JEFF TIEDEMAN: Go for the whole grainsIncorporate this heart-healthy option into your diet.
It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. Department of Agriculture established a Food Guide Pyramid with a base of seven to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta daily.
That guideline is now considered out-of-date. One reason is that it failed to note the very important difference between whole and refined grains.
All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, various vitamins and minerals and are naturally low in fat. But grains that haven’t been refined — called whole grains — are better for you because they haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling, making them good sources of fiber.
Whole grains also are loaded with other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.
Those are some of the reasons why we’ve seen many nutrition and health care experts, including the Harvard School of Public Health, the Mayo Clinic and the USDA (with its 2005 MyPyramid campaign), stressing the need for people to get a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily.
Studies have shown a diet rich in fiber, particularly from whole grains, may cut the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, lower cholesterol and aid in digestion, as well as weight and blood sugar management.
But are people following this advice about whole grains?
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, 95 percent of Americans still don’t reach the minimum amount.
It’s really not hard to add whole grains (beyond bread) to one’s diet. Here are a few you might try with serving suggestions:
— Amaranth: Toast this grain then cook as a breakfast cereal or as a side dish like polenta.
— Barley: Try this fiber-rich and heart-healthy grain in soups.
— Buckwheat: Use the flour for pancakes and the whole toasted groats, known as kasha, for breakfast or as pilafs.
— Corn: Besides fresh sweet corn, use whole grain corn (in the form of grits, hominy and cornmeal) cooked into polenta or baked into corn bread or muffins.
— Millet: When toasted, this grain is great for breakfast cereal or for use instead of corn meal in polenta.
— Oats: Best-known as a breakfast grain, rolled oats are full of antioxidants and are as heart-healthy as you can get. Try oat groats or steel-cut oats if you prefer a chewier variety.
— Quinoa: This ancient grain, eaten by the Incas, cooks quickly and makes a great side for any meal. It works well in salads or instead of rice for dishes like stuffed tomatoes.
— Rice: Substitute whole grain brown rice, the more exotic brown, black or red rice varieties in most white rice recipes.
— Rye: Rye berries cook up similarly to wheat berries for use in salads and side dishes.
— Wild rice: A staple of the Native American diet, this grain works great in soups or pilafs.
I can’t think of any better way to kick off National Nutrition Month than with whole grains.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.