Article specially written for smartfood.org by Calli Temmer
Grains are an integral part of one’s diet, as they’re filled with key nutrients — from carbohydrates and protein, to fibre and various vitamins. It’s important to note, though, that not all grains are made equal.
There are two types of grains, namely, refined grains and whole grains. The former is processed, which means part of the outer casing or inner seed has been removed
, and therefore stripping it of much of its nutrients. Meanwhile, the latter still contains much of the natural parts of the grain, making it the healthier option.
That being said, it’s safe to say that whole grains are the ones worthy of being incorporated into your diet. To help you eat a more nourishing diet, here are the best whole grains you should eat, and how you should prepare them
Top Whole Grains to Include in Your Diet
If you head to the shop, you’ll see that there are loads of whole grains to choose from. This is why we’ve rounded up the top ones you should look to incorporate.
A beloved ingredient here in India, millets are a must-have whole grain for your larder. These gluten-free whole grains are rich sources of important nutrients, such as antioxidants, manganese, magnesium, and zinc — to name a few. What’s more is that they’re so nutritious that growing children and ageing adults eat millets in the form of porridge to safeguard their health.
To prepare, you’ll need a 1:2 ratio of uncooked millet to liquid (water or broth). Toast the grains in a saucepan over medium heat until they turn golden brown. Then, add the liquid and stir. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. Once it does, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the millet grains absorb the liquid. Let it sit for a few minutes and fluff it with a fork!
Apart from being extremely versatile to cook with, brown rice is a truly nourishing whole grain. Indeed, brown rice has a myriad of health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, promoting healthy digestion, and even preventing blood clots from forming. Not to mention, this filling and delicious whole grain is packed with Vitamin B, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Cooking brown rice involves the same steps as cooking millet, but you don’t have to toast the grains. Rice cookers, even standard ones, also come in handy as they are simple to use. While they might not be great at cooking other grains, they are designed to cook rice to perfection. But with brown rice, you do need to add the extra step of soaking the grains for 20-30 minutes before cooking them. This is key to making sure they come out fluffy every time.
Chances are, you’ve heard about this latest favourite of the health and wellness community. While it is gaining a lot of buzz, quinoa is not just a whole grain, but a superfood, too. This is because this whole grain is also a complete vegetable protein that contains a wide range of essential amino acids. These support muscle growth and the immune system. Plus, it has a unique yet tasty nutty flavour to it, which will surely elevate the flavour profile of your dishes.
To cook quinoa perfectly every time, follow the same steps as preparing millet. After turning off the heat, allow the grains to steam for five minutes by covering the sauce pan. This is when the little grains actually pop and become fluffy.
While oatmeal is its refined version, whole rolled oats or oat groats are unrefined and incredibly nutritious. They have soluble fibres that can aid in digestion. Oats are also the perfect health food for people with cardiovascular disease and related illnesses, as their dietary fibres have been found to lower bad cholesterol.
Oats are possibly one of the most versatile grains because they can be eaten hot and cold, sweet and savoury. One of the best ways they’re prepared is in the form of overnight oats. In a jar or a small container, add one cup of oats to one cup of milk or yoghurt. You can stir in anything you like, be it chia seeds, berries, cocoa powder, or vanilla extract. You don’t even need a sweetener! Whisk the ingredients together and leave it in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours for great tasting oats.
All of these whole grains are readily available in markets and health food stores. Make sure to incorporate them into your diet because they’re extremely versatile and nutritious.