A recent study by Harvard, published in the journal Circulation, found that people who consumed whole grains daily had a lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who didn’t.
This doesn’t prove that whole grains prevent early death, but it adds to increasing evidence that whole grains really are full of goodness, which is possibly why ancient grains are now trending among food lovers.
What are ancient grains? They are grains that have never been processed through hybridization or genetic modification unlike modern grains, such as wheat, corn and rice.
Ancient grains include: teff, einkorn, emmer, amaranth, millet, quinoa, black rice, black barley, spelt, bulgur, farro, Khorasan wheat, sorghum and more.
Ancient grains sometimes contain more calories than modern grains, but they provide more protein, fiber and vitamins. This doesn’t mean you should write off modern grains; the goal is to eat a variety of whole grains.
Here are some suggestions for adding whole grains to your diet:
- Start with familiar whole grains. Switch to a whole-grain version of something you already eat, such as brown or wild rice instead of white rice, or whole-grain bread instead of white bread.
- Go gradually. Add whole grains to your diet a little at a time. Try mixing oats into a meatloaf or even into chocolate chip cookies. Or, try eating oatmeal or whole-grain cereals for breakfast.
- Take shortcuts.You can speed up the process of cooking whole grains, except for pasta, by soaking them first. Also, instead of cooking grains on a stovetop, use a microwave to shorten the cooking time.
- Rethink snacks. Popcorn is a great substitute for chips and pretzels because it is a whole grain! There are also increasing varieties of whole-grain crackers.
- Beadventurous. Try some new grains or revisit some you might have forgotten about. Quinoa comes in three colors and is easy to find in most grocery stores now.
- Don’t be fooled. Look for “whole grain” on the label when shopping for packaged baked goods or cereals. Make sure that whole grains are at the top of the ingredients list and the list is relatively short.
Whole grains are as easy to cook and use as white rice. All you have to do is combine the dry grain and liquid in a pot with water or broth, bring it to a boil, then simmer until the liquid is absorbed. The amount of liquid needed and the simmer time will vary based on the type of grain used.
“The Whole Grain Goodness of Modern and Ancient Grains,” Heidi Godman, health.harvard.edu, June 29, 2016.
“6 Suggestions for Adding Whole Grains to Your Diet,” Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu, July 2016.