THE WHOLE GRAIN PICTURE
CARBOHYDRATES DON’T HAVE TO BE THE ENEMY IF YOU MAKE HEALTHIER CHOICES. SKIP THE CARB COMA WITH THESE SEVEN NUTRIENT-RICH GRAIN ALTERNATIVES
When looking at overall consumption of grains in your daily diet, how does it stack up in terms of variety and nutrition? Let’s tally it up. Breakfast: toast? cereal? Lunch: a white sandwich or wrap perhaps? And dinner, did it include pasta, noodles or more bread?
The common theme is refined wheat products or processed carbohydrates with a lack of nutrientrich grains. Wholegrains are commonly overlooked in our diets, but with so many great grain alternatives readily available, it is hard to work out why. Each opportunity to eat, should focus on the most nutritionally dense foods possible. Carbohydrates are responsible for carrying a large chunk of our nutrients and phytochemicals, so choose wisely.
Fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes and nuts pack a far more powerful nutritional punch than refined grains, starches and sugars.
The bonus of water and fibre in complex carbohydrates helps slow down the absorption of glucose, which lowers an insulin response.
It makes sense to eat whole, unrefined foods which assist with satiety and holding the munchies at bay.
Apart from the usual culprits of oats, rice and corn, here are some other grains to consider:
The highest in fibre of all the whole grains. Barley has an inedible outer hull, so the most popular way to buy it is pearled. This does lower the bran content, so eating hulled barley (the outer husk is carefully removed) is a better option. Try adding it to salads, stews and soups.
Not technically a grain, quinoa is a relative to beetroot and spinach. Quinoa flakes, flour and puffs are becoming increasingly available at health-food stores. It’s one of the only plant foods to boast being a complete protein.
Spelt is a distant relative to wheat and, although it does still contain gluten, it doesn’t seem to cause sensitivities in many people who are intolerant of wheat. Due to spelt’s high water solubility, the grain can be absorbed quickly into the body and easily digested. Use it in breads, porridge and baked goods.
Buckwheat has no gluten so can be eaten by people with coeliac disease or gluten allergies. It’s a cousin of rhubarb and not technically a grain at all. Found most commonly in Japanese soba noodles, buckwheat is the only grain known to have high levels of an antioxidant called rutin.
This is actually a highly nutritious seed, but it’s called a grain. A gluten-free food, amaranth is also easily digested, and has around eight times more iron than wheat. A lively, peppery taste, the protein (a whopping 14 per cent) in amaranth is referred to as complete because it has lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.
Teff is the smallest known grain in the world, tinier even than a poppy seed. Teff is high in iron and calcium and packed full of B vitamins, which makes it great for energy.
Freekeh is a hard wheat (often durum wheat) that is harvested when the plant is still young and green, then roasted and rubbed. This gives it its signature smoky flavour. Freekeh is often sold cracked into smaller, faster-cooking pieces. Use it in tabouli salads or cook it into a delicious porridge.
KARLA GILBERT Champion ironwoman and ocean athlete Karla Gilbert is an accredited Nutrition and Health Coach and certified Level III and IV Fitness Trainer, with certificates in Child Nutrition and Nutrition. She is the author of ebook Naked Habits. READ MORE AT karlagilbert.com.au