A Whole Grain List: How to Buy, Store and Cook Whole Grains

You may want to get more whole grains into your diet but don't know enough about them. This whole grain list, which features simple, delicious cooking and preparation techniques, will get you eating whole grains on a regular basis.

Whole grains are recommended for a healthy diet because they fight heart disease, cancer and obesity, three of the most common causes of death in the United States. Whole grains still have the outer husk on the grain, making them natural sources of soluble fiber and protein. They contain complex carbohydrates, which are much healthier for you than simple carbohydrates or processed foods.

Types of Whole Grains
When you hear someone mention whole grains, you may immediately think of whole grain pasta or whole grain rice. While both of these food items are good sources of whole grains, it's always healthier to try the real deal, and actual whole grains in their most natural form are accessible in most co-ops. Your local grocery store may carry them as well, so keep an eye out for the following: brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, oats and bulgur wheat.

Brown Rice
Brown rice may be the most commonly known whole grain. Easily used as a substitute for dishes using white rice, it is prepared much the same way white rice is. The high-fiber bran coating on brown rice makes it take longer to cook, but you'll find the rich nutrients and hearty taste worth the wait.

Cook brown rice at a ratio of two cups of water per every one cup of rice. You will want to bring the water to a boil, add the rice, stir the pot one time, and cover the rice, lowering the temperature to a simmer for 45 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it cooks, and only check the rice if you think you are getting close to the end of the cooking cycle and want to make sure the rice on the bottom is not burning. You may want to add a few tablespoons of butter and a bit of salt to the rice either before or after cooking it.

Brown rice is the perfect base for stir-fry, curry and any other dish in which you might use white rice. You can store brown rice in a tightly sealed container for up to six months in the cupboard or even longer in the refrigerator.

Quinoa is a grain that was regarded as sacred by the Incas centuries ago. Today people appreciate it because it has a high protein and calcium content. It also has a sweet, nutty flavor and comes in a variety of colors, making it an attractive and tasty side dish or base for curries. Its texture is unique, falling in the range of a porridge to a rice consistency. Because Quinoa is gluten-free, those with allergies to gluten can enjoy this grain.

Quinoa is easy and quick to prepare. You will always want to rinse quinoa several times before cooking to remove most of the bitter coating. Then you'll cook this whole grain in a ratio of one cup of quinoa to three quarters of a cup of water, bringing it to a boil on the stove, and then lowering the heat so it can simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. If you want, you can add seasonings to flavor the grain, such as butter, chives and spices. It also works as a delicious dessert pudding if you add cinnamon, honey and raisins while simmering.

One more thing you'll need to know about Quinoa is it should be stored in the refrigerator because it will spoil easily due to its high fat content.

Amaranth was once used in South American religious ceremonies, but was banned by the Spanish Conquistadors. Today amaranth is popped like popcorn, cooked as cereal, ground into amaranth flour and used in baked goods, and cooked as a seed. It does not contain gluten and is high in protein, vitamin E, fiber and calcium.  Its flavor is sweet and nutty.

Try popping the amaranth like you would popcorn (in a pan with a small amount of oil, covering the pot securely), and drizzle a sweetener of sorts on top for a treat that is similar to popcorn.

You can also cook amaranth at a ratio of one half cup of amaranth for every one and half cups of water, bringing the water and amaranth to a boil, and then reducing the heat so the amaranth simmers (covered) until the water is absorbed (for about 15 to 25 minutes). Serve amaranth prepared this way as you would rice.

To make amaranth porridge, combine one cup of amaranth to three cups of water, and simmer it until the porridge achieves the desired consistency. Add cinnamon, chopped apples and walnuts as it cooks for a sweet porridge; drizzle honey on top if you like it sweeter.

This whole grain is light and fluffy when cooked with water or broth. Filled with B vitamins, protein and minerals, it is nutritious and satisfying. It is of particular interest to longevity scientists since millet is a staple food of the Manchurian Hunzas who are recognized for their healthful diets and impressively long life spans. Millet is gluten-free and does not produce acid when digested, so it may be the easiest grain to digest, making it a great choice for people with allergies to foods and challenges with digestion.

You can grind the flour and make flatbread with it, add it to soups or soy burgers, or prepare it as porridge. This whole grain typically stays fresh in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

To make a delectable side dish, try cooking millet in broth at a ratio of one half cup of millet to one and half cups of broth, simmering the covered broth and millet in a pot for about 30 minutes. The fluffy grain will take on the flavor of the broth.

We all know oats are good for lowering your cholesterol, but did you know they are also great sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals? Steel cut or oat groats are best nutritionally and can be used for more than breakfast. If you want to start baking with whole grains, oats are the way to go. Try adding oats to stuffing, in cookies and muffins, and as a grain salad.

Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur is a form of whole wheat. The whole wheat is cracked and pre-cooked. It is high in fiber and protein and low in fat. Because it has been pre-cooked, it can be prepared quickly and easily. You will want to store bulgur in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Try bulgur in salads or in place of rice or cous cous. To cook bulgur, use a ratio of two and a half cups of water for every cup of bulgur, bringing the water to a boil and simmering the bulgur on the stove in a covered pot for 20 to 25 minutes. It will absorb the water much like rice. Try tossing cooked and chilled bulgur in a vinaigrette with finely chopped vegetables for a refreshing summer salad.

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With so many varieties of rice on the market, getting it to come out perfectly every time can be a bit of a challenge. Mastering the secret to cooking rice is simple and foolproof as long as you know the water to rice ratio, use the correct utensils and note a few important preparation tips.

If you don't know how to cook quinoa, a wonderful gluten-free grain, you'll be happy to hear it is almost as easy to cook as rice. The only real difference is that quinoa has a tough outer coating called saponin that can taste pretty bitter if it is not loosened and removed before cooking.

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