millett 1 cup millett to 2 -3 cups water and cook for 25 minutes
*Steel Cut Oats 1 cup oats to 2-3 cups water and cook for 30 minutes
*Oat Groats 1 cup to 3 cups water and cook for 50 minutes
* Pearled barley 1 cup to 3 cups water and cook for 30-40 minutes
*Hulled barley 1 cup to 3 cups water and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

My favorite thing to do with grains for a convenient, easy meal is make bowls with them. My bowls are usually brown rice, chopped garlic, chopped veggies of any kind that need eaten, almonds, tamari or shoyu sauce, sesame oil and tempeh lightly steamed or browned in coconut oil with a few sprays of Bragg's Liquid Aminos. If I have leftover beans those go in there too. It is also nice to chop up some kale and let the kale be the base for the rice and veggies. Quinoa is good in place of the rice for something different. Avocado on top is heaven. You know it is nature's butter...but I will save that for another topic.
If I have leftover brown rice I make sure to eat it the next day, only keeping it over night in the refrigerator because it usually has moisture j it which can become a bacteria problem. Anyway I like to eat it like a hot cereal in the morning with rice milk, a little %100 pure maple syrup and some coconut flakes or cinnamon if I have them. You can do the same with Quinoa. In fact instead of making it for dinner or lunch it is a good protein source and energy ignitor to start off the day. Quinoa is a complete protein, a concentrated source of iron and a good source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is necessary for ATP which is our body's energy currency.
There is a lot of information out there about Whole Grains and it can be confusing. Just remember if it is refined you want to stay away from it. It is basically nutritionally dead. A good rule of thumb is if it is white leave it out. That can seem especially difficult with breads..I understand. I used to love fresh, crusty artisan breads myself and I still do. A crusty piece of french bread with olive oil and black pepper is so yummy it worth it in the end is what you need to ask yourself. I even tried making my own bread a few years ago but was not successful. Portland has lots of bakeries and when I first moved here I admit that I did not resist the fresh breads well. I noticed a reaction in my body almost immediately that was not pleasant. I got back on my wagon and, luckily, I enjoy the sprouted breads. It, for me, is easier to choose those because then I don't have to worry about them too much. They take some getting used to because they are heavy breads but they are filling. I like the spelt breads and pastas as well.
Another good rule of thumb is "If it won't rot eat it not". Also a topic for another blog.

Have fun at the market and buy some grains to try next week. Be creative that is how we learn what we like.

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