Part I: Whole Grains (the four super grains you need to be eating right now!!)
Hey guys, I’m really excited to finally get around to writing about whole grains, since they are a huge part of my plant based diet and something that I’m passionate about. I thought you should know I am writing this while eating a big bowl of veggie stir fry over brown rice, hoping it will get me into the whole grains spirit and help the words flow.
Now, I’m pretty sure I can guess what you’re thinking? How BORING… an article on Whole Grains. I’m kinda with you on this, since they really are about as exciting as taxes and talking about the weather.
But what they lack in excitement they definitely make up for in nutritional awesomeness (which should definitely be a word by the way). Now, my approach isn’t about going totally gluten free. It’s about eating grains that stop you crashing mid-afternoon, that keep you feeling full for longer, that eliminate the 3 pm bloating or food baby (which the cool kids call it) all while giving you a massive boost of nutrients.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the less gluten you eat the better you feel since gluten is extremely inflammatory and lacks nutrients. Or as the ‘Skinny Bitch’ girls so gracefully put it…
“Simple carbohydrates suck and are as nutritionally beneficial as toilet paper”.
I know this will sound scary but let’s go ahead and place gluten in your weekend to eat list, right next to, dare I say it, coffee. This really is the only time I would recommend eating gluten such as that thick slice of sourdough bread with avocado. I know, I’m a horrible person, but if you want to look rocking in your skinny jeans, then the bread’s gotta go. Of course, there are times I slip up, slicing a chunk of sourdough bread and spreading it thickly with almond butter. But hey, I’m only human, and plus I’m part Italian, so it would be wrong to deprive myself of my true heritage (ha!)
So, what are we waiting for, let’s get into the nitty, gritty of what makes these whole grains so special.
I have to admit the first time I came across quinoa was a total disaster. Picture a bright-eyed, younger version of my self, standing in front of a room full of my university peers about to give a talk on quinoa. Of course, I had researched everything I could about this super grain. When I went to introduce it, that’s when the disaster began. Who would of known that six little letters could cause so much embarrassment!
I managed to make the mistake that I’m sure a lot of us have experienced, pronouncing quinoa, QUI-no-a, when it’s meant to be KEEN-wa. I realized my mistake, after a very uncomfortable 20 seconds and I did what any normal person would do in that situation, DENY! I laughed it off with “haha I totally knew it was KEEN-wa” and I continued on as best I could. The point of this story is there was a time I had never heard of quinoa, and now it’s one of my favorite foods. So don’t worry if it’s new to you, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Quinoa is packed with protein, much like overly tanned body builders before a competition. And so much so that over five thousand years ago it was given to men fighting in armies, as it could sustain them for days. But I’m guessing you’re wanting something a little more relatable so think of quinoa as being the hand that slaps away the cookies at 3 pm, since it’s so full of fibre you won’t want one. Say what!
Look at quinoa as being your every grain, as it can be eaten in sweet or savoury recipes. This is why I eat mine for breakfast in my berry, apple porridge and then later for lunch in my abundance bowl. The secret is to make a big batch and then go quinoa crazy for the week.
I know what you’re thinking, and NO, buckwheat is not wheat. Confusing, I know given its name. If we’re going to be technical, buckwheat is actually a seed, but it is given the title pesto-grain, which is why I’ve added it to the list.
As I have just put quinoa on a golden pedestal, you’re probably thinking there is not much more to know about grains, but even though buckwheat isn’t as popular, it has a lot of similar health benefits. It is full of fibre, balances your blood sugar levels and is rich in iron and magnesium. No, it’s not getting it’s own magazine cover or being shot with famous foodies but it definitely comes in a close second, and some say, it’s about to have its own quinoa moment.
I love them sprinkled over coconut yogurt or soaked and sprouted through a salad. This releases more nutrients and makes them super crunchy.
I made the switch from white rice to brown rice a few years ago and haven’t looked back. I’m not going to lie, it did take a while to get use to, but like all good things, you soon start to love it.
Basically, white rice has been heavily processed and stripped of its coating, making it low in nutrients. Brown rice only has one layer removed, making it richer in nutrients and fibre. Think of brown rice as keeping you full and giving you lots of goodies (the giver) where as white rice has basically zero fibre and actually strips your body of nutrients (the taker).
My favourite way to eat this nutty rice is to enjoy a big scoop over the top of a vegetarian curry, which I like to refer to as Sunday evening dinners at mine. Predictable, yes, do we care, no.
I think I saved the best for last. I can’t get enough of this creamy, comforting grain, especially when cooked with almond milk. It definitely has nothing to do with the fact that the amazing Deliciously Ella, also known as wellness blogger royalty, eats it everyday (definitely nothing to do with this).
I love how versatile and affordable oats are. They are the type of grain that will keep you full for hours and they balance your blood sugar levels, much like the other grains do.
Many people get confused whether oats contain gluten, and the answer is NO. The reason this is even a topic of confusion is that a lot of oats get cross-contaminated when they are processed, and so gluten intolerant people react to those small traces. The rule is simple: if you’re gluten intolerant, oats will make you run to the toilet 30 seconds after eating them. Choose a gluten-free brand of oats such as Bobs Mill, then you’ll be fine.
Wow, I know that was a lot to take in and you’re probably thinking, where do I start? There is really no right or wrong way, just pick a grain and have a play. You’ll figure out pretty soon, what you like.
Personally, I do like to mix it up and rotate my grains as much as possible. This ensures I’m getting a good balance of nutrients and that I’m not missing out on anything. Plus, if I don’t, I really quickly get bored and start making crazy recipes like quinoa ice cream, and no one wants that.
Don’t forget to check out next week’s Part II of this series where I show you how to soak, cook and even sprout your whole grains. This is when the real fun begins. See you next week.