Eve's Health & Fitness

DOB: October 27 CURRENT RESIDENCE: North Eastern Oklahoma OCCUPATION: Certified Group Fitness Instructor HEIGHT:5'1"; WEIGHT:105 lbs.; BF%:14.3% bodyfat FAVORITE BODY PARTS TO TRAIN: Back, abs FAVORITE CHEAT MEAL: Mexican and any dark chocolate CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Featured as a fitness role model in Chad Tackett's Global-Health & Fitness website: http://www.global-fitness.com/ DESCRIBE MYSELF: Competitive, energetic, persistent, focused, consistent, and driven.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN? HOW CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

What is a whole grain?

A whole grain seed, or kernel, is composed of three elements. The bran contains the fiber long associated with heart health. The second part, the germ, is thought to contain beneficial vitamins and minerals, like B vitamins and magnesium.

You get the starchy part of grains from the endosperm, where most of the calories are also stored.

How can you tell the difference?

Food companies don't make it easy on consumers trying to navigate the thicket of claims on food labels. A whole grain product must say "whole," as in "whole oats" or "whole wheat," before it says anything else. If it says "wheat flour," or if whole wheat is listed as the second ingredient, it's not a whole grain food.

The Whole Grains Council has developed black-and-yellow stamps to help consumers locate whole grain products in markets.

And since food manufacturers have responded to consumer demand for whole grains, it's relatively easy to find whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers in supermarkets. But sticking to these minimally processed foods for your whole-grain intake means you're missing out on a spectrum of grains that have been cultivated for human consumption for thousands of years.

The Ancient and the Exotic

The three primary grains cultivated around the world are wheat, corn and rice.

In the United States, corn is grown primarily for livestock feed or processed food additives, like high fructose corn syrup, also known as HFCS. But corn has been cultivated in Mexico for up to 10,000 years.

We all know the joys of fresh corn on the cob in the summertime, and popcorn is a fantastic whole grain, low-calorie satisfying snack.

Fresh or frozen corn adds flavor and fiber to soups and salads without adding many calories, and corn tortillas are a Latin American staple food-healthy and inexpensive, low in calories and infinitely adaptable.

Wheat was brought to America in the 1600's and has been cultivated in the Great Plains region since the mid-1800's. Because of its high levels of gluten, the protein that is essential in bread-making, wheat is a widely cultivated grain.

Without wheat, writes Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, "we would not have raised breads, cakes and pastas as we know them."

Other uses of wheat

But the uses for wheat go beyond bread. Bulgur, a form of cracked wheat, is used throughout the Mediterranean in pilafs, salads like tabouli, and casseroles.

Wheat berries, or whole grains of wheat, require overnight soaking and a long cooking time to transform them into satisfying and chewy grains that can be used as a side dish at dinner or hot cereal at breakfast.

Americans are familiar with white and brown rice, but up to 10,000 varieties of this food staple exist around the world. In recent years, pigmented rices have entered the U.S. food market-red, black, and purple rices are full of pigments that have antioxidant properties.

Exotic grains

Worldwide, people rely on grains and cereals as their main source of food. Before industrial agriculture introduced monocropping as the prevailing model of cultivation, different cultures grew dozens, if not hundreds, of grain and cereal varieties.

Many have disappeared, and many are hard to find, but as food choices continue to broaden, exotic grains are becoming more widely available.

Buckwheat: Native to Central Asia, buckwheat is most familiar to Americans as a pancake ingredient, where it contributes a nutty flavor and tenderness to this Sunday-breakfast favorite.

But this relative of rhubarb and sorrel has a range of uses. Japanese soba noodles are made of buckwheat, as are Russian blini, crepes from Northern France, and flatbreads and fritters from Nepal.

Millet: Although millet is mostly used as birdseed in the United States, this tiny grain is a staple in African countries. It grows well in hot, dry weather, and is a native of Africa and Asia, where it's been cultivated for 6,000 years.

There are many different types of millet, but each have between 16 to 22 percent protein content, higher than many other grains.

Millet is often fermented to make malts and types of beer, but it can also be used as an ingredient in pilafs, stews, breads, and soups.

Toasting millet and other grains before cooking intensifies their aroma and also breaks open the bran layer, allowing water to be absorbed more quickly, thereby reducing cooking time. To cook, use one part millet to three parts water or stock.

Quinoa: Pronounced Keen-wah, quinoa was first cultivated by the Incas, near the Andes around Lake Titicaca. Along with potatoes, quinoa was a staple food for the Incas.

Like millet, this tiny grain, a relative of beets and chard, is high in protein. But quinoa's protein contains all of the amino acids our bodies need.

This quick-cooking grain makes a light and fluffy side dish, and, like many of the other exotic grains, is a great ingredient in pilafs, soups and breads.

Many health food stores and natural foods sections of grocery stores now carry lesser-known grains and flours, so take a look and start experimenting. You may just find a replacement for plain old pasta or rice.

Cheers,

Eve :-)

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