tips for tuesday: the why and how of whole grains


A few weeks ago, I received a bounty of goodness in the mail, courtesy of Hodgson Mill, through the generous giveaway hosted by my friend, the uber-talented Mary Helen of Mary Makes Dinner.  

Contained therein, enough whole-grain pasta to keep my family in wholesome eating for months!  It really was quite a haul.  Also included, the Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Baking Cookbook that is chockful of hundreds of recipes for savory and sweet, traditional breads, and not-so traditional treats, too.  The recipe for savory whole grain blue cheese sesame muffins with rosemary, featured on our recent post, Muffin, Friend?, was based upon an easy recipe that I discovered among pages of I'm-going-to-try-that!s that I played around with a bit, and look forward to calling on, again.  

I've long been a fan of Hodgson Mill, as they offer the best variety of whole grains, and are a company I have come to trust. They are my go-to source for flours, cereals, whole grains, and even gluten free products. 

We have switched from plain to whole grain in all of our pasta-based meals--at first for the health benefits, and now because we love the toothy, hearty bite that the more processed refined pastas leave behind.

But why whole grain?

"Whole grains are chock-full of nutrients and complex carbohydrates that speed up metabolism by stabilizing our insulin levels. Slow-release carbs, such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa offer long-lasting energy, without the spikes associated with other sugar-rich foods. We want to keep our insulin levels low, as spikes in this chemical tell the body that it needs to begin storing extra fat." --  Global Healing Center

And that's the skinny, in a nutshell.  Or, rather, in an outer bran, as the case may be.

"In addition to regulating blood sugar levels, the fiber in whole grains improves cholesterol ratios and aids the digestive system. A recent government study even linked the fiber found in whole grains specifically to longer life (a lower risk of death at any age from common fatal conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases and possibly even cancer)." -- Dr. Andrew Weil

General tips on cooking with whole grains

For most grains, rinse prior to cooking to remove any debris (rolled oats and kasha are exceptions). It's particularly important to rinse quinoa, which has soap-like components called saponins that can taste bitter and have a laxative effect. To rinse, place in a bowl of cold water and swish around with your fingers, refilling the water once or twice. Drain in a fine-meshed strainer.

The instructions given for each grain here are for stovetop preparation. But you can also use a rice or pressure cooker for any whole grain instead of a pot on the burner; just know that the cooking times and liquid ratios provided may need to be adjusted.

To reduce cooking time for longer-cooking grains, pre-soak them for a few hours or overnight (with the exception of quinoa, which has a bitter coating that can be absorbed if soaked; rinse quinoa briefly instead).

Except where stirring or uncovering is suggested, don’t remove the lid while cooking grains, as it disrupts the steaming process.

If you are watching your sodium intake, feel free to cook your grains in unsalted water. Otherwise, one-fourth teaspoon of sea salt goes a long way (add salt when you combine grain and water in the pot). Alternatively, try using vegetable broth as the cooking liquid, or for a more exotic flavor, a 50/50 mixture of water and juice. You can even add a splash of wine or dried herbs.

It’s generally a good idea to purchase grains in bulk, except where otherwise noted. Some grains such as rice and oats are found at typical supermarkets, but you will have better luck finding more obscure grains, such as teff and amaranth, at your local natural foods store. For all grains, opt for organic varieties from the bulk bins of health food stores whenever possible - they have higher turnover rates, which improves the likelihood of freshness.

Store in tightly sealed containers in the pantry (or another cool, dry, dark place). Even better: store in the refrigerator if you have room. Unless otherwise noted, properly stored grains can last up to one year.  (Courtesy of Dr. Andrew Weil.)

For more information about whole grains, be sure to stop by

Hodgsons Mill
Dr Weil's Healthy Kitchen
Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Optimum Health: Dr. Oz & Dr. Andrew Weil
and for healthy, and fun, eating, don't miss my very clever friend at Mary Makes Dinner


  1. I have yet to try quinoa. I like whole wheat bread and things, and even brown rice. I haven't found a whole grain pasta yet that I went nuts for. I am thinking it is the texture or something. I am thinking I must keep looking.

    1. Hi Winnie,
      I think you'd like quinoa, with the addition of fruits, nuts, or vegetables, and seasoning, as it's pretty bland without it. Be sure to rinse it well before cooking, as it can have a bitter taste without that step. They make a quinoa pasta, too, and you might like that a little better than the standard whole grain pastas. I think it has a texture more similar to refined pasta.
      Thanks for dropping by!

    2. Thanks! I will look for both!

  2. i haven't tried quinoa either. i love truly 'rolled oats' though here they often call regular oatmeal rolled oats. i like whole grains and am experimenting with breads i bake.

    1. Hey there, and thanks for dropping by!
      Check out the reply to Winnie's comment, above, for quinoa. Rolled oats are tough to fine in regular grocery stores, aren't they? I buy the imported stuff from Scotland, from a 'gourmet' grocery. It's certainly worth the extra dollar or two.
      Have a great week!

  3. Today is a great day for the music player. Thank you Maggie for including David, Steven, Graham, Randy, Waylon, Willie and the boys.

    1. Thank you, Tom! I had considered removing it from the site, but now that I hear some one actually listens to it, I believe it's staying. Thank you for dropping by!


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