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Beauties, if the only “whole grains” that you’ve been eating are wheat bread and brown rice, then here’s the “whole” truth: you are missing out. There’s definitely a wide range of other healthy grains that you should be scooping from those grocery store bulk bins. Don’t worry I have the low down on them all, so keep reading and get ready to go with the grain!

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The Whole Truth: Why Eat Whole Grains?

Containing the bran, the germ and the endosperm – whole grains keep you full longer simply because they take longer to digest. This sis is great news if you are trying to keep your weight down. In addition to this, whole grains help keep your blood pressure in check, stops your blood-sugar levels form spiking and are quite inexpensive. Like sponges, whole grains can pick up flavors from whatever they’re cooked with (hello versatility) and many of them cook in 15 to 20 minutes. So are you ready? Let’s get cooking. 

#1: Amaranth 

This grain ladies is tiny in size but huge in flavor. They can be eaten as either a sweet or savory dish and can even be popped like popcorn. Plus kids love it since the kernels are so small (like them). This mildly peppery flavor grain is high in protein and since it contains the amino acid lysine, amaranth is actually a complete protein.   

#2 Barley

Coming in both hulled and pearled varieties, barley may take longer to cook (45 mins to an hour) but the nutritional benefits are certainly worth the wait. Hulled barley is higher in fiber since only the outermost hull has been removed, and the texture is chewy and a bit starchy. Speaking of starchy this grain should be cooked in a lot of water, like pasta. On the other hand, pearl barley has both its outer layer and bran removed. This is the type that you most likely will see in the grocery store.

#3 Buckwheat 

Don’t let this grain’s name fool you – it is not a wheat. In fact buckwheat is a a gluten-free fruit seed that is kin to rhubarb. Because it contains rutin (known for strengthening capillary walls), it is also great for lowering blood pressure. The flavor is nutty and hearty so vegetables mingle well.

#4 Bulgur

Known as the most convenient grain, bulgur requires practically no cooking. Simply soak them in boiling water for 30-45 minutes and this versatile grain is ready to go. The most popular usage of bulgur is in tabbouleh (Middle Eastern salad), however since the texture is similar to ground beef, this grain is a great stretcher for meat based dishes such as burgers, meatloaves, meatballs, chili etc. 

#5 Farro

Farro, like it’s pronunciation brother Pharaoh, is originally from Egypt, however is grown in other places like Italy and now the U.S. Based on region, this grain goes by many other names, however here in the U.S. farro is also referred to as emmer wheat. It can be found whole, semi-pearled or pearled and is great as a pasta or rice replacement. 

#6 Freekeh

Freekeh may look a little freaky the first time you see it since it’s green in color. However this toasted grain is nutty in flavor and can be found either whole or cracked. If cooked whole this grain will take about 40 minutes to prepare, however the cracked version only takes 20 minutes. While still hot try tossing this green grain in your citrus based salads or add a little butter and herbs for an excellent side dish.

#7 Millet

Another gluten-free grain, millet is produced in India, Africa and China. It is high in magnesium and has a slightly grassy corn like flavor. You can either cook it at 1:2.5 (grain to water) ratio for a more fluffy texture, or add more liquid for a creamy porridge like texture. Great in muffin mix or in place of mashed potatoes, millet is a wonderful grain to add to your diet girls. 

#8 Quinoa

This ancient crop from South America has become wildly popular here in the states lately. With mega protein packed into these tiny seeds, quinoa comes in white, red and black varieties. However since they are naturally coated with saponin it is recommended  that you rinse before cooking – this will lessen that bitter flavor boo. 

#9 Rye Berries

Not a wheat and not gluten-free, rye berries require longer cooking time than most berries. After soaking them over night these tangy berries take about an hour to cook. They are great as a hot breakfast cereal or can even be paired with root vegetables (like butternut squash) for a tasty side dish. 

#10 Rye Flakes

Like rye berries, rye flakes are tangy in flavor, however their texture is more like rolled oats. They cook quick, think 15 to 20 mins, and like oatmeal can be served as a breakfast cereal, used like granola or even folded into cookie dough.

#11 Spelt Berries

If wheat had a distant cousin it would be spelt berries. They are mildly sweet and slightly buttery in flavor, and have the texture similar to barely. Just not as starchy as barely. Like pasta you’re going to want to cook this grain in lots of water. However be prepared to wait 45 minutes to an hour before indulging. But when you do, enjoy spelt berries in salads or tossed in a pesto sauce.

#12 Teff

First grown in Africa, teff grains are super tiny (think the size of poppy-seeds) and come in a wide range of colors – ivory to reddish brown. It is gluten-free, high in both calcium and vitamin C and will literally melt in your mouth when cooked. Like chocolate, the flavor is both sweet and bitter therefore teff goes well with maple syrup for breakfast or tossed with veggies and served as a pilaf for dinner. 

#13 Wheat Berries

Last but certainly not least, wheat berries aren’t quite as hard as some other berries. Therefore they don’t need soaking overnight (15 minutes will do). Their flavor is nutty and slightly sweet, and their texture is crisp and chewy. Add cooked wheat berries to soups or stews for added flavor and texture. 

Robbie Ann Darby (RAD Experience) is a professional FitGirl, Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in NYC. Follow her sweaty life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more fun health and fitness tips!

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