Have you ever wondered which grains are really considered whole? Are you baffled about gluten and whether you should avoid it? Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions about this nutrient-rich food group, then get in the kitchen and make your favorite grain-rich salad for the next tailgate party or Friday night pitch-in.
Myth: All my grain choices every day should be a whole grain.
Fact: The goal is to make at least half of your grains whole every day, not all. White grains are perfectly OK to enjoy, but whole grains have many more benefits: They may help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and help with weight loss and weight management.
Myth: Grains that are high fiber are always whole grains.
Fact: While most whole grains do contain significant fiber, that’s not what makes them “whole.” Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel: bran, endosperm and germ (where all those health benefits are!). Common whole grains include brown rice and whole-wheat flour in a variety of products, such as bread and cereals. Quinoa, though considered a whole grain, is technically a protein-rich vegetable related to beets and spinach. Quick-cooking and pearled barley aren’t technically whole grains (their hull and some of the bran has been removed), but barley is a fiber powerhouse. In fact, it’s loaded with soluble fiber, the type that can help lower cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Related Recipe: Curried Barley with Cranberries, Raisins and Pecans
Myth: Whole grains don’t taste good and/or take forever to cook.
Fact: There’s a whole grain variety to suit everyone’s taste buds, practically from A to Z, such as amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, farro, oats, quinoa, spelt, whole wheat and wild rice. Many take less than 20 minutes to cook. But the best thing about these is that their flavor is enhanced with fall harvest fruits and vegetables, from apples, pears and cranberries to sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Related Recipe: Cinnamon-Spiced Quinoa with Apples and Sweet Potatoes
Myth: Grains with gluten should be avoided and/or are bad for your health.
Fact: The only people who really need to avoid gluten are those with a reputable medical diagnosis of a gluten allergy, gluten intolerance or the very serious celiac disease. People with celiac disease must avoid gluten altogether to avoid destroying the small intestine and possibly leading to more serious diseases, including cancer. Gluten is the generic name for certain types of proteins found in common cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, rye and all their derivatives. Oats may or may not contain gluten. Rice and quinoa are two of the most popular gluten-free grains.
Related Recipe: Brown Rice Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Gorgonzola.
If you don’t have a gluten issue, these nutrient-rich grains provide an essential source of calories. While there may be a lot of hype about them, there isn’t any solid science to show avoiding gluten will lead to better health, prevent disease or help you lose weight.