Whole grains: What are they, and how do you cook them?
You've heard about whole grains, and if you haven't.... there's a whole lot to know (see what I did there)!
Whole grain: made with or containing whole and unprocessed grain. Whole grains still have their entire structure intact; the germ, endosperm, and bran (see anatomy of a whole grain below). They have not gone through a machine to be hulled and stripped down to their bare necessities! This is why whole grains contain many more nutrients. They are considered a nutrient dense carbohydrate. A perfect example would be white rice vs brown rice. The main differenence between white and brown rice is that brown rice still contains its outer shell. If you check the nutrition label, you will notice brown rice has many more nutrients, more fibre, and contains more % vitamins and minerals than white rice does. White rice no longer has it's outer shell and has been refined to white rice. The same thing occurs with other grains like wheat.
So why should you eat them, where can you get them, and how the heck do you cook them?!
Rotating food in today's day and age is extremely important. When I say rotating, I mean avoid eating the same thing everyday. This is how the body gets tired, and begins having trouble breaking down foods. Plus, different foods have different nutrients. Start adding different types of grains to your diet! Eating whole grains provides the body with more nutrients. There is more fiber, more vitamins, and more minerals. This leaves you feeling more energized! When carbohydrates increase our blood sugar levels, fiber helps to steady the increase along with protein and fat. Whole grains will contain more of these nutrients which leads to feeling more energized longer. Perks?! No sugar crash! They keep you feeling more full for longer. Plus, added fiber means better poops!
You can purchase whole grains at almost all grocery stores. The key is buying them in bulk. I usually trek to the Bulk Barn because I find they are affordable, they have a lot of variety of different whole grains, and it is a one stop shop! When you are purchasing whole grain bread, it is very important to read the ingredients. If you notice added white rice, or white rice flour for example, this bread is still processed. They key is learning how to read labels, and understand what you're looking for. You should be able to read and understand the label for complete and whole bread. If there are ingredients you don't understand or can't pronounce, it is probably best to find a different source. Check Whole Foods or a natural health food store in your area for more "complete" options.
There are lots of whole grains out there. I have included a list of a few on how to cook them and what to pair them with. If you have any other grains that aren't here, leave a comment below and I will make sure to provide you with some suggestions on how to cook it and what to add it to!
When cooking quinoa use a 1:2 ratio quinoa to water, or quinoa to vegetable broth. For example, add one cup of quinoaand 2 cups of water into a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt and some coconut oil so it doesn't stick to the pan.
Quinoa works for many things and comes in a variety of colours. My favourites include adding it to salad, making a quinoa salad, and using it in a stir fry. I find all colours work well for everything. You can cook up 1 cup at a time (which yields about 2 cups cooked). I usually store some in the fridge to add to my salads at lunch, or make it fresh for dinner and stir fry some vegetables, protein, and mix it with tamari and a bit of hot sauce! Quinoa salad calls for adding some raw vegetables like spinach, cucumber, tomato, olive, red onion, and some feta (voila, greek salad)! You can use quinoa as an added grain or carbohydrate to your dinner dishes. There are some recipes as well for making quinoa bites, a quick tasty snack. You can do LOTS with quinoa, make sure you add it to your cupboard!
When cooking millet use a 1:2 ratio millet to water, or millet to coconut milk (or your choice of milk). For example, add one cup of millet and 2 cups of water into a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt and some coconut oil so it doesn't stick to the pan. NOTE: it looks similar to quinoa but is more yellow in colour. I usually label the two when I add the to my cupboard!
I love cooking millet in the morning. I find it has a soft and almost creamy taste that satisfies my morning breakfasts! Check out my Good Morning Porridge recipe. I also find cooking millet with coconut milk gives it a really nice creamy flavour. I've used it as a lunch dish before with some squah and it was DELICIOUS. Add millet to squashes with some pumpkin seeds and unsweetened coconut. You will be happy you did!
3. Steel Cut Oats
When cooking steel cut oats use a 1:3 ratio steel cut oats to water. For example, add one cup of steel cut oats and 2 cups of water into a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt and some coconut oil so it doesn't stick to the pan.
I love steel cut oats for breakfast and lunch. They taste great, and can be used similarly to rolled oats. Add milk of your choice, fruits, nuts, seeds, and some honey or maple syrup for a delicious taste in the morning. For lunch, I actually pair it with goat cheese. I add in some veggies like kale, beets, mushrooms and spinach and finds it tastes like heaven! The goat cheese pairs really well with steel cut oats.
When cooking buckwheat use a 1:2 ratio buckwheat to water. For example, add one cup of buckwheat and 2 cups of water into a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt and some coconut oil so it doesn't stick to the pan.
I find buckwheat is great in the morning. It has a pretty bland taste so I find making a buckwheat bowl works best. This means adding lots of tasty goods like nuts, fruit, and spices (cinnamon and cardamom work very well). Just add as much as you want! I love adding banana, orange, cinnamon, chia seeds, and some cardamom. You can literally make it your own, or use what you have! I have seen buckwheat bread and buckwheat crepes as well. I haven't made them myself (yet) but I have tried them and they are super tasty! I don't usually cook it at any other time during the day so if you do, leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear about what you do!
5. Brown Rice
When cooking brown rice use a 1:2 ratio rice to water. For example, add one cup of rice and 2 cups of water into a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add a pinch of sea salt and some coconut oil so it doesn't stick to the pan.
Brown rice is considered a whole grain because it hasn't been stripped of it's outer shell. Next time you are at the grocery store, compare the nutrition labels for white vs brown rice. Notice the minerals and fibre present in the brown rice. Try and incorporate this whole grain more than white rice if you can. Goes excellent in soups, curries, and wth sauces!