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A whole world of great grains

Insights from our nutrition team

Farro salad

You’ve no doubt heard about the health benefits of whole grains. Maybe you’ve switched to whole-wheat bread or brown rice. That’s a great start, but it could get boring — and challenging if you have diabetes or gluten sensitivity — to rely on wheat and rice alone for your daily grains. Luckily, there’s a whole world of grains out there that many people have never tried. They’re loaded with protein, fiber and nutrition; they cook up as easily as rice; and they offer a refreshingly nutty, chewy change from the usual. Here are four that we love.

1. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is not actually a grain — it’s a seed, which means it’s gluten-free. Often called a superfood, it’s very high in protein, B vitamins and trace minerals. It has a type of fiber, called resistant fiber, that has been shown to lower blood sugar after meals, which makes it a great choice for people with diabetes. Try buckwheat groats (seeds) in soups and salads. Buckwheat (soba) noodles and pancakes often contain wheat, so check before ordering those.

2. Quinoa

Another super seed, quinoa is a gluten-free protein powerhouse. It contains all of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients. Of the four “grains” listed here, quinoa cooks the fastest: bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups liquid to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. It’ll be done within 15 minutes. There are many varieties of quinoa; if you don’t like white quinoa, try red.

3. Farro

This ancient grain is easy to digest and is so low in gluten that many people with gluten sensitivities (but not those with celiac disease) can eat it without problems. Farro is great in soups and pilafs.

4. Wheat berries

Wheat berries are whole kernels of wheat. They have a chewy texture and a sweet, nutty taste. Of these four grains, they take the longest to cook — about an hour — but like rice, the cooking time is all hands-off. Use them the same way you’d use farro.

Tips for enjoying more whole grains:
  1. Try whole-grain hot cereals for breakfast on cold mornings. Bob’s Red Mill offers several blends that are super easy to make in minutes.
  2. Try new grains instead of rice to add variety to pilafs.
  3. Mix cooked grains with nuts, chopped veggies, herbs, dried cherries or cranberries, lemon juice and olive oil for a delicious side or meatless main.
  4. Add grains to soups to boost fiber and protein and make them heartier.
  5. Cook grains in big batches, and freeze some for future dishes.