What is Whole Grain?

Written by Jonathan Dick

Why are whole grains so important, and what do I get from them that I wouldn’t get from other grains and flours?

What is processed grain?
When a grain has been processed it has had the bran and germ removed from the outside of the endosperm, removing the fiber, iron, vitamins, proteins, minerals, fatty-acids and antioxidants with them.

Recent scientific studies are discovering how truly important these whole foods are. Many studies are now coming up with the same result:  Whole grains are being correlated with a reduction of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.

Whole grainsWhat are whole grains?
A whole grain is an unprocessed grain. It retains the cereal germ, endosperm and bran. Some specific examples of whole grains include:

• Hard Red Wheat
• Soft White Wheat
• Whole Oats
• Brown Rice
• Wild Rice
• Barley
• Rye
• Sorghum

Here is some more information on some of our favorites – some that might not be as familiar to you but helpful to your overall health and wellness.

Quinoa
While not technically a grain (it’s actually a seed), it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies are incapable of producing on their own. They are the building blocks of muscle, connective and skin tissues. Quinoa also is a good source of fiber, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Quinoa is delicious when cooked and is the fastest whole grain to cook.

whole wheat benefitsBuckwheat
Buckwheat is also high in protein and has a delicious nutty flavor and texture. It has been shown in research to help control blood sugar, and prevent heart disease. It is an excellent aid to weight-loss in that it satisfies hunger perhaps better than any other grain.

Millet
Millet is alkaline when cooked and stores well long-term. It is easy to digest, high in protein, and low in the glycemic index. This is important because it helps keep blood sugar levels stable, thus reducing sugar cravings, and making it a very important grain for diabetics.

Whole Grain Flours
There are many delicious ways that flours can be used. They can be steamed into cereals, sprouted for extra nutrients, or ground into fresh flour. Freshly grinding your own flour is a simple and cost-effective way to use fresh whole grains. While at first it may sound a little overwhelming, it is actually a simple process with the use of an electric home grinder. Most grinders have a large enough reserve that you can do 12-15 cups at a time. Because freshly milled grains have newly released nutrients, it is important that they are used quickly, or preserved properly. When kept in the freezer, fresh flours can have their nutrients relatively preserved for 1-2 months, and the flour is easily accessed whenever needed.

Your favorites?
So, what are some of your favorite whole grains to include in your meals. Comment below and let us know.

Updated December 18, 2012

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