Whole Grains: 7 to Add to Your Diet

You know you’re supposed to incorporate whole grains into your diet and you’ve seen the bins of grains in the grocery store, but what the heck do you do with them?

While the prices are appealing, once past the brown rice and oats, it can be difficult to know what the other grains are and how to cook them.

Here is a primer on some commonly found grains and ideas for how to use them.

  • Buckwheat – Buckwheat is often used in flour form and makes wonderful pancakes. Since it’s actually a fruit and not a grain, it’s gluten-free. When processed as groats (often called kasha), it can be used like oats. Buckwheat is the main ingredient in soba noodles. Cooking time: 15 minutes for groats.
  • Quinoa – This not-so-common food is prepared like rice, but has a slightly crunchy texture. It’s very high in protein and nutrients and can be substituted in recipes that call for rice or couscous. Quinoa is gluten-free since it’s a seed and not technically a grain. Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.
  • Barley (hulled) – Barley in this form is also called barley groats. This is the whole grain form of barley, having only the outermost hull removed. Delicious in soups. Cooking time: 1 hour or more.
  • Barley (pearled) – This is the more common form of barley. Though slightly less nutritious than hulled because the outer husk and germ layer have been removed, it’s softer than hulled and takes less time to cook. Recipes that don’t specify, usually assume you’re using pearl barley. You can substitute hulled, but will need to allow for longer cooking time. Cooking time: 40-50 minutes.
  • Wheat Berries – This is the whole grain from the wheat plant. If you grind it, you’ll have whole wheat flour. Though most of us aren’t that ambitious, you can still make use of this nutritious grain. Soak the berries overnight and simmer them until soft.  They can be used as a breakfast dish (with yogurt and fruit) or in casseroles. Cooked wheat berries freeze well. Cooking time: 1-2 hours after soaking.
  • Bulgur Wheat – A processed form of whole wheat that can be prepared quickly either by steaming or soaking. It’s often used in making tabouli. Cooking time: Less than 10 minutes
  • Flaked grains – By rolling and slicing the whole grains, the nutrients are preserved, but the cooking times reduced. Look for wheat, rye, spelt, etc. and use as you would rolled oats. Cooking times: under 30 minutes.

Check out this great recipe for Barley Risotto with Chicken, Peppers and Chard.

Other recipes you might like:

Grilled Polenta with Mushroom Ragu

Heart Healthy Trail Mix

Breakfast Couscous