Whole grains and seeds deserve the title “super food.” They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Help yourself to whole grains every day, research shows, and you’ll substantially lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
Yet despite the proven power of grain, most of us still fall short of the recommended 3 to 5 servings a day.
“That’s too bad, because it’s easy to make whole grains part of your daily menu,” says Amy Myrdal Miller, a dietitian with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
Here are 6 simple ways to get inspired:
1. Switch to Whole Grain Flours
Bread and pizza dough recipes can be easily adapted to include more whole grain flour. Start by replacing one-quarter of the refined flour with whole grain flour. If you’re happy with the result, try increasing the proportion of whole grain flour. For many recipes, half refined flour and half whole grain flour works well.
You can also make 100% whole grain pizza doughs and breads, of course. To create a lighter whole-grain bread, add 1 tablespoon of gluten flour and 1 tablespoon of liquid for each cup of whole wheat flour in your recipe.
More and more markets now carry whole wheat pastry flour. You can use it to adapt many pastry and dessert recipes. Again, the trick is to gradually replace refined flour with whole wheat.
2. Replace White Rice With Brown Rice
Brown rice has a chewier texture and richer flavor than white rice, which makes it an ideal choice for strong-flavored dishes, such as paellas and highly-seasoned stir-fries. Standard brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, compared to about 20 minutes for white rice. If you’re in a hurry, try new brands of instant brown rice. Parboiled in advance, these products take only about 10 minutes to cook. Or try pouches of ready rice that only take 90 seconds in the microwave.
“More and more markets carry a variety of different kinds of brown rice, making this healthy grain even more versatile in the kitchen,” says Scott Samuel, a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
Long grain brown rice has a slightly denser texture than medium grain rice. Short grain brown rice becomes creamy when it’s cooked, ideal for risotto. Risotto-like dishes can also be made with other whole grains and seeds, such as millet, quinoa or bulgur, says Samuel. Red rice has a sweet flavor that makes it a perfect choice for desserts such as rice pudding.
“Whenever you’re cooking rice, bulgur, barley, or other grain, consider making a double batch,” Samuel suggests. “Cooked grains can be refrigerated and used later either in side dishes or salads.”