Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grains 101

When you think of grains, what comes to mind? Rice? Wheat bread? There are so many wonderful grains that have nothing to do with rice or bread. And when I talk about grains, I am talking about the WHOLE grain, not the pulverized-into-flour or instant rice kind of grain. Once grains are "messed with" and stored on grocery shelves, they lose much of their nutrients and flavor. And don't think whole grains make you fat. White rice and flour may, but whole grains are THE energy your body craves and needs to survive. Grains can be bought in bulk, are cheap and fill you up with protein, fiber and essential complex carbohydrates.

When cooking grains, there are several things you should know:

1) Grains need to be cleaned. Not only are they dirty, but many of them have a protective outer coating that is hard for your body to digest and often makes them taste bitter. Once you measure out your grain, pour them into a sieve and run cool water over them. 

2) Grains should be soaked or dry roasted. Even rice. Soaking further breaks down this outer layer, will enable your body to fully absorb the nutrients and removes any acidity from the grain. Depending on the grain, you can soak anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight. Some grains do even better to be rinsed and then dried in in a dry, hot skillet. This does the same as soaking but adds a nuttier flavor to the grain.

3) Grains should be cooked with the sea vegetable known as kombu (see earlier post about the #1 Thing You Should Add to Your Diet) and a pinch of salt. Kombu mineralizes and alkalizes the cooking water, which is absorbed by the grain, and then you. Magic. You can buy dried kombu in bags at Whole Foods, Central Market or most health food stores. Take out one long strip of kombu and cut a 1 inch piece off of it for every cup of grain. Toss it into your cooking water as you are heating it. You don't need to eat the kombu when your grain is finished cooking. Just like a bay leaf, you will get all of the benefits simply by eating the grain.

4) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, CHEW WELL. Your saliva is there for a reason and it's not just to lubricate your mouth. Saliva is full of enzymes that are intended to break down food before it gets to your digestive tract. The more you chew your food before you swallow, the less work your digestive track has to do. Macrobiotics teaches you should chew each bite at least 50 times before swallowing! I tried this but can't get past around 30 chews before the food has already made its way down. I don't think there is a magic number, just try to chew until there are no solid pieces left in your mouth. This is also a good weight-loss trick!

So, here are some great grains to try and the best ways to prepare them. To start, add them to any meal you would normally use rice. Then, try mixing different grains, adding them as binders in recipes (instead of breadcrumbs), and making sauces to drizzle over them. You should try to get a serving of them with every meal. See my "Recipes" page for great ways to incorporate grains into your diet.

  • Brown Rice - rinse and soak 20 minutes up to overnight in fridge. Use 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water and boil covered 45 minutes with lid on. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, another 5 minutes before fluffing with fork. 
  • Quinoa - rinse and roast in dry skillet until dried. Stir constantly. Use 1 cup of dry roasted quinoa to 1 1/2 cups of water. Boil with lid on for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before fluffing with fork.
  • Amaranth and teff - rinse and cook 1 cup with 3 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Millet - rinse and dry roast in a skillet until dried, stirring constantly. Then cook 1 cup with 3 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Wheat berries and spelt - rinse and soak overnight in fridge. Rinse and cook 1 cup with 2 cups of water, covered, for 50 minutes.
  • Buckwheat - rinse and dry roast in skillet until dried. Then cook 1 cup with 2 cups of water, covered, for 20 minutes
  • Barley - rinse and soak 20 minutes. Rinse and cook 1 cup to 2 cups of water, covered, for 45 minutes.

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