Health column by Dr. Greg Feinsinger. Champion of Whole Food Plant Based Living and righteous person.
Whole grains contain endosperm, germ, and bran and are good for us; processed grains are not. Below is a list of 17 whole grains from Web MD. Some can be found at City Market and Whole Foods; more can be found at Natural grocers; the rest can be purchased on the internet.
BROWN RICE, like other whole grains, helps lower cholesterol, controls blood sugar, and promotes good gut bacteria. Avoid rice grown in Texas and the Southeast due to high arsenic content, and even with brown rice grown in regions such as California, don’t eat it more than 2 or 3 times a week.
SORGHUM is an ancient grain, is a staple in Africa, and is used in bread and couscous in the Middle East.
BUCKWHEAT technically is not a grain or wheat, but is considered a kind of grain because it’s used like one. It is used to make Japanese soba noodles and healthy pancakes. Toasted buckwheat adds crunch to salads and makes a good substitute for less-healthy croutons in salads.
BARLEY is an ancient grain which is often used in soups. It has the most fiber of all the whole grains. Whole and hulled barley contain more micronutrients than the pearled version.
OATS: Oat groats are completely unprocessed; steel cut and rolled oats are minimally processed and still healthy. Quick rolled oats are not recommended because they are more processed.
MILLET refers to a group of related grasses with small seeds, including pearl, foxtail, proso, and finger. It’s used to make flatbreads in India and porridge and beer in Africa. In the U.S. millet flour is used for gluten-free pancakes and muffins.
QUINOA can be used in salads and soups, can be substituted for rice when stir-frying, and can be used as a breakfast cereal. Consider rinsing it before you cook it to remove a natural, bitter plant chemical called saponins.
WILD RICE an aquatic grass seed and technically is not a rice. It can be used in soups and salads or as a stand-alone dish.
FARRO is an ancient grain eaten by Roman soldiers. It is the main ingredient in some pastas, and can be substituted for pasta or rice. Avoid the pearled version, which is processed.
TEFF is an ancient grain that is a small seed from grass that grows mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is used to make the African flatbread injera, and it can be sprinkled on vegetables or in soups.
RYE can grow in cold, wet climates and is used to make bread—which often contains caraway seeds– in Scandinavian countries. It has fiber in both the endosperm and bran of the whole grain, and has a very low glycemic index (doesn’t cause elevation of blood sugar). Rolled rye can be added when cooking oatmeal.
WHEAT GRAINS: WHEAT BERRIES contain gluten, a protein that helps bread stretch and rise. Whole wheat flour comes from wheat berries, but the processing involved with grinding wheat or other whole grains into fine flour changes its structure and behavior. Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls whole wheat bread “white bread with a tan.” FREEKEH is made from roasting young wheat, which gives it a smoky flavor. It’s chewy and nutty, cooks quickly, and works as a porridge or pilaf. It is a staple in the Middle East. SPELT is a particular kind of wheat with a higher protein content. It can replace rice or used to make pasta or bread. BULGAR is the pre-cooked kernel of wheat, which “comes to life” after soaking for 10 minutes in hot water. It is chewy and has a nutty taste. It’s used to make the Mediterranean salad tabbouleh, and can be used in other soups and other salads.
MAIZE (corn) is a grain and a vegetable. It is not high in fiber or protein, but has lots of antioxidants. It’s used to make polenta, tortillas, and popcorn.
People with celiac disease and “gluten sensitivity” should avoid the wheat grains, spelt, barley, and rye. Although oats don’t contain gluten, but sometimes gluten get into oats in the milling process—no problem though if the oats say gluten free.