Deck The Halls With Whole Grains

If you’re like me you’ve seen, and perhaps even eaten, way too much sugar over the past few months. From Halloween treats, to Pumpkin and Mincemeat pies, I can safely say that fall surrounds us with a multitude of sweets. We’re all fully aware that Christmas lurks around the corner, as do more sugar-laden- cookie tins, dessert buffets, and Christmas stockings. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll bake my share of cookies, but right now I’m craving something to eat that’s savory, wholesome, crunchy and colorful. Is that too much to ask?

In case you haven’t heard, whole grains are a darling of the nutrition world. Now for the fine print. Imagine that I’m reading this real fast, and you can barely understand me:

1. Whole grains (the seed of a grass) contain no added chemicals, preservatives, salt or sugar.

2, Whole grains contain all of the nutrients nature intended for them to contain plus a multitude of B-vitamins, minerals, beneficial enzymes, insoluable and soluable fiber, a low-glycemic index and many phytochemicals.

3. Whole grains are subject to little if any processing so they have all three parts of the grain kernel intact, thus the name “whole grain” – nothing’s missing. These three parts are the oily-rich germ, the starch filled endosperm and the outer or bran coating.

That’s a mouth full, but trust me and the world of nutrition science on this one; we can all benefit by sinking our teeth into more whole grains, not only for the nutritional properties, but for their unique, nutty flavor, and appealing toothsome bite.

The natural food section of supermarkets, specialty markets, and health food stores boast a fascinating assortment of whole grains. Brown rice, wheat berries, quinoa (keen-wa), barley, buckwheat (or Kasha), and my beloved steel-cut oats, are generally more readily available. Consider also more unusual grains, such as amaranth, millet, spelt, teff, or rye. Each one is unique in color, texture and flavor. Whole grains contain the oily germ component of the grain therefore they have an increased potential to spoil or become rancid compared to a refined grain, such as white rice. For that reason, purchase whole grains in small quantities and store in an airtight bag, container, or jar, in the refrigerator or freezer. To learn more about cooking whole grains visit the Whole Grains Council.

Cooked whole grains are quite versatile. They make a tasty pilaf or stuffing, and instead of traditional potatoes or pasta, cooked whole grains create a fine side dish served with a saucy curry or stew. They also make a delicious ingredient for a cold salad. Add a variety of chopped fresh ingredients, toss with complementary vinaigrette, and you’ve created a salad that adds a welcome dose of crunch, and a splash of seasonal color to any winter meal. Consider making this salad as a wholesome addition to any meal. And at Christmas, who knows, someone might even  thank you on their way to the cookie platter.

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