We all know that whole grains are important nutritionally, but what is a grain?
Grains are the edible seeds of various members of the grass family. Wheat and rice are the most important grains worldwide. Rice is most often cooked whole, while wheat is most often ground into flour for breads and pastas.
Each seed contains four parts:
, an inedible fibrous layer that’s removed during processing.
, the starchy part that forms most of the kernel.
, a tough yet edible layer covering the endosperm.
, the actual embryo inside the seed to form a new plant.
Any grain labeled “Whole Grain” will contain the endosperm, bran, and germ.
Most people are accustomed to regular milled white rice, where the outer bran is removed. There are several varieties such as long grained basmati or jasmine, or short grained glutinous or sticky rice. Arborio rice is one of several Italian types of short grain rice that contains two very different types of starch responsible for risotto’s creamy exture. Two other types of rice used for risotto are carnaroli and vialone nano. Other varieties of rice include, Brown, Wehani, calaspera, heirlooms such as forbidden black, Bhutanese red, Himalayan red, colusari and purple thai.
is also considered a grain, though unlike other grains corn has a set of husks covering the entire seed head, instead of a husk covering each seed. It’s often eaten as a fresh vegetable. Corn can ground into yellow or white cornmeal; Polenta is an Italian style cornmeal. Hominy is cornmeal that is treated with lye-when cracked into a coarse meal it becomes grits. Whole grain hominy is known in Mexican cuisine as pozole. Blue corn meal comes from early varieties of native American corn.
is most commonly ground into flour, but whole wheat grains can be cut into smaller pieces to produce cracked wheat. Wheatberries refer to the whole grain without the hull. Bulgur wheat
is cracked wheat that has been cooked or parched.
There are many other grains available to the modern cook —wild rice
(not actually a rice but the seed of an unrelated grass in North America), farro (also called spelt), kamut, barley, oats, millet
, quinoa, triticale, amaranth, and flaxseeds are all unique types of grain.
Why are grains good for you?
Whole grains are proven to lowers cholesterol levels through as they regulate body function, aid in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, help regulate good digestive health and blood clotting.
What are refined or processed grains?
Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This creates grains with a finer texture and improves the products shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Refining wheat creates a fluffy flour that makes light, airy breads and pastries. But there is a nutritional price to be paid for refined grains, stripping away essential vitamins, minerals, and nearly all of the fiber.
Joe was a victim of refined flours — hoagie rolls, bagels, doughnuts, muffins, dinner rolls, white rice and of course pasta, ravioli, linguini, penne, rigatoni. You name it, he loved it. Don’t get me wrong as a professional chef he was exposed to many different foods that have unique profiles, including whole grains, preparing them in a variety of application. The problem was that on a regular basis he ate both the processed along with some of the whole grains.
Joe had to detoxify his habits, body and compulsion from all grain products in order to better evaluate how his body operated. Joe has learned over the last few months that those processed and refined products, were not only addictive, but actually made him feel tired, lethargic and lazy. Not positive physical attributes for a chef to operate in their kitchen. He found simple tasks to be a strain on him both physically and mentally. He would find himself cutting corners instead of walking the extra steps to get the right spice or other ingredient. In contrast, whole grains like wheatberries, brown rice, spelt and barley are the carbohydrates that fuel the brain and the body, as well keeping your functions regulated with their high fiber. He actually feels energized as he learns to read his body, experiment with his new way of eating and experience a happy healthier life.
As he researched new dishes, flavor profiles and combination of grains and legumes Joe stumbled upon a fantastic dish made with brown or green lentils and bulgur wheat (can be substituted with brown rice) the dish is called Mujadara, a classical Middle Eastern staple. Cooked properly it is the quintessential healthy whole grain classic. It is high in protein, nutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Traditionally it is topped off with a large amount of caramelized onions. The earthy flavors of the lentils combined with the nutty flavor of the bulgur wheat, hints of ginger, cinnamon cumin, finished with the sweet and slightly salty caramelized onions. Is satisfying and rewarding.
Quinoa, one of Joes favorite, isn’t really a whole grain — it does not come from a grass or wheat type plant so is gluten free as well. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, he has started to eat about ½ cup for breakfast with some non-fat Greek yogurt, fruits, nuts or berries, adding a few drops of real vanilla and cinnamon for flavor. He also makes it for a great lunch salad, once cooked he adds cucumber, scallions, flat leaf parsley or fresh chopped herbs, a few crumbles of feta cheese. You can add slivered almonds as well tossed it with roasted garlic vinaigrette and a variety of vegetables if you prefer. For dinner try making a quinoa stuffed pepper or Portobello mushroom. It also goes very well with Latin flavorings try it as a side dish with chopped mango or papaya.
And his new favorite snack. Popcorn! Yes, The U.S.D.A classifies popcorn as a whole grain. Popcorn is a source for high quality carbohydrates, low in calories and high in fiber. Air popped popcorn is 30 calories per cup. So this makes it a great snack food for adults and children as well. Three cups of popcorn filling and satisfying, and it takes time to eat, which is far better than eating a piece of junk food candy that takes about 15 seconds to devour.
Joe's Progress, Week 9:
STARTING WEIGHT: 276.4 LBS
WEEK 9 WEIGHT: 250 LBS
WEIGHT LOST WEEK 9: 1 LB
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: 26.4