In some Asian languages, to eat literally translates as "to eat rice."
The 2005 USDA dietary guidelines recommend that Americans consume three or more servings of whole grain each day. Eating whole grain foods allows your body to reap the additional health benefits that go above and beyond fiber supplements and isolated bran found in processed grains.
Whole grains are nearly everywhere and many manufacturers have recently put significant R&D efforts into developing whole grain versions of classic foods from cereals and pastas to pizzas and tacos.
Whole grains are thought to prevent diseases from cancer to cardiovascular disease, they help keep weight down by lowering the glycemic index, provide a long-lasting feeling of satiation, and also tend to provide high levels watersoluble fiber which works to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Barley. This hardy grain is typically found hulled—meaning the outer husk has been removed—and boasts high fiber and mineral content. Hulled barley should be stored in a cool climate, away from light, heat and moisture. Pearled barley can be kept at room temperature for a longer time since most of the oils that could go rancid have already been removed.
Menu suggestion: Substitute hulled barley for any recipe calling for pearled barley. Remember that hulled will take an additional 90 minutes to cook.Try cooked hulled barley as a stand-alone side dish or in grain salads.
Corn. One of the most popular—and versatile—grains, there are different varieties for different purposes. Yellow corn has larger, fuller-flavored kernels; white corn kernels are smaller and sweeter. The hybrid butter and sugar corn produces ears of yellow and white kernels. Steel-, stone-, and water-ground corn have had the hull and germ removed, while stone-ground corn and polenta both have the germ intact. As is usually the case, the least-refined grains need the most care in storage and stoneground corn meal will last only about four months even when stored in airtight containers away from heat and moisture. Other types of cornmeal will last almost indefinitely.
Menu suggestions: Polenta and ground cornmeal are used nearly interchangeably and can be served creamy or cooked until dry, formed into cakes and grilled. Try serving fresh vegetables over grilled grits or a cornmeal dessert cake.
Millet. This cereal grass is used almost exclusively for fodder and birdseed, but it can be cooked so that it will stay light and fluffy. When cooked a bit longer with more liquid, millet serves as a perfect base to bind things like veggie burgers. All millet is hulled, but the germ and much of the nutrients remain intact during the process. Stored in a cool, dark place in an airtight container, millet will remain fresh for over a year.
Menu suggestions: Millet makes for fantastic flatbread and other baked goods. Try millet in soups, stuffing or in any kind of patty or croquette.
Oats. Oats are never sold with the hull on for eating. Look for "oat groats," their least-processed form. A great source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, oats have been proven to help reduce cholesterol levels and make a great healthy breakfast. Because of their relatively high fat content, oats should be stored away from any heat or damp in an airtight container and they should still generally only be kept around three months.
Menu suggestions: Try using oats in stuffing, added to baked goods or cooked whole and added to grain salads.
Quinoa. An important food in South American cuisine, quinoa is higher than any other grain in calcium and protein, with a sweet and nutty flavor. Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivorycolored quinoa takes half the time of regular rice to cook and expands to four times its original volume. Similar to oats, quinoa is high in fat can be stored for several months. (Use the same rules as for oats.)
Menu suggestions: Quinoa can be used in any way suitable for rice—as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings.
Rice. In much of the world, rice forms the basis of most meals. Brown rice is more nutritious than processed white rice. Whole grain varieties include Black Japonica or Himalayan Red. It's easier to find brown rice versions of favorites such as basmati and jasmine. When stored properly in a cool, dry place in an airtight container, brown rice will stay fresh for about five to six months.
Menu suggestions: Brown rice can be substituted in nearly any recipe calling for white rice. It's also great on it's own, as a basis for stir-fries, curries or other saucy main courses.
Wheat. One of the most ancient and most popular grains, wheat, in it's whole grain version, contains lots of B vitamins, vitamin E and amino acid. Wheat contains a high amount of gluten—those that are sensitive to gluten can try spelt and kamut, older and genetically diverse versions of modern day wheat. Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, and bulgur should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator, and wheat and spelt berries can be kept in airtight container in a cool and dry area for several months.
Menu suggestions: Substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in all baked goods. Spelt flour or spelt products can be a great solution for some gluten intolerant customers. Wheat berries can be cooked and served in salads or soups.