The popularity of low carb and paleo diets have given grains a bad rap. While it is true that eating refined white flour found in baked goods and packaged, processed foods can lead to spikes in blood sugar and contribute to inflammation, whole grains come with many health benefits. (Read this interesting article on a study done by the local Fred Hutch for more information on the benefits of “slow carbs”) Some of these include fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy plant-based proteins.
When grains are refined, the bran and germ, where most of the fiber, vitamins and minerals are stored, is stripped away. This is unfortunate because the fiber in whole grains is digested slowly helping you to feel fuller longer, control blood sugar, regulate bowel movements and help lower cholesterol. Whole grains are also naturally rich in B vitamins, involved in metabolism and minerals, as well as minerals such as iron, important to prevent anemia and magnesium which helps with bone building.
Even if you avoid wheat and other sources of gluten, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Try amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum or teff.
Whole grains can be used for much more than just a side dish at dinner. Over the weekend I made a strawberry tart with a quinoa crust. Organic strawberries are coming down in price and easy to find this time of year and I felt inspired to do some baking. Using quinoa and almond flour for the crust is a healthy alternative to a traditional crust with white flour.
You can find the recipe I used here. A fairly major substitution was made in the almond cream. I could not easily find almond paste, so instead used an equivalent amount of almond butter and a splash of almond extract. The flavor and texture were still good.
Other ideas to increase the whole grains in your diet are to substitute part or all the white flour in your baked goods for whole wheat or another whole grain flour, try whole grain pasta, make risottos with brown or wild rice or for breakfast try oatmeal or cold cereals made with kamut, millet, etc in place or refined grain cereals.