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7 Grains to Make a Part of Your Diet

7 Grains to Make a Part of Your Diet

While many of us have heard that we need to switch out white bread with healthier alternatives, the benefits of eating grains doesn't have to stop with store-bought whole wheat sandwiches and bagels.

Though the dining room is always filled with healthy options here at Collinwood, we also want to see our residents enjoy eating wholesome snacks and meals in their own apartments or in our cooking classes. Grains are a great way to do that.

Falling into the good carb category alongside fruits and vegetables, whole grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, and the best part is making these seven whole grains a part of your diet doesn't have to mean a lot of extra time or work. Many of them can be prepared in a microwave or quickly boiled on a stove top.

1. Quinoa

Often misread, this tiny grain's proper pronunciation is "keen-wah," and it has been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years. Quinoa features a rich, nutty flavor when cooked, and it has a high protein-to-carbohydrate ratio in comparison to other grains.

Its quick-cooking, gluten-free nature also makes it a nutritional alternative to white rice for those with restricted diets.

2. Buckwheat

Though its name is deceptive, buckwheat is actually a gluten-free seed related to sorrel or rhubarb. Rich in trace minerals, it contains resistant fiber, which can help lower blood sugar after meals and promote weight loss.

Often prized for its unusual flavor, buckwheat comes in a variety of forms such as groats, noodles and flour, which can then be used in porridge, soba recipes and pancake mixes.

3. Brown Rice

Rice is a staple in dishes around the world, and brown rice offers a low calorie, high nutrient way to enjoy these timeless meals.

Filled with magnesium, iron and potassium, brown rice is great for heart health and digestion and can help lower cholesterol and boost energy levels.

4. Oats

The heart-healthy benefits of eating oatmeal for breakfast have been discussed for years, and with good reason. The beta-glucan fiber found in oats has been proven to lower cholesterol.

Add to this a low glycemic index number, and oats are a winning combination not only as a breakfast favorite, but also in sweet treats such as trail mixes and granola bars.

5. Barley

Though it has a longer cooking time than some of the other whole grains, barley more than makes up for it with a host of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Featuring the same kind of fiber found in oats, barley also shares its cholesterol and heart disease lowering benefits.

This high fiber content helps promote a feeling of fullness after eating, making it a wonderful addition to soups, salads and side dishes.

6. Corn

Along with being a source of antioxidants that are good for eye health, corn contains vitamin C, manganese and some B-complex vitamins.

Cornmeal is a versatile ingredient in kitchens and can be used to create a crispy coating on baked meats and vegetables or turned into delicious cornbread, polenta and pancakes.

For a fun and tasty way to boost your daily whole grain intake, try air-popping popcorn and coating it in dry herbs and spices. This adds customization to the classic movie-night treat and lets you keep a low-sodium diet intact.

7. Teff

Teff is truly unique. Despite being the smallest grain in the world, its bran and germ ratio to its size is among the highest of all whole grains. With nutrients concentrated in these layers, teff quickly becomes a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and proteins useful for maintaining an ideal weight and boosting bone health.

Teff is available in flour and whole forms and can be baked into breads and desserts, sprinkled on salads, or prepared as hot cereals and polentas.