Numerous studies have confirmed the health benefits of a diet that’s rich in whole grains. Now there’s even more grist for the mill: An ongoing study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and AARP recently found that dietary fiber from whole grains may significantly reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases.
Whole grains contain the flavorful, nutrient-rich bran and germ (which are generally removed when a grain is processed), along with valuable fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Adding more whole grains to your diet doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Farro, a relative of wheat, cooks in about the same amount of time as white rice. Bulgur, or cracked wheat berries, just requires soaking briefly before tossing with fresh herbs and vegetables to make tabouleh. And fluffy, protein-rich quinoa, a South American seed, cooks in about 15 minutes. Try it as a stand in for rice alongside stir fries and curries, or toss it with vegetables and herbs to make a main dish salad.
Here are 5 more easy ways to get whole grains into your diet:
1. Start your day with oatmeal
On busy mornings, choose rolled oats, which cook in about 5 minutes (as opposed to instant varieties which are more processed and contain less fiber). On the weekends, treat yourself to a bowl of steel cut oats, which take longer to cook but have a delicious nutty taste and hearty texture.
2. When in doubt, choose brown
Get to know the nutty, earthy flavor of whole grains in the foods you eat regularly–choose brown rice over white to pair with stir fries, opt for whole wheat instead of regular pasta, and make the switch to whole wheat bread (look for “whole wheat” in the ingredient list).
3. Snack on air-popped popcorn
Add a drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt and Parmesan cheese.
4. Bake with whole wheat flour
The next time you stir up a batch of pancakes, muffins, or even cookies, substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the white flour without affecting the flavor or texture of your favorite recipe.
5. Serve grains on the side
Familiarize yourself with the bulk section of your supermarket and try cooking one new grain each week for dinner–grains like quinoa, farro, barley, millet, and wheat berries make great side dishes drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and tossed with herbs.