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The Benefits of Whole Grains

Grains make up an important part of a nutritious diet.  In fact, grains are one quarter of the MyPlate guidelines and the USDA recommends that you make half of these whole grains.  But, what exactly is a whole grain?  A whole grain is the entire seed of the plant and is made up of three edible parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.  It is protected by an inedible husk that keeps out sunlight, pests, water, and disease.  A refined grain is missing one or more of these parts and the key nutrients they contain.

 

GrainParts_WGC_4x4.5_WGC
Courtesy of The Whole Grains Council

 

A few of the more common whole grains include:

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn
  • Farro
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Wild Rice

 

I’ve collected a few recipes that include whole grains I think you’ll enjoy.  Try to substitute whole grains in your recipes whenever possible.  For example, use brown rice instead of white rice in a casserole dish.  Let’s start with this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad.  This dish can be a meal on its own or a side salad.  Quinoa, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, marinated artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and fresh basil make up your salad.  A zesty vinaigrette is made with freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.

 

quinoa-salad-spoon-g1-650x975
Courtesy of The Harvest Kitchen

 

This Chickpea, Spinach, Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Bowl is a satisfying vegetarian meal.  Both the chickpeas and the sweet potatoes are roasted with spices.  The spinach is sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic for a great flavor.  You’ll cook the brown rice for about 30-40 minutes until soft and then arrange everything in a bowl together.  You’ll create your own tahini dressing by combining tahini, lime juice, maple syrup, and a little water.  Drizzle the dressing over top of the bowl and enjoy!

 

greenevi_brownricebowl3
Courtesy of Green Evi

 

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Barley Burritos are terrific for a chilly day and you can let your slow cooker do all the work!  Simply add vegetable broth, uncooked pearl barley, frozen corn, chopped green onions, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, ground red pepper, canned black beans, and canned diced tomatoes to your slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4 hours or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender.  About 15 minutes before serving, add minced garlic and fresh cilantro.  For toppings, you can use sour cream, salsa, or fresh cilantro.

 

black bean and barley
Courtesy of In Fine Balance

 

Check back next Monday when I’ll have some great healthy, kid-friendly snack ideas.

 

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