The Dos and Don'ts of Whole Grains

Cook barley in risotto with garlic spinach for extra fiber and bite >>By now you're familiar with at least a few whole grains in your local supermarket, like brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat and quinoa. And you probably know some of the health benefits to cooking with them:

  • Whole grains contain more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. Millet provides a considerable antioxidant boost.
  • Regularly eating whole grains can slash the risk of heart disease and diabetes by more than 25 percent.
  • Fiber-rich foods like whole grains help you burn more calories. Brown rice packs three times as much fiber as white; and farro is lower in calories and higher in fiber and protein than other grains.
  • Children who eat whole grains are half as likely to develop inflammatory diseases such as asthma.

Once you pick them up, keep these tips in mind to make the most of your buy.

DO:
  • Do store them in the freezer: Whole grains retain some of their natural oils-giving them a shelf life of about six months-so freeze them to prevent them from turning rancid.
  • Do rinse them before cooking: Brown rice and barley only need a quick rinse, but the others need a thorough washing to prevent a bitter aftertaste.
  • Do fluff cooked grains: Once they're done cooking, let them sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork to separate.
  • Do make them ahead: Double up on batches of cooked barley, brown rice and farro-they freeze well and defrost easily in the microwave.

DON'T:

  • Don't stir them while cooking: Give the grains a couple of stirs only when adding them to the pot; too much stirring will make them bland and starchy.
  • Don't overcook them: You're going for al dente, not mushy. Try them a few minutes before the end of their cooking time-there should be slight resistance in the center of the grain.
  • Don't spend more than you need to: Whole grains tend to be pricier than their more processed, less nutritious counterparts. Look for them at the supermarket in bulk bins, where they're cheaper.
EASY RECIPES TO TRY

HERBED QUINOA

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Learn how to cook quinoa »







BUCKWHEAT WITH PASTA, ONIONS AND MUSHROOMS

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Learn how to cook buckwheat »







FARRO-AND-RED PEPPER SALAD WITH SESAME AND GINGER


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Learn how to cook farro »







MILLET PILAF WITH ALMONDS AND FETA


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Learn how to cook millet »







PESTO BARLEY WITH MOZZARELLA AND CHERRY TOMATOES


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Learn how to cook barley »







DIRTY BROWN RICE


Get the recipe »
Learn how to cook brown rice »








By Melissa Clark | Photography by Con Poulos

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