Whole Grains are a versatile pantry staple that can easily be incorporated into your dinner planning. Use them in everything from breakfast items to desserts!
We have all heard the benefits of whole grains to our overall health. They offer essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that support heart health, help maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, lower or maintain cholesterol levels, and assist in the management of type 2 diabetes.
What you may not be aware of is that whole grains also provide much-needed energy to our brains, which require large amounts to function properly. First, because of their high fiber content and low glycemic ranking, whole grains slowly release energy into our bodies which helps keep us mentally alert throughout the day. Next, those health-boosting nutrients in whole grains are especially vital to memory, mood, concentration, and productivity. Finally, whole grains are helpful for tending to gut health, which is important to better brain function.
COOKING WHOLE GRAINS
Cooking whole grains is generally easy. Two common stovetop methods for preparing whole grains are called the pilaf or absorption method and the pasta method.
- The pilaf or absorption method involves lightly toasting the grains in the saucepan before adding the cooking liquid, then covering and simmering them until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender.
- The pasta method also simmers the whole grains in a saucepan covered with water or broth, but any liquid remaining at the end of the cooking time is drained off, just like when cooking pasta.
- Aromatics can be added to the cooking pots to build flavor, such as fresh or dried herbs, spices or onions, garlic, and other vegetables.
- Water is commonly used to cook whole grains, but consider using broth, stock, plant-based milk (up to half water, half milk), or other liquid for varying the flavor of the grain.
Whole grains can also be prepared in rice cookers and multi-cookers, such as Instant Pot or Zavor. See your particular model for cooking instructions.
For further information on selecting, storing, and cooking whole grains, check out my post, “A Basic Guide to Whole Grains”.
DINNER PLANNING IDEAS
For this month’s dinner planning, here are three delicious, health and brain-boosting menu ideas you may wish to cycle into your rotation that incorporate different types of whole grains.
What speaks “comfort food” more than chili and cornbread! Loaded with great ingredients, both are flavorful, delicious, and satisfying. Make extra – the leftovers are a welcome treat.
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – beans, tomatoes, onions, other veggies, garlic, warm spices, oats, cornmeal, buttermilk
Grilled or Roasted Salmon with Black Rice
Simply prepared salmon is one of my favorite meals, and it’s so quick and easy. Pairing this nutrient-dense protein with whole-grain black rice ups the ante even further, as black rice is one of the healthiest whole grains. Enjoy this meal with a side of grilled or roasted veggies or a tossed salad.
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – salmon, black rice, onion, bell pepper, garlic, olive or avocado oil, other veggies, herbs, spices
Mushroom Barley Soup – from The Spruce Eats
“This versatile recipe is a great vegan variation on the classic dish found in most eastern European and Jewish restaurants.” Enjoy this warming and satisfying soup with a tossed salad, and/or slice of whole-grain bread.
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – assorted mushrooms, onion, shallot, pearl barley, herbs
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