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When you think of grain, chances are good that your mind is drawn to things like whole wheat and oatmeal – healthy grains that are abundant and easy to find. However, there are plenty of other grains that are just as good for you, but add different flavors and textures to your everyday diet. Here are eight that you’ll want to consume regularly.
Bulgur is a grain made from dried, cracked wheat kernels. In fact, if you’ve ever eaten a veggie burger, then chances are good it was made from bulgur. It offers a meaty flavor and it’s quite filling, which makes it one of the most popular healthy grains among vegans and vegetarians. What’s more, bulgur offers up a huge dose of B-vitamins, which can provide your body with the energy it needs throughout the day.
Quinoa really isn’t a grain at all; it’s technically a seed. However, you can find it in the grain aisle at your local market, and it’s cooked and eaten just like a grain, too. One cup of cooked quinoa – the recommended serving size – offers up eight grams of healthy protein. It supplies your body with all the essential amino acids, too, making it one of the most popular plant-based complete proteins out there.
Spelt isn’t a grain you’re likely to find on supermarket shelves – not even in specialty or nutrition stores. Rather, it’s more commonly found in flour form or already baked into breads, pastries, and other goods. It’s light, and it has a rich, nutty flavor that is difficult to duplicate. Spelt packs a whopping 25 grams of protein per cup of raw product, and it has fewer calories than wheat flour, which makes it a phenomenal substitute.
If you’re trying to get more protein into your diet, put down the bag of brown rice and pick up some wild rice, instead. Wild rice isn’t even rice – it’s the seed of a grass growing wild in lakes and rivers. It has 44% more protein than brown rice, though, and it has significantly fewer calories. While it doesn’t contain the calcium and iron you’ll find in brown rice, it makes up for this in its rich stores of potassium, which can help reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
Amaranth is a gluten-free seed that you cook and eat just like healthy grains. It offers a mild flavor, which makes it perfect as a hot cereal, an addition to homemade granola, or even a toasted, crunchy topping for your favorite salad. Amaranth is a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids, so it’s perfect for anyone trying to increase his or her protein intake without too many added calories. It contains 13 grams of dietary fiber per serving, too, which is great for digestive health.
Barley is one of the more well-known healthy grains, but be careful you’re buying hulled barley. Pearled barley, which is readily available in most markets, is missing its bran and germ. This is where most of the nutrients lie. One cup of cooked, hulled barley contains 11 grams of fiber and eight grams of protein. It’s a filling addition to any meal, and because it’s naturally low in calories, it’s perfect for anyone trying to lose weight.
Freekeh is one of the world’s lesser-known healthy grains. Essentially, it’s nothing more than fire-roasted green wheat that has been rubbed to create a unique flavor and texture profile. Freekeh’s main health benefit is its ability to act as a powerful probiotic since it feeds the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. It’s perfect as a topping for yogurt, an addition to a salad, or even a component of granola. Some people even add it to their hot cereals for the energy punch.
Oats are probably some of the tastiest healthy grains in the world, and any kind of oats – whether you prefer steel cut or even instant – offer up soluble fiber that’s heart-healthy. Oats also contain zinc, B-vitamins, and iron, all of which are important for a healthy body. Eating oats regularly can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart attack, too.
Although you might already have wheat, oats, and even quinoa in your pantry, there are plenty of other healthy grains out there offering up a unique flavor profile. They’re harder to find in traditional markets, but with the increased focus on healthy food, grains like amaranth and spelt are becoming more popular with every passing day.