by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
Grains have been getting a lot of bad press lately, and undeservedly so. It is true that many people have grain allergies and must stay away from grains or pay the price in intestinal distress, hives, and the like. But to those with no allergy issues who avoid grains, that bad press is doing a disservice to you, your diet, and your health.
All grains start out as whole grains. Whole grains are the entire seed, or kernel, of a plant: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The seed is protected by in inedible shell that protects it from pests, disease, etc. The bran is the outer layer of the edible seed. It contains fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. The germ contains vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. This is the portion of the plant that allows new plants to sprout. The endosperm is the largest part of the seed and is the germ’s food supply. It contains carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Whole grains contain all three parts of the seed. Processing removes the germ and bran which removes 25% of the seed’s protein along with 17 key vitamins and minerals.
Grains, in their natural state, are delicious, healthy, and filling. As a food group, grains include oats, barley, rice, millet, wheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth, rye, sorghum, and buckwheat. Studies have shown that eating whole grains, not the refined grains found in breads and cereals, lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. They also help regulate digestion and elimination, lower blood cholesterol, boost heart health, and keep you fuller longer. Introducing grains to your diet is simple, tasty, and healthy. Add a half cup of left over wild or brown rice to your soup, add in three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf, or stir in whole or ground flaxseeds into your morning yogurt.
Oats, when processed, retain their bran and germ. Rolled oats are flattened and steamed to produce regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. Instant oats are instant because they have been flattened and steamed the most, thereby shortening their cooking time and also creating a softer texture. Steel cut, or Scottish, oats are the whole kernel of the oat and are nutty and chewy when cooked. Steel cut oats can be prepared the night before, portioned out, and reheated the next morning. To 4 cups of boiling water, add 1 heaping cup of steel cut oats. Give the mixture a quick stir, remove from heat, and put a lid on the pot. They are as fast as quick oats, but have a chewier texture. An added benefit to eating oats is oats’ cholesterol lowering properties. Within the oat is a type of fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan includes an antioxidant which helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
The next time you are looking for something easy, delicious, and different for Sunday breakfast or brunch, try these Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes.
2 cups old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional melted butter (for brushing skillet)
Fresh blueberries (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)
Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter and vanilla in medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients; whisk until blended but some small lumps still remain. Let batter stand to thicken, about 2 hours. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover batter and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 250°F. Heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Brush skillet with melted butter. Working in batches, ladle batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet. Cook pancakes until bottoms are golden brown and bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes. Turn pancakes over; cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet. Keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with more butter as necessary. Serve with lingonberry preserves and fresh blueberries and whipped cream, if desired.
Bon-Appétit – August 1999