So you want to take care of your health, but you’re not sure if you can pay this month’s rent, and who wants to spend hard-earned cash on organic veggies if you can get another shot of tequila?
Well, the Weekly has the solution to filling up and staying fit, and it won’t break the bank—grains. That’s right, those simple little complex carbs that come cheap in bulk, boxes, cereals, tortillas, pasta or whole grain bread, are some of the best things you can eat. All carbohydrates fuel your body and brain, but whole grains are also great sources of dietary fiber (which keep you regular and help you to feel satisfied), essential fatty acids, protein, and a myriad of nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and B vitamins. Never branched out past Wonder Bread and spaghetti? Don’t you fret; we’ve got the grainy facts to make your figure fit and full.
Mostly the seeds of cultivated grasses, grain crops are grown in greater quantity and provide more food energy than any crop in the world. In some nations, grains still constitute almost the entire diet of the common folk. Examples include, in order of the most commonly consumed, corn (or maize), wheat, rice, barley, sorghums, millet, oats, rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), buckwheat, fonio and quinoa. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, corn, wheat and rice account for 87 percent of all grain production and 43 percent of all food calories. There are also tons of lesser-known grains as well grain derivatives, such as wheat cousins and products like spelt, bulgur and semolina (which is used to make couscous, a common North African dish).
It isn’t very difficult to slip more whole grains into your diet. A number of boxed cereals are now made from whole grains—pick one with at least three grams of fiber and less than eight grams of sugar per serving, such as Cheerios or Kashi Go Lean. Or, instead of instant oatmeal (which can be high in sugar and sodium), try having rolled oats for breakfast. They take five minutes or less to prepare. Boil a half-cup of oats with one cup of water, raisins, cinnamon, vanilla and a little salt until you have your desired consistency. Top with walnuts or almonds and milk. You can even throw those oats into your cookie batter for a health kick.
When it comes to wheat, give whole wheat pasta a chance—it has a nutty taste and firm texture. Mix a penne or linguine with olive oil, a flavorful cheese, spinach or broccoli, and real or soy sausage. Whole wheat English muffins, bread and Fig Newtons are also great choices. If you want to branch into new flavors, rye or spelt breads make great panini.
To beef up an old standby, cook your rice in stock and add fresh herbs, garlic, tomatoes or corn (for two whole grains in one). Even better, use brown or wild rice, or you can substitute millet, barley or quinoa. These grains take a little more time to cook, but their delicious, nutty flavors and chewy textures make them well worth it. Make up a batch and throw a cup into tomato sauce, soup, casseroles, cookies, pancakes, etc.—you won’t even know it’s there.
Grains can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place for up to a year, but are ideally used within six months. Invest in whole grains, and you’re investing in your health. Plus, you’ll have extra cash to spend on another grain product—beer!