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Grains Of Truth

Why is everyone so hepped on whole grains these days and what is a whole grain, anyway?  The WHOLE GRAIN refers to a grain which still has its bran and germ intact. In the days before sensible dentistry, many people wanted softer, smushier food; removing the bran and germ created just that. In addition, the bran and germ spoil more easily, so removing them extended the shelf life of the grain: food manufacturers were ecstatic! Finally, the denuded products were easier to digest — producing less of that embarrassing gas. Sounds great, doesn’t it — mushy white food that lasts forever and can pass through your body without any work by your digestive tract! Neat!

You may have guessed by now that most of the essential nutrients and fiber in a grain are located in the very bran and germ that are removed in the refining process. Working on the presumption that you are eating in order to nourish your body, dining on refined grains such as white flour, white rice, white pasta and pearl barley is akin to sending in the artillery without any ammunition — pointless.

I can already hear you folks in the back saying, “but hey, I eat to nourish my soul too, and my soul craves pasta, plenty of white pasta — preferably with a nice Alfredo sauce…” Fine: have it as a treat once a month, or whenever your conscience says it is treat time. To be honest, I would never suggest that anyone eat whole wheat pasta — it is not one of the food industry’s great achievements. Sometimes soba noodles (made with buckwheat) or brown rice noodles in a stir-fry can satisfy that itch for pasta.

I often wonder if the current protein craze is just the pendulum swinging away from the pastey, refined, white carbohydrates of yore. In the eighties when the nurtritionistas exhorted us to eat carbs, we all ran out and ate pasta every night; we had neglected to figure out that the carbs needed to be WHOLE GRAIN. Now we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water as everyone shuns all carbohydrates.

So, here are some thoughts for starting to incorporate whole grains into your life:

Try to include whole grain farro, spelt, quinoa, hulled barley or polenta into your weekly meals and I think you’ll be happily surprised. More on quinoa and barley in upcoming posts!

Use whole wheat flour with your white flour when baking. This can be challenging, but the difference in the fiber and nutrient content is really worth it. For those weekend pancakes, try adding some buckwheat flour. In most basic baking recipes, I have begun to substitute whole wheat flour for third to half of the white flour. So far, no one has noticed in brownies, chocolate chip cookies or carrot cake…

If you cannot bear to give up your white basmati, then mix it half and half with brown rice. Experiment with red and black rices (which are only semi-pearled).

Enough of my finger wagging and onto the fun part: the recipes. Check the blog index for a whole wheat baked goodie for the autumn, or try  a lovely farro salad to keep you happy during the last golden days of September.


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