Your body NEEDS whole grains in order to function properly! Not only are they easier to digest than refined grains, but they’re also higher in nutrients and less likely to affect blood sugar. By adding at least three servings of whole grains to your diet, you can prevent diseases like cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Best of all, they won’t trigger fat storage, so there’s less chance of weight gain.
Basically, if you’re going to eat grains, make them whole!
Most of us are familiar with quinoa, whole wheat pasta, brown flour, and oatmeal, but what happens when you get tired of the same grains day in and day out? Time to add some variety to your meals!
Try the 17 grains below—you may not be familiar with them, but they’re awesome options for your healthy eating plan:
Did you know that ancient Roman soldiers ate this strain of wheat? Just one ounce of the stuff contains more digestive fiber than either quinoa or brown rice! It’s as easy to prepare as any of your regular staple grains, and just as delicious.
It may be small, but it’s powerful! One cup of teff delivers 35% of your calcium DV, is gluten-free, and contains primarily high-resistant starch, which can help prevent colon cancer. Resistant starches take longer to digest, and they create fatty acids that make it harder for harmful bacteria to spread in your colon. Its small size means that it will cook faster than other grains, so you can whip up a teff-heavy meal in under 20 minutes!
Once used mostly as bird feed, millet has quickly become a popular human food. You can use it in its ground flour form or cook it as you would rice, and it delivers a hefty dose of protein (6 grams per cup). It’s excellent for better glucose control, which means a lower risk of diabetes and steadier energy levels.
Kamut, also known as Oriental wheat or Khorasan wheat, contains more antioxidants than regular wheat, and can do wonders to fight oxidative stress. Each serving of kamut delivers magnesium, selenium, and zinc, as well as a hefty 11 grams of protein.
Amaranth is high in fiber (one cup delivers 21% of your DV), is an excellent source of the amino acid lysine, and delivers a hefty dose of the two critical minerals magnesium and calcium. It’s also rich in squalene, a compound that may help prevent cancer. The little grain is also a protein powerhouse, with 9 grams of protein per cup! It can reduce cholesterol, improve heart health, and aid in digestion. Definitely a grain you want to eat more of!
- Wheat Berries
Sure you know about wheat, but what about wheat berries? These berries are basically the whole wheat kernels, but after the hull is removed. They’ve got all the minerals and nutrients that make wheat so useful—including phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, and manganese in each half-cup serving. Wheat berries also contain lignan, a powerful phytochemical potentially able to protect your body from breast cancer.
To cook, simmer the wheat berries in boiling water for about an hour. The berries make a wonderful addition to your salads, soups, stews, and other dishes. Best of all, you’ll find they’re rich in fiber and more filling than whole wheat and whole flour products!
Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t actually a wheat! It’s really an herb that is related to rhubarb, and it’s native to Russia. The seeds of the buckwheat plant can be crushed for groats (which can be cooked like regular rice) or ground to make flour. Buckwheat is not only gluten-free and loaded with fiber, it can also help lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol molecules. It contains a particular compound that can manage and lower blood sugar levels, making it useful for treating diabetes.
Fonio has one of the highest quantities of magnesium, zinc, and manganese. It’s also loaded in amino acids, with two in particular: cystine, which is needed for healthy skin, nails, and hair; and methionine, which your liver needs in order to process fat.
Bulgur also comes from wheat—specifically wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried, and cracked. With eight grams of fiber per cup (33% of your fiber DV), bulgur beats quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat, and corn.
100% gluten-free this grain is suitable for both celiacs and those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. You can eat it popped like popcorn, grind it into flour to bake with, cook it into your porridge, or even make it into beer! Best of all, it contains more polyphenols than blueberries and pomegranates!
Fun fact: Sorghum bran extract is fast becoming a popular food additive, thanks to the fact that it’s both rich in antioxidant and highly cost-effective!
Spelt is higher in protein than other grains, and it makes an awesome substitute for wheat flour. There is evidence indicating that spelt can be tolerable to those with wheat sensitivities, but if you’re gluten-intolerant, you might still want to hold off until further research is gathered.
Triticale, a hybrid grain (mixing rye and whet) that has been around since the 1960s, can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health, while also providing a hefty dose of fiber. It’s also rich in antioxidants and minerals, making it a great addition to your healthy diet.
Barley isn’t just useful for malting to make whiskey or beer (though that’s definitely its best use!). You can grind it into barley meal or flour to use in your baking, or you can add barley pearls into stews and soups to thicken them. Thanks to its high fiber content (nearly 25% of your fiber DV per cup), it can be wonders to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Red rice
White rice we know, brown rice we love, but red rice?! The color comes from a type of yeast growing on rice grains, and the addition of the yeast actually makes it excellent for your health. It has been used in Asian countries to improve spleen health, enhance circulation, and treat indigestion, and it can even help to lower cholesterol.
- Indian rice grass
This grass is commonly consumed by Native Americans, and it has become hugely popular among those trying to eat gluten-free. The flour made from Indian rice grass is loaded with essential nutrients: 17 grams of protein per serving (2/3 of a cup) along with 24 grams of fiber. The rich, wheaty flavor makes it great for baked goods and treats.
Freekeh is actually wheat that has been harvested early, when the seeds are still soft and green and the leaves haven’t yet lost their yellow color. The early-harvested wheat is then roasted, which gives it a delicious smoky taste. This type of wheat has 400% more protein than brown rice, won’t affect your blood sugar levels as much as regular wheat, and delivers a hefty dose of gut-friendly fiber!
- Rye berries
Rye isn’t just useful for making rye bread—you can also eat it in berry form. You can cook the berries like you would barley or rice, or you can add them to soups and stews. Be warned: cook time for rye berries can be as long as 60 minutes!
Regarding health benefits, rye is definitely near the top of the list of superfoods. Rye is rich in a particular peptide known as lunasin, which may help to prevent cancer. Another study found that the fiber in rye can improve your intestinal health more efficiently than the fiber from wheat.
There you have it! 17 grains that you can try when you get bored of the same old staples you’ve been eating for years. Thanks to their high nutritional content and the high doses of dietary fiber they contain, these grains will do wonders to improve the value of every meal.