Type: Overview of Whole Grains

Description: Whole grains are cereal grains which retain the bran and germ as well as the endosperm, in contrast to refined grains which retain only the endosperm, or inner part of the grain. The endosperm consists mainly of carbohydrates, while most of the nutrients are in the bran and germ.

What to look for: Buy organically grown grain. Whole grains include thousands of types of rice (short, medium, long, basmati, red, black, jasmine, and so on), barley, millet, rye, oats, quinoa, spelt, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, kamut, corn, and wheat.

Uses: Grains may be cooked whole, cracked, flaked, popped, or in flour form. To prepare whole grains, use a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; rinse the grain very well. Grains may be roasted before cooking to produce a nutty flavor. To roast, spread the washed and drained grain in a cast iron pan; turn heat to medium high and roast, stirring regularly, until grain browns and smells nutty.

Preparation: Put the grain and water in a bowl or the pan you are going to cook it in, and soak for 6 hours or more. Add the salt. Cover tightly, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook until the grain has absorbed the water. Grains stuck to the bottom of the pan are more concentrated in nutrients, and in some cultures, are given to the elderly and sick.

If you do not have thick-bottom pans, use an inexpensive heat diffuser. After bringing the pan to a boil and boiling for one minute, turn down the heat to the lowest setting and put heat diffuser under the pan for the duration of cooking time. It will keep the grain from burning.

Where to find: Natural food stores, online resources, or sometimes from local growers.

Avoid: Inorganic, mass-produced grains that may be genetically modified, or grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.