Whole grains come in all shapes, sizes, tastes and textures. With a myriad of B vitamins, fiber, iron, plant-based protein and minerals, each tiny grain delivers a nutritional punch. A whole grain has its natural bran, which holds a good portion of its nutritional value.
The complex carbohydrates present in whole grains digest more slowly than refined versions, keeping blood sugar levels (and cravings) regulated for sustained energy. They've also been shown to reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol), help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, as well as lower heart disease and diabetes risk. With whole grains, you've got many options not only in variety, but versatility in the kitchen, too.
From breakfast to dinner and everything in between, there's a grain out there for every time constraint, cooking level and craving. Here are the 4 most nutritious whole grains with tasty ways to add them to your daily diet. Its tiny, bead-like appearance makes it a whole grain alternative to refined white pasta, can be ground in your blender to make gluten-free flour for baked goods, and can be turned into a creamy grain main like this Millet, Lemon and Kale “Risotto.”
Bran rolled, steel-cut and whole grouts are all the same grain presented in different ways. They're high in soluble fiber, helping to lower cholesterol, improve digestion, help manage a healthy weight, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and more.
An everyday pantry staple that makes not only a fantastic warm breakfast cereal with rolled oats, but also risotto with steel-cut or pilaf with whole grouts.
They're also star players in desserts, like this healthy recipe for Honey Oat Roasted Pears.
Not often thought of as a whole grain, corn's bad-boy health persona should be limited to the refined versions of itself (ie high-fructose corn syrup).
Its standout nutritional features are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that help eyesight. As a whole food, corn is a unique grain in that it's ate fresh from the cob, as well as dried in the form of cornmeal and flour.
For an elegant and healthy vegetarian entree with corn, try this Veggie Ragu on Blue Cheese Polenta.
Whole grain brown rice is a low-allergen; gluten-free whole grain high in B vitamins, selenium, fiber and slow-digesting carbohydrates. Many varieties of white rice can be found in whole grain brown rice such as basmati, short grain and long grain.
Combined with a legume or bean, brown rice turns into a complete plant-based protein, as shown in this recipe for Goat Cheese, Lentil and Brown Rice Rolls.
Inky-black with a slightly sweet, grapey taste, this dark-colored whole grain is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in any food, even more so than most fruits and vegetables.
It's excellent as a side dish, used as a bed for curries or made into a healthy dessert like this Black Rice Pudding with Mango, Lime, Passion Fruit and Coconut.