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Five Grains to Keep Your Family Healthy

by Andrea Giancoli, MPH RD

Five Grains to Keep Your Family Healthy

Next time you go shopping, keep your family healthy by choosing whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains (such as buckwheat, brown rice, hominy and oatmeal) are more nutritious than refined grains because they contain the fiber rich outer bran layer, the nutrient packed germ and the starchy endosperm. Refined grains such as white bread and white rice contain mostly the endosperm.

In the past, whole grains were thought to provide mostly fiber to promote digestive health, but newer research has revealed that they provide additional vitamins and minerals, plus high levels of antioxidants and other healthy plant-based nutrients. No matter which whole grain you prefer, make sure to check the ingredient list for whole grains or the label for "100-percent whole-grain."

Here are five grains to try:

Amaranth

Gluten-free amaranth is considered a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids, including lysine which other grains tend to lack. Additionally, it’s a good source of minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc, plus it offers some calcium and potassium. In South America amaranth is popped like miniature popcorn. In the United States “Amaranth is most often used as a flour,” says Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adding “for kids it’s really good mixed in pancakes, breads and muffins.”

Barley

Barley is a fiber powerhouse. Hulled barley has more fiber-rich bran than pearled barley, although both contain beta-glucan soluble fiber that “keeps blood sugar levels stable which is important for kids to give them sustained energy,” says Begun. Barley also contains selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Barley is great added to soups or used to make a pilaf. Barley can even be made into a hot breakfast cereal. Hulled barley will take more time to cook than pearled barley, about 50-60 minutes.

Oats

Oats also contain beta-glucan fiber which can lower cholesterol and help strengthen the immune system. Oats boast polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant and anti-itch properties. Besides the age-old favorite oatmeal for breakfast, oats can be added as a binder to meatloaf and burgers. Oats also work well in baked goods like oatmeal cookies, as a crunchy topping to crisps and crumbles, and even in casserole dishes.

Quinoa

Like amaranth, quinoa is a complete protein and gluten free. Moreover, quinoa is an excellent source of magnesium and zinc, and a good source of iron and folate. Quinoa is fairly easy to prepare according to Begun, “if you can you can boil water you can make quinoa.” Before cooking, use a fine mesh strainer to rinse the quinoa and remove the outer coating, called saponin, which can give the quinoa a bitter taste. Quinoa is fun for kids because it pops in the mouth and comes in several colors: beige, red, black and even purple. Mix quinoa with beans or nuts for a tasty side dish, or add to salads and stir fries.

Teff

Of these five grains, gluten-free teff is highest in calcium and protein. Teff is also a rich source of fiber, iron and thiamine. Teff grains are tiny and have a mild nutty flavor. It’s an indispensable grain in Ethiopia where it’s used to make the traditional flat bread, injera. It’s grown in the United States in Idaho. Cook the grain into a creamy hot cereal or a tasty polenta. You can also mix teff with veggies for a side dish.

Reviewed April 2013

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About the author:

Andrea N Giancoli MPH RD

Andrea Giancoli, MPH RD


Topics


Themes


Themes

  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.


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