Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to Eat More Whole Grains

Members of Generation Y face a double edged nutritional sword. On the one hand, we have incredible access to health news and information and have been educated about healthy choices and healthy living from a young age. On the other, we also have access to the highest level of fast, readymade, frozen and convenient foods, many of which contribute to the fact that due to obesity related illness such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke; we are likely to be the first generation of Americans who do not outlive their parents. The statistics are staggering and terrifying on many levels.

Having said this, a diet high in whole grains is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and confers many health benefits. Only three servings of whole grains per day will reduce stroke risk by 30-36%, type 2 diabetes risk by 21-30% and heart disease risk by 25-28%. Additionally, recent studies have concluded that whole grains also reduce the risk of developing asthma, inflammatory disease, colorectal cancer, gum disease and high blood pressure.

So how do you add more whole grains to your diet? It’s easy. Some examples of whole grains include: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, wild rice, wheat berries and whole wheat bread, pasta and crackers. When in doubt, check for the word “whole” on the package and choose items with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Tips, tricks and recipes after the jump!

Easy tips for adding whole grains to your diet:
1.     Choose whole wheat bread over white. Enriched flour used in white bread has been stripped of 30 nutrients present in whole wheat bread. 
2.     Choose brown rice over white. Brown rice reduces type 2 diabetes risk and is high in B vitamins, phosphorous, and fiber. 
3.     Choose whole wheat pasta, or better yet, choose brown rice, spelt or millet pasta
4.     Breakfast: there are many whole grain cereals available, choose one that includes bran flakes, shredded wheat, millet or oatmeal in the ingredients.
5.     Oatmeal: even the instant versions pack a decent amount of fiber and whole grains. Try steel cut oats as well.
6.     Integrate quick cooking new grains into your dinners. Quinoa, barley, millet and bulgur all cook in less than 15 minutes.
7. Substitute whole wheat bread crumbs in your recipes. 

Some of my favorite whole grain recipes:
Quinoa is a great source of both protein and fiber. It contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is easily digested and gluten-free. This is a healthy, whole grain version of a caprese salad.

Barley is high in fiber as well as selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. Adding it to turkey chili adds filling protein and fiber, a nutty taste, and chewy texture.

Buckwheat soba noodles are a wonderful whole grain option that are filled with vitamin B1, B2, minerals, and twice as much protein as rice. This is an easy recipe that can be put together in 30 minutes and served hot or cold.

This is a simple stir fry with brown rice. I used chicken, but you can substitute the protein option of your choice. This is a quick dinner that is low in calories and sodium. 

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