For most of us, getting Canada’s Food Guide’s recommended six to seven servings of grains per day is fairly easy. It’s making sure that at least half of those servings are from whole grains that’s challenging.
According to research quoted by dietitians, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Diabetes Association and the Alzheimer’s Society, making the switch to whole grains is worth the effort. Whole grains are those that retain all three components of grain kernels — the bran, germ and endosperm. This leaves them with the full complement of fibre, vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. A big difference from refined grains which have been linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Making the switch to whole grains isn’t difficult, but it does require a willingness to try new things. While some people may initially balk at the chewier texture and nuttier flavour of whole grains, over time most people learn to love them and can’t imagine going back to the rather bland taste of refined grains.
If you’re interested in the benefits of whole grains like barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, oats, quinoa, rye, wheat and wild rice here are a few ideas and recipes to get you started.
Choose rice, pasta, breakfast cereal, crackers and breads made with whole grain instead of refined grain. Look at the ingredient list to ensure whole grain or whole grain flour is one of the first ingredients mentioned. Ignore claims like “multi-grain,” “ancient grains,” “all natural,” “organic” or “made with whole grains” that don’t indicate if a product is actually whole grain. Even the term “100 per cent whole wheat” does not mean a product is whole grain because in Canada, up to five per cent of the kernel (primarily the bran and germ) is removed while making whole wheat flour.
When baking use whole grain flour or whole grains like oats whenever possible. In most baking, you can substitute half of the white flour with whole grain flour without changing anything else. The more whole grain, the better.
Make or buy snacks made with whole grains. The no-bake granola bars below feature whole grains, as does a bowl of popcorn. Did you know two cups of popcorn are considered one serving of whole grains? Just remember to go easy on the butter and salt.
Prepare double batches of whole grains then freeze extras for another day. Cooked whole grains like rice, buckwheat, wheatberries, quinoa and barley can be frozen with excellent results. Simply cool the cooked grain, place in freezer container, remove as much air as possible, label and freeze for up to six months. To use, thaw overnight or heat with a little water in the microwave. These whole grains are great in soups, stews, salads, rice pilaf, etc.
Soup, salad and snack, here are three whole grain recipes for you to enjoy.
Beef ’n Barley Soup
Use hulled barley (the whole grain form of barley) in this soup. Unlike pot or pearl barley, the bran and germ have not been polished away, so it retains all the nutrients and it will keep its shape nicely.
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 lb. stewing beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 2 parsnips, diced
- 5-6 mushrooms, diced
- 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning (or 1/4 tsp. thyme & 1/2 tsp. oregano)
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 cups (1 can (14.5 oz./428 ml)) diced tomatoes
- 2 -3 cups water
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup hulled barley
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
In large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add beef and brown all sides. For best results, do this in two or three batches to ensure beef gets browned not steamed.
Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots and parsnips. Stir well to release browned bits from pot.
Sauté vegetables for two to three minutes to soften onions and release flavours.
Add Italian seasoning and sauté for half a minute.
Add beef broth, tomatoes, two cups water, Worcestershire Sauce and vinegar; stir well.
Add barley, stir and bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for one hour with lid slightly askew so steam can escape.
If more liquid is needed add additional cup of water.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Add half of parsley, saving the other half to garnish each bowl of soup.
Saskatoon and wheatberry salad
This saskatoon and wheatberry salad is as gorgeous as it is tasty and a great introduction to eating whole wheat grain kernels. If you’re out of saskatoons, use chopped apples instead.
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 3/4 cup raw wheatberries
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/4 red pepper
- 1/4 yellow pepper
- 1/4 green pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 3/4 cup saskatoons (fresh or previously frozen)
In screw-top jar, combine oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Shake vigorously until well mixed. Set aside.
Rinse and drain wheatberries. Place in medium saucepan and cover with one to two inches of water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 50 minutes until tender. Drain any remaining water and cool.
Dice celery, red, yellow and green peppers.
In a medium-size salad bowl, toss together wheatberries, peppers, parsley and green onions.
Add dressing and mix well, gently fold in saskatoons and serve and enjoy.
Makes four servings and you can store leftovers in the fridge for up to four days.
No-bake granola bar
- 1-1/2 cup All Bran Flakes cereal
- 1-1/2 cup large flake oats
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup hemp hearts
- 1 cup dates (about 12 to 15 dates)
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
- 1/3 cup almond or peanut butter
In large non-stick skillet, toast oats, walnuts and pumpkin seeds over medium heat, stirring often for about 8 minutes or until light golden and fragrant.
Pour oat mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in bran flakes and hemp hearts.
In bowl of food processor, pulse dates until finely chopped and starting to form a ball.
In small saucepan, heat together honey and almond butter over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Add dates and stir to combine.
Pour into oat mixture and stir together until dates are distributed evenly and oats are coated well.
Press mixture into 9 x 13-inch parchment- or foil-lined baking pan and press to flatten evenly (warning: don’t place it on a pan that’s too big —you want the mixture to be “tight”).
Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm. Cut into bars.
Wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for longer.
Recipe: Nita Sharda at carrotsandcake.ca