By Catherine Guthrie, Experience Life
Whole grains deliver fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, plant enzymes and hundreds of phytochemicals. For those seeking a dense source of carbohydrate energy, they can be a healthy choice — but only if they are unrefined and minimally processed. Here are a few steps toward upgrading your own grain options.
1. Choose whole-kernel grains when possible. Whole-kernel grains, such as wild rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat groats, hulled barley and whole-wheat berries, are what David Ludwig (director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston) refers to as “unbroken grains.” Unbroken grains have heartier, more complex structures than pulverized and processed ones, making them slower to digest, less disruptive of blood sugar and better at satisfying hunger for an extended period of time. Minimally processed grains, such as steel-cut oats, are another good option.
2. Try sprouted grains. Sprouting activates beneficial enzymes, which transform grains from static seeds to living foods. Sprouting changes the seed’s starch, converting it into maltose. Ordinarily, this conversion happens during the first stage of digestion. So, sprouting is a form of predigestion. For that reason, foods made with sprouted grains are thought to be easier to digest and, therefore, their nutrients more easily absorbed than foods made with conventional grains. Sprouted grains also tend to be higher in protein, which can help regulate the rate at which the grains’ sugars are metabolized.
3. When you bake, replace part of the flour with nut or seed meals. Meals made from ground nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, coconut and flax, can often stand in for flour in baking recipes as well as breadings on meats or seafood. Compared with many flours, nut and seed meals are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. “Nut and seed meals are an easy way to upgrade the nutritional profile of your favorite flour-based foods,” says nutritionist Kathie Swift, MS, RD.