Our guide has it all! We'll begin with a chat all about cooking grains including how to shop for and select your grains, soaking and prep advice, various cooking methods, and flavor ideas. Plus, simple nutrition advice.
And we'll finish up with why exactly you should choose whole grains, and also how much to eat every day.
Let's get started...
Why Do We Need These Little Powerhouses?
Well, grains are complex carbs and what your body uses for energy. And since they digest slowly, your energy is lasting instead of spiked.
A lot of people are surprised to find out that my hubby Jeff was the first one in our family to seek out more healthful ways of eating. This is years ago, just before I embraced the vegan diet myself.
So when he switched from white rice to brown rice, I wanted nothing to do with it! I always felt so proud of the fact that I was eating white rice instead of sweets! Whole grains just seemed a little "too healthy", know what I mean?
But little by little, as I started to care more about how to be the most vibrant person I could, I would choose the healthier options. And over the years the amount of whole grains I ate just started to naturally grow.
If you're like me, you'll be able to feel the difference when you eat more whole grains because these complex carbohydrates will just help you to feel more grounded. Not only that, but things move along nicely through the pipes IF you know what I mean!! :)
Healthy eating is a process. It might be difficult to picture yourself eating grains like quinoa and millet. Just keep an open mind, trying different grains here and there, and eventually you may find yourself feeling and seeing the benefits of choosing the healthier versions of grains over those that are stripped of their identity.
How and Why Our Whole Grains Were Stripped of Nutrition
Long, long ago in a land not so far away there existed many varieties of whole grains. These grains were one of the staples our ancestors used for food, freshly picked from the fields.
(If you've ever eaten anything "just picked" you understand that the taste and quality of that food simply can't compare to food which has been laying around for a few days let alone a few weeks.)
These very smart ancestors of ours figured out that the outside shell (known as the hull) is difficult to digest, so they removed that hull.
And this is a practice we continue to this day so we can enjoy and soak up all those delectable nutrients.
"Mmmmmmmm..." (chew, munch, scarf)
But wait! -- the removal of that shell means it's "naked" and very susceptible to the air. If these dehulled grains are left out of the refrigerator or freezer for too long they can turn rancid.
This wasn't a problem for our ancestors, because they'd eat the grain immediately after removing the hull.
But as our population grew, and the demand for these whole grains grew, it became difficult to store these dehulled grains without them "going bad" and turning inedible.
So a solution was devised...
...if this ONE ASPECT of the grain that causes it to go bad when not refrigerated (known as the "bran") could be removed also, then the grains could sit out, unrefrigerated, for a long, long, long, long, LONG time.
And that's EXACTLY what was done -- the bran was removed.
If you've ever bought a box of white rice, you understand that it can sit in your cupboard for months (years!) and it will look exactly the same as the day you bought it.
Is this something you want to put inside your body?
Furthermore, the removal of this part of the grain (the bran) also removes the most nutritious part of the grain leaving a sad little empty simple carbohydrate behind. Boo-hoo!!!
Brown rice? -- Complex carbohydrates surrounded by nutrients.
White rice? -- Empty carbohydrates.
Check out the pics above again. You can literally see the difference!
Now, surely you've heard of the big craze to eliminate carbs from your diet? These "anti-carb" fads that got a strangle-hold on so many people did a lot of damage to our perception of carbs. Healthy complex carbohydrates are a good thing! And whole grains deliver the goods.
Whole grain foods are anything made with...
These include whole grain breads, cereals, pastas and, of course, the whole grains themselves.
How many servings of whole grains should you eat?
First, let me just say that the RECOMMENDED amount is 6-11 servings.
Why the huge span in serving amounts? Because we are each so unique and we don't all need the same amount.
It is recommended you choose the low end (six servings) for optimal health, and even less if you are trying to lose weight. While those who are very active and require substantial energy (athletes) should move closer to the higher end (eleven servings).
But that doesn't mean you HAVE TO eat at least 6 servings of grains! Personally, I aim for 3-4 servings a day.
In other words, there is no reason to overload on grains. Everybody is different. Simply eat the amount of grains that feel right to you.
(Refer to the Vegan Food Pyramid for a better understanding of what a serving size looks like.)