Desiri Wightman, RD
Encapsulating enormous amounts of energy in a single serving, fighting off disease with weapons of fiber and vitamins/minerals, faster to prepare than you might realize . . . is it a fruit? Is it a meat product? No, it's . . . it's a super-grain!
That's right, friends! Grains are back to battle for room on your dinner plate and then to fight for your health. Take a moment now to read up on the many ways you can let them use their strength to boost your own.
With down-to-earth goodness, grains define comfort foods. For millennia, the people and animals of the planet have maintained health and strength by subsisting on the agricultural grains native to their part of the world. Corn, quinoa, and amaranth in the ancient Americas, barley in Ethiopia and throughout the Mediterranean, buckwheat in the Russian and Scandinavian lands, rye in Northern Europe, oats in Asia, and of course wheat in North America and Europe.
These nourishing grains continue to foster less-affluent societies throughout the world today. In times of economic hardship, they fill our tummies and boost our energy so we can face trouble head on. In times of affluence, they quietly take a secondary role to meat products on our platters. But, they'll be there, as they have been from the dawn of time, when the financial tides of the world turn once more. They'll be there with their reliability, their sustenance, and their strength to rescue our populations from starvation. Truly these grains define our mortality. Truly they are the "staff of life." Wisdom deems it wise, then, to turn back to them now, to learn how to use and eat them and store them. They are our nurturers-our parental food.
These kernels truly do contain great amounts of energy in the form of complex carbohydrates and protein. Let's start with the carbs. While fueling your body with go-get-'em power, complex carbohydrates benefit you additionally with healthy doses of fiber. Good old fiber works to improve your digestion, lowers your cholesterol, and decreases your risk of some cancers.
Grains provide the versatile diner with an excellent source of protein. While their protein is not complete (meaning it doesn't provide all the amino acids your body needs to function as foods from animal products do), this is easily and deliciously remedied by eating a variety of foods. For example, combining grain products with beans, rice, or vegetables furnishes you with the remaining amino acids needed. With proteins easily completed, it makes it easier to eat just a touch of meat, filling up on the bounty of tasty grains instead.
Grains certainly have bragging rights when it comes to vitamin/mineral content, too. The natural home of Vitamin E, the kernels also make room for the B-vitamins (folacin, niacin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine). The vitamins then share kernel space with minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. As you can see, a diet rich in grains could save you money in the dietary supplement department, as well as the meat department.
Evaluate your plate! Is it too refined? While refinement is good for manners, it isn't necessarily beneficial for your diet. Too processed and too preserved, foods from grocery store shelves may be convenient but may not be doing much for your good health. Look to grains for the answer. Often, these undergo minimal processing before they hit your mouth . . . practically fresh from the farm and very nutrient-retentive!
And if it's convenience you're after, look no further. Cooked grains, stored in meal-size portions, freeze for up to 6 months for from-freezer-to-microwave expedience. And you don't have to stew, simmer or stir them much, either, in the initial cooking time. This means the grains cook while you multi-task!
Then, because you can cook handfuls of kernels at once, and these grains often triple in size, it's a breeze to cook a whole bunch at once! So you really could have a 6-month supply of side dishes in the freezer, if say, you had room!
Check out the recipes and cooking tips in this month's issue of HomeCook'n so you can bring some earthiness to your meals. Try to buy and try one new grain this month. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised at these truly super grains!
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *