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Did you know that eating whole grains can help fight the battle of the bulge? Though many people are eliminating carbs from their diet to lose weight, there is strong evidence that shows healthy whole grains are the way to go to improve overall health and weight loss. According to The Whole Grain Council eating a diet rich in whole grains can reduce the risk of stroke by 30-36%; reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21-30%; reduce the risk of heart disease by 25-28%, and provide better weight maintenance.

But what exactly is a whole grain? Whole grains are made from entire grain seed–the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. With refined grains, about 25% of the grain’s protein is lost along with many other key nutrients.

What Can Whole Grains Do For You?

Eating whole grains rather than refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. With an abundance of protein and fiber, whole grains are also low on the glycemic index, meaning they are absorbed slowly and can help you feel full longer, which which in turn will help you avoid that mid-day hunger that leads to unhealthy snacking.

While whole wheat and oats are a mainstay in most of our whole grain recipes, there are other lesser known grains that are not only delicious, but packed with nutrients.

Quinoa

Pronounced “keen-wa,” this grain offers significant protein to help burn fat and lose weight. It also is known as a complete protein because it contains all of the amino acids. Most grains are not considered “total protein” sources because they lack adequate amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine. Quinoa has a significant amount of both lysine and isoleucine making it a great choice for vegetarians who may have trouble getting in all their amino acids.

Quinoa also has a significant amount of manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and fiber, and is also low in calories, making it a great choice for meals and snacks.

You can use quinoa instead of rice in stir-fries like in this quinoa pilaf, or replace your morning oatmeal with this delicious breakfast quinoa recipe.

 Spelt

Spelt

With its nutty sweet flavor, spelt is an ancient grain that is high in protein and easy to digest. While it’s name doesn’t sound appetizing, this cousin to wheat, spelt is recently receiving renewed recognition.

Many of the health benefits of spelt come from the fact that it offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to many of its more inbred cousins in the wheat family. It is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of protein, copper, and zinc. The fiber in spelt can also help to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels.

It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat including bread and pasta making. Spelt products can be found in your local health food store year-round.

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Amaranth

Amaranth is known as an energy food. With its balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, it is a popular ingredient found in health food stores and energy bars. Amaranth contains the highest amount of protein of all the gluten-free grains. It also contains linoleic acid and lysine, essential amino acids to improve overall health.

As an added bonus, amaranth has also been shown to boost your immune system–and with flu season appraoching, who couldn’t use an immune boost? High in calcium, the grain is also very easy to digest and often fed to babies, children, the elderly, and those recovering from fasts and illnesses. It’s quickly become a popular choice in whole grains because of its peppery flavor and its high level of protein in comparison to other grains.

Adding amaranth to your recipes will improve the nutritional value, the taste and texture of gluten free baked goods. It can also be used as a healthy alternative to thicken roux, white sauces, soups, and stews.

Teff

Teff

This tiny grain is packed with niacin, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. With its mild, nutty flavor, teff contains a variety of carbohydrates, fat, proteins and fiber. It also has a lot of essential amino acids and other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. With all this to offer, why would you not add teff into your diet?

Teff also leads all grains in calcium. Just one cup of cooked teff contains 387 mg of calcium, which is 40% of the US recommended daily allowance. It is high in resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health. According to The Whole Grains Council, it is estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teff are resistant starches, making it a great choice for weight management.

Teff can be eaten whole and steamed, boiled, or baked as a side dish or main course.

Boost Your Energy and Metabolism

Because your body primarily uses carbohydrates to fuel itself, eating whole grains is an important part of creating natural energy that lasts throughout the day. The high protein and fiber content makes 100% whole grains a good metabolism-increasing choice for snacks and meals. Quinoa, spelt, amaranth, and spelt are also loaded with B vitamins, giving your metabolism a boost along with your energy. So get creative and enjoy your whole grains!

image: quinoa