Whole grains are an inexpensive, nutritious, and shelf-stable ingredient to keep in your kitchen. Here, you’ll learn about the benefits of whole grains and how to prepare my favorite types.
What is a whole grain?
Whole grains are the seed of the plant, in their pure and natural growing form. Whole grains contain three edible parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Each part has different nutritional qualities.
The bran is the outer skin of a whole grain kernel. It provides B vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.
The germ is the inner layer, which contains a bulk of the nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, and various B vitamins.
The endosperm makes up the majority of the whole grain kernel. It’s primarily made of carbohydrates, but also contains some protein, vitamins, and minerals. The endosperm is the only part of a grain that remains after processing into a refined grain.
Benefits of whole grains
Whole grains provide several health benefits when eaten as part of a balanced diet. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 3-5 servings of whole grains per day. Here are some of the benefits of including whole grains in the diet:
Provide fiber and nutrients. Whole grains are higher in fiber than refined grains, because most of the fiber is in the bran (which is removed in processing). Whole grains also contain B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals.
Lower risk of chronic disease. Because of all the good stuff found in whole grains, they have been shown to lower the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and colorectal cancer.
Weight maintenance. Including whole grains in your diet may help with maintaining a healthy weight.
5 different whole grains to try
Here are some of my favorite whole grains. I use these regularly in my cooking, and try to rotate which kinds I prepare every week.
Likely the most widely available and well known (gluten free) whole grain, brown rice is an incredibly versatile ingredient. You can use it to make stir fries, sushi, grain bowls, and fried rice.
The whole grain bulgur comes from wheat – so it is not gluten free. The kernels are parboiled and dried before packaging, so it cooks incredibly quickly. It’s often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine – you may recognize it as the grain found in tabbouleh!
Farro is one of my all time favorite whole grains. I love the chewy texture and nutty flavor it provides. Farro is a sturdier grain, so it holds up well in soups and stews, in addition to grain salads. Farro is not gluten free.
Quinoa’s popularity has surged in the past few years. I love quinoa because it cooks quickly, has a mild nutty taste, and is incredibly versatile. I love using it in grain bowls, as a base for stir fried veggies, and even in vegetarian chili!
If you really want to mix things up, try making a batch of wild rice. It has a nutty and earthy flavor, plus lots of texture in every bite. The individual grains hold up very well when wild rice is cooked, so it’s perfect to add to salads, soups, and grain bowls.
I recommend cooking a batch of one or two grains at the beginning of the week. You can use them for all kinds of meals, without needing to wait for them to cook. My favorite way to cook whole grains is with this rice cooker. It’s foolproof and does all the work for you!
Let me know if you love this recipe by leaving a comment or rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!