Eating whole grains like quinoa, rice, barley, oatmeal or wheat provide filling fiber, protein, antioxidants and keep all systems (especially your digestive system) working up to par. Thanks to the low-carb diet craze, you may usually shy away from carbohydrates, but not to worry. Although whole grains are carbs, incorporating them into your diet will keep your metabolism working and fill you up with fewer calories.
Whole Grains for Your Health
Not only do whole grains keep you full and provide fiber, but it’s that fiber that helps keep blood pressure in check, bad cholesterol (LDLs) low and arteries healthy. The fiber also helps keep your digestive tract healthy, and works to maintain regularity. Most nutritional professionals even agree that fiber can lower your risk of other health issues like gallstones, type 2 diabetes, obesity and asthma. Just two servings a day can improve your health and reduce your risk of disease by around 30 percent.
Quinoa is getting a lot of attention as a high protein food that is lower in calories than most other whole grain side dishes. A 1/4 cup serving of quinoa has only 150 calories, but also 6 grams of fiber and protein to keep you feeling satisfied. The protein in quinoa is also unique for a grain. Quinoa is considered a complete protein, including all nine essential amino acids.
Try mixing quinoa with chopped, sauteed onion, zucchini, red bell pepper and tomato or scallions and fresh herbs for a delicious side dish. Pancakes become even more filling and delicious with plain cooked quinoa and cinnamon mixed into the batter.
Barley is another delicious whole grain that provides substantial fiber (almost 8g) and protein (5g). It also contains the mineral selenium, which works to prevent cancer. That’s a big benefit for only 170 calories in a 1/4 cup serving.
Barley is great mixed with vegetables or in soups. Try making some overnight in your slow cooker with some cinnamon and raisins for a delicious breakfast. Just add 4 cups of water to 1 cup barley with your fruit and spice.
The brown stuff is the best choice if you reach for rice as your dinner side. White rice is brown rice that has been polished and milled, and in the process, stripped of at least half of its minerals. Brown rice has less fiber and protein than quinoa or barley, but its calorie count is lower, and it stands in well for white rice.
Try replacing white rice in sushi, as a base for stir fry, or mixed with beans for Mexican food.
Known best as a comforting breakfast favorite or to make really tasty cookies, oatmeal, especially slow-cooking oatmeal, is a whole grain that gets you started in the morning with 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and less than 150 calories. It’s extremely quick cooking, making for a cancer and heart disease fighting breakfast in a snap. Stick to the five-minute cooking whole oats, and reserve the instant oatmeal for when you’re really in a time crunch. It’s been processed already, taking the work away from your system.