Be Adventurous and Try These Healthy Grains

Carbohydrates are often looked at as evil and something that should be avoided.  This thought process stems from our cultural progression away from healthy and natural sources to carbohydrates that are highly processed and full of sugar.  However, not all carbohydrates are bad! Carbohydrates can offer many health benefits, are a macronutrient, and serve as one of our primary sources of energy. 

We agree that everyone should avoid the processed foods that are made from refined carbohydrates, but consider healthy sources to reap the benefits from this food group. Try choosing carbohydrates from natural and minimally processed foods and consider experimenting with different whole grains.  Some grains are more well know than others, but all of the following are loaded with nutrients.


Loaded with B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and fiber.  Try it straight off the cob.  This time of year, there’s an abundance of corn on the cob.  Want a healthy snack? Make popcorn from scratch.  it can be cooked using a paper bag in the microwave or on the stovetop.  Make is sweet or savory depending upon your preference.


Not actually a grain but is prepared and consumed like a grain and has been labeled a superfood.  It became popular a number of years ago as more people became aware of its high nutrient content and great versatility.  Quinoa is a complete plant-based protein providing all the essential amino acids.  It is also a good source of fiber, iron, manganese (bone health) and magnesium.  Is great in cold salads, soups, casseroles, or as a side dish.


A young, green wheat that is toasted and cracked to produce a flavor that is nutty and slightly smoky.  It is high in both protein and fiber which will fill you up and keep you feeling full for hours after.  It is also a good source of lutein (eye healthy), calcium and iron.  It has a low glycemic index which makes it a good choice for patients with diabetes and those looking to lose weight.  Use it in any recipe that calls for whole grains.


A small round grain that comes in a variety of colors.  It is a good source of copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium making it great for heart health and diabetes management.  Millet is gluten free and comes in a flour form.  Use as a substitute for regular flour for gluten free baked goods.


Whole grain and gluten free, this grain can be used in cold salads, soups, as a side dish, wheat flour substitute, and can even be popped like popcorn.  Sorghum is packed full of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, thiamin, selenium and niacin to name a few, and is a great source of protein and fiber.


Whole grain, gluten free and rich in antioxidants, oats are a very nutrient dense food making them an excellent choice for all.  They are high in protein, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B1 and others.  Oats are commonly eaten for breakfast but can also be added into breads, muffins, granola bars or dishes like meatloaf and meatballs.  When buying oats, be sure to look for steel cut, rolled or even quick oats.  Avoid instant oats as they have been highly processed, are low in fiber and often have a lot of added sugar.

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

  • 3 apples peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats (I use Bob's Red Mill brand)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs butter chopped in 5-6 small pieces
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup or other sweetener
  • 1 Tbs ground golden flax seed

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.  Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stir, cover and cook on low for about 7 hours (cooking times may vary between slow cookers).Try topping with more cinnamon, raisins or chopped nuts after cooked.  Try cooking this overnight and having a delicious and healthy breakfast ready the next morning.


A very small, fine, gluten free grain with a sweet, malt-like flavor.  Teff is high in iron, calcium, vitamin C and fiber.  A large part of this fiber is resistant starch which may improve insulin sensitivity, help regulate blood sugar, and help with weight loss by improving satiety.  The high iron content makes it a good food choice for those with iron deficiency and vegetarians.  It can be found in grain form or flour like a number of the other grains mentioned above.


All of the grains listed above are an excellent addition to a healthy diet.  Try out a new grain in their various forms each week.  Use them in many different recipes from breakfast to dinner and dessert.  See what you like best and have fun with it!