Jodi Balis is Capital Area Food Bank’s Resident Dietitian. Follow her on Twitter at @TheRedLentil
I conducted a cooking class a few years ago with families at the Upper Cardozo Health Clinic and introduced brown rice to a crowded room of children and adults. Since my Spanish was shaky, the class was a dynamic dance of hand gestures and motioning to spoons and knives. That night, we prepared stuffed quesadillas with brown rice and beans topped with salsa and cilantro. The participants’ apprehension turned into joy as we all shared a dish that was familiar with a new twist.
I share this story because September is Whole Grains Month, an initiative created to raise awareness about the health benefits of whole grains and encourage people to incorporate whole grains into their diets. So, pull out that whole grain pasta sitting in your cupboards and enjoy it today.
What is a whole grain?
A grain is a seed with a distinct nutrition profile, which is why it has its own special place on USDA’s My Plate. Common whole grains include oats, brown rice, barley and wheat berries (ground to make wheat flour).
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Grains are typically broken down and processed into products like white pasta and white bread. When broken down, grains are stripped of their most nutritious parts, left naked and with less nutrition value than they started with.
Grains with benefits
There are health benefits to choosing whole grains and whole grain products. Whole grains stick to your ribs and make you feel full, help lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels in check, just to name a few.
Start with familiar foods and try them in whole grain form. For your next pasta bake, try whole grain pasta. Cook brown rice and toss into a soup. Oatmeal for breakfast and popcorn for snacks are great ways to incorporate whole grain into your diet.
Whole grain finder
Look at the ingredient list. If the first ingredient says whole grain then you’re good to go.
This month, we will feature whole wheat pasta recipes in the food bank’s Mildred J. Brooks Learning Center so stay tuned!