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All About Whole Grains

Charlyn Fargo on

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to grains. Should you eat grains? What is a whole grain? How do you cook them? Here are some answers from a Whole Grains: Breaking Barriers conference held in Boston.

Grains worldwide provide nearly 50% of the calories eaten. All grains start out as whole grains, which contain all three original edible parts of the kernel. Processing can turn a whole grain into a refined grain, which means the bran and germ have been removed to make them easier to bake into bread or milder in taste or give them a longer shelf life.

Without the bran and the germ, about 25% of the grain's protein is lost along with at least 17 key nutrients. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals in the enriching process, but whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, fiber and up to 2 to 3 times more of vitamins and nutrients.

Brown rice, for example, is an intact whole grain, while whole wheat flour has been milled. Whether a grain is still intact or has been cracked split or ground, it's still considered a whole grain as long as all three of the original edible parts (the bran, germ and endosperm) are still present in their original proportions. You can identify a whole grain by the whole grain stamp on the package.

Cooking whole grains is easy. You simply place uncooked grains in a pot, whether it's rice, quinoa, barley or amaranth, then add at least twice as much water or broth, and bring the grain to a boil, then simmer. When it's soft, it's ready and you can drain any excess water off. Grains can simmer anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the grain.

Here are some ways to get more whole grains:

 

1. Substitute half the white flour with whole-wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes.

2. Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.

3. Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.

4. Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.

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