“Whole grains” are foods that contain all parts of the grain seed (or “kernel”). Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains aids in digestion, reduces the risk of heart disease and certain cancers and can help with weight management.
However, the old staples of brown rice, wheat bread and oatmeal can get tiring after a while. If you want to vary the whole grains in your diet, consider these five new whole grains–all of which are likely available at your local grocery store. Diets based on new, nontraditional whole grains can be surprisingly tasty, and since you can buy these five new whole grains in bulk, you may save money on your grocery bill.
- Barley: Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains available, and the one that contains the most fiber. It also cooks very slowly, since most of the hull of the seed is still attached to the grain. Cook your whole grain barley in a large batch, and freeze what you don’t use. You’ll always have some available to add to soups and salads. Or, look for whole grain barley flour in the bulk foods section.
- Bulgur: Bulgur is a good choice for people just beginning to experiment with whole grains. High in fiber and often available mostly cooked and dried, bulgur is easy for you to incorporate into your daily diet. Typically, all you need to do to prepare bulgur is boil it for ten minutes. Bulgur is not a unique grain in and of itself. Instead, “bulgur” refers to a method of preparing wheat so the entire external kernel is retained. Bulgur is made when wheat kernels are boiled, dried and cracked. Add bulgur to salads and pilaf dishes, or pair it as a side for meat.
- Millet: This is one of our five new whole grains that you may have heard of. However, you’re likely familiar with millet as a source of bird food. In India, however, millet is one of the most commonly eaten whole grains. The grains of millet are very tiny, and can be red, yellow, white or gray. The flavor is mild and subtly earthy. Lightly toasting the grains before you cook them completely can bring those soft flavors to the forefront. Add millet to soups, breads and stews. Or, pop it in a pan of hot oil and eat it just like popcorn.
- Quinoa: Quinoa grains look like tiny tornadoes, with a whirled, packed shape. Quinoa can come in white, yellow, red or black varieties. Quinoa must be rinsed before it’s cooked, as the outer layer contains a bitter substance that repels deer and other foraging animals. Quinoa can cook in as little as 15 minutes, and the flavor is subtle and nutty. Add quinoa to soups or casseroles in place of rice, or cook it alone for a healthful breakfast dish. Since quinoa is a member of the beet family, rather than the grain family, it’s appropriate for people who cannot eat wheat products.
- Sorghum: Sorghum is another item on our list of five new whole grains that is often used to feed animals. As it comes from a grain grass, sorghum is a good alternative for those who cannot eat wheat, as it’s gluten-free. However, the taste of sorghum is similar to the mellow, nutty taste of wheat. Look for sorghum flour in the bulk foods section or the gluten-free section of your store.