It’s World Vegetarian Month—something we can’t celebrate without talking about the benefits of whole grains.
Whole grains are powerhouses of vegetarian nutrition. They offer protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants, and trace minerals like iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. Studies link whole grain consumption with decreased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
A whole grain contains three edible parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. Refining (or processing) removes the bran and germ and leaves only the endosperm. Since the bran and germ contain most of whole grain’s key nutrients (like B vitamins and protein), the refining process removes the best part of the grain! Manufacturers often “enrich” refined grains to add back some (not all) vitamins and minerals.
At the supermarket, look for the word “whole” preceding “grain.” Examples include 100 percent whole wheat flour, whole grain corn, whole oats, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur, amaranth, barley, faro, millet, quinoa and sorghum.
To add more whole grains into meals:
- Start your day with a whole grain cereal, toast or oatmeal.
- Choose whole grain breads, tortillas, wraps for sandwiches.
- Try quinoa, amaranth or faro for a side dish.
- Try air-popped popcorn or whole-grain crackers for snack time.
- Try quinoa as a hot cereal or add it to a salad. Quinoa cooks more quickly than rice and is easy to incorporate into recipes.
- Try brown rice or whole-wheat couscous instead of pasta or white rice. Brown rice tastes great in Italian and Indian dishes. Whole-wheat couscous is a nice oatmeal alternative, too.
There are 19 whole grains. How many have you tried?