Go for the Grains
Quinoa, amaranth, kamut, triticale? Never mind knowing how to cook with them; most of us don't even know how to pronounce all of the many types of edible grains that are out there. Don't despair; it's easier than you think to make these foreign sounding pellets part of your daily repertoire. Why should you? Eating whole grains boosts your fiber intake, you reap the benefits of a host of phytonutrients, and some grains are even excellent sources of protein. And, of course, there's the bonus of better blood sugar control when you substitute these foods for products made with refined grains.
Scientists are continually uncovering more reasons for people with diabetes to increase their consumption of whole grains. Recent research published in the journal Diabetes Care (February 2006) found that women who ate higher amounts of whole grains, bran, and cereal fiber had lower markers of vascular inflammation. This type of inflammation is common in people with type 2 diabetes, and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and possibly other life threatening diseases such as cancer. Another recent study reported in Diabetes Care (October 2006) showed that black women who eat plenty of magnesium rich foods, especially whole grains, may lower their risk of developing diabetes. The body of evidence is strong: People with diabetes should eat a diet rich in whole grains.
Don't be fooled
Food marketers enthusiastically jumped on the whole-grain bandwagon the minute media reports began spreading the news of their importance in heart health. If there's a smidgen of a whole grain to be found in any food product, you can be sure the marketers will make hay of that fact. And this leads to a pretty confusing shopping experience. Here are some healthy-sounding label terms that should raise your eyebrows — and have you putting things back on the shelf:
Multigrain (or 7-grain, 10-grain, etc.)
Made with whole grains
Unbleached wheat flour
In an effort to end the confusion, the Whole Grains Council has created a packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp, which began appearing on products in mid-2005. The stamp says either "Whole Grain 100%" — which means that the product contains a full serving of whole grain in each serving and that all the grain is whole — or just "Whole Grain," which means the product contains half a serving of whole grain per serving. Until this stamp is in widespread use, however, it's up to consumers to read the ingredients list. Your best bet is to buy only products that list a whole grain or whole grain flour as the first ingredient. This is only true when you see the word whole. If the whole grain is a second or third ingredient, there's really no way to know if the product is 49 percent whole grain or just 1 percent.
Get more grains
There are plenty of ways to increase your consumption of whole grains. You probably know the obvious ones: use brown rice instead of white, buy 100 percent whole-grain breads (note: in this country, most rye and pumpernickel breads are not made with much whole grain) and crackers, eat popcorn for a snack and oatmeal (not the instant kind) for breakfast. Here are some other ways:
- Substitute half the white flour with whole-wheat flour in any of your recipes. Experiment with smaller amounts of other whole-grain flours, such as sorghum.
- Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wheat berries, brown or wild rice, or barley (not pearled) to stuffing, soups, stews, salads, or casseroles.
- Add a cooked, whole grain or whole-grain bread crumbs to ground meat or poultry for extra body.
- Make risottos, pilafs, and other rice-type dishes using grains such as barley, brown basmati rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa, kasha (buckwheat groats), or sorghum.
- Read your cereal box. Cheerios and Grape-Nuts are mostly whole grain, Product 19 and Special K are not.
It may take a few trips to your natural foods store, but expanding your whole grain repertoire can only do your body good.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 3/08
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