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7 Whole Grains to Nourish, Energize, and Heal

January 16, 2014

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I often catch myself making the same whole grains over and over again. And then something inside me takes notice and almost screams out for variety. Why not try a different grain out for size? One with exciting nutritional benefits, an interesting texture, and that’s actually easy on your stomach!

These days, many of us hunger after gluten-free grains due to sensitivity or an allergy and for personal health reasons. Thankfully, there are plenty of natural whole grain options out there for those who forego gluten, as well as for those who can’t live without it. Use this holy grain grail to choose the grains that work best for your eating habits and tastebuds.     

Black and Red Quinoa are colorful gluten-free grains that are a powerful source of antioxidants, protein-rich, and bursting with nutty flavor. If you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, consider quinoa for its calcium content, too. Black quinoa may outrank red nutritionally, since it’s even more protein-dense. They both contain riboflavin to improve energy metabolism, and minerals that help improve cell activity and repair, such as manganese and iron, and the amino acid lysine.

Millet, another grain that’s great if you’re gluten-sensitive, may be toasted, softened, or fluffed like rice. It’s full of heart-healthy essentials like magnesium, niacin, and fiber, and also contains the cancer-fighting phytonutrient, lignin. Spice things up with Tumeric and Vegetable Millet or make it for breakfast with this Crispy Millet Hash browns with Sunnyside Eggs

Corn and cornmeal get a bad rap for being associated with Big Agriculture, but if you choose corn-based products that are labeled as “whole corn” or “whole grain corn,” you can avoid GMO’s or overly processed imitations. Cornmeal is a wonderful gluten-free alternative to bake with since it contains resistant starch, a type of fiber that may boost immunity and blood sugar control. Plus, corn is high in vitamin A, potassium, and protein. Cook up this basic polenta in as little as 30 minutes. 

Amaranth is a cardio-protective, gluten-free grain that’s easy to cook and is chock-full of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. It also contains the mighty mega-vitamin, E, an antioxidant that protects your body from cell damage and disease. The rice-like grain is relatively high in immunity-boosting vitamins A and C as well. Throw amaranth in with your rice to get used to the flavor, or use it to thicken a vegetable stew. Looking for an easy and healthy whole-grain snack? Watch this video to learn how to make amaranth popcorn

Kasha, or buckwheat, is another great grain for those who steer clear of gluten. Like corn, it’s high in resistant starch and fiber. Its superfood powers include immunity-enhancing zinc and bone-boosting calcium. The whole grain kernels are also full of the antioxidant rutin, which works to keep your blood free of clots. You may even feel less tired and fatigued due to kasha’s iron content. Copper, potassium, and high-quality protein are some of the other essential nutrients you’ll find in a nice bowl of buckwheat groats. 

Bulgur, a gluten-containing grain,  is worth a mention since it provides a hefty dose of fiber, protein, vitamin B, and folate. It may also work to prevent constipation, blood sugar spikes, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. This ethnically diverse, quick-cooking grain is found in Middle Eastern tabbouleh and in Indian Dalia. Consider simmering up this delicious Bulgur and Black Lentil Majadra.

Wheat Berries also contain gluten, but this wheat-based grain’s just perfect for purists. It’s actually the least processed form of wheat that you could possibly eat. So, it may not come as a shock that these whole-wheat kernels are loaded with cancer-fighting phytochemicals and fiber, protein, and vitamin E. Consider making a yummy wheatberry-based salad or try it out as an energizing morning cereal.

Do you have a whole grain recipe or favorite that you’d like to share with us? Tell us about it in the comments below!