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Don't freekeh out

Ancient grains like freekeh can seem intimidating if you've never cooked them. But don't worry – we've done all the work for you. Follow our easy recipe for a warm Freekeh Breakfast Bowl with Cherries and Cashew Butter. We promise – it will put your regular oatmeal to shame.

Great Grains

Unlike their processed counterparts, whole grains are the complete package. These unrefined, natural beauties contain all three components of the kernel: the bran, endosperm and germ. This provides whole grains with additional protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are stripped away during the refining process. The nutritional advantages of whole grains have been linked to everything from lower weight to reduced risk of chronic conditions like stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that every 16g portion of whole grain food reduced the risk of dying from heart disease by 9%. Adults who ate 3 daily servings, or 48g, were 25% less likely to die of heart disease. The study was published online June 13, 2016, in Circulation.

"Carbohydrate quality and heart health are certainly connected," says Nicolette Jones, clinical dietitian at The University of Kansas Health System. "Excessive carbohydrate intake (which causes high blood sugar spikes) feeds a stress hormone called cortisol. With this stress comes inflammation, and that can pose the risk for heart disease."

Your whole grain cheat sheet

Download and print our great grains infographic 

Download and print our whole grains cheat sheet for easy-to-digest information about the benefits of whole grains.

Choosing whole grains

While most people know they should choose whole grain products as part of a healthy diet, it can be confusing to know whether something is truly whole grain. For example, many products labeled "multigrain" or "100% wheat" do not contain whole grains. However, something that may seem processed, such as "white whole wheat flour" is a whole grain product.

To help consumers with this confusion, the Whole Grains Council has created a stamp that helps you easily identify a whole grain product. There are two versions:

Whole Grains Council has two stamps to easily identify whole grain products

Basic stamp

  • May contain some extra bran, germ or refined flour
  • Includes at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving (½ serving)

100% stamp

  • All the grain ingredients are whole grains
  • Includes at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving (1 full serving)

Not all products containing whole grains have received the stamp yet. As a general rule, check the ingredients list and look for the word "whole" in the first ingredient. For example, choose "whole wheat" (denotes a whole grain product) rather than "wheat flour" (not a whole grain product). Labels that contain the word "processed," "refined" or "enriched" are usually not whole grain and should be limited.

"I encourage my patients to eliminate simple carbohydrates like baked goods, candy and other junk foods, and replace them with fiber-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables," Jones says. "You may find that you can reduce inflammation, feel more satisfied on less and even see a few pounds shed."

Cooking with whole grains

If you can cook rice, you can cook with whole grains. In fact, the preparation and cook times are often similar, and many whole grains can be used in place of rice in a variety of dishes.

Use our chart below to get acquainted with cooking whole grains. Then, check out our recipe section for more heart-healthy recipes.

Grain
Water or Broth
Cook Time
Serving Ideas
Tips
1 cup farro
2 ½ cups
25-40 min.
Serve as a pilaf or risotto
Soak overnight to reduce cook time
1 cup barley
3 cups
45-60 min.
Add to soups or salads
Fluff with a fork to separate grains
1 cup amaranth
2-3 cups
15-20 min.
Serve hot as pilaf or porridge
Use 3 c. liquid for porridge consistency, 2 c. for firm
1 cup bulgur
2 cups
10-15 min.
Add to stews or make hot cereal
Use in Middle Eastern cuisine, like tabbouleh
1 cup teff
3 cups
15-20 min.
Use as a filler in burgers or stuffing
Add to dishes that need thickening, such as stews or soup
1 cup quinoa
2 cups
15-20 min.
Serve as pilaf or in casseroles
Rinse quinoa before cooking to reduce bitterness
1 cup millet
2-3 cups
20-30 min.
Serve as polenta, grits or pudding
Add 1 Tbsp. butter when cooking to keep millet from sticking