This page explains the importance of whole grains, and defines many grains that can be used as alternatives to wheat.

Whole Grains 

As we continue to see the rise in obesity, childhood type 2 diabetes statistics climb, and heart disease remains the number one killer in our nation, taking charge of health through nutrition is an inevitable answer. And the good news is that all of the aforementioned conditions can be prevented or prolonged by making smart nutrition choices. One food in particular, whole grains, have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and may even play a role in helping prevent the rise in obesity.

"According to the new 2005 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines, we should all strive to eat at least three, one-ounce servings of whole grains a day."

Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains:

So what are whole grains anyways? Whole grains are just as the name indicates "whole". All of the parts of the grain are in the final grain that you eat. There are three main parts of a whole grain: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. To visualize a whole grains structure, think of an egg. The bran in a whole grain is akin to the shell of an egg, it is the protective outer coat. The germ is within the bran similar to the white of an egg. And the endosperm is the innermost part of a whole grain much like a yolk sits in an egg.

Refined grains have their bran, germ, and most of the vitamins and nutrients removed during processing. The only part that remains is the starchy endosperm. This is why refined grains have more of an impact on raising blood sugar levels and thus have a higher glycemic index. Whole grains as mentioned earlier, contain the endosperm but also contain the germ and the bran. The bran provides abundant fiber which helps with satiety and slows down absorption keeping blood sugar levels happy, making whole grains a very good source of nutrition.

Why are whole grains better than refined grains?

Whole grains are truly incredible foods. They are packed with fiber and hundreds of beneficial phytochemicals that are understood to have antioxidant properties. Increasing your consumption of phytochemicals has been proven to lower the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. However, simply taking phytochemicals in pill form has not shown the same benefits as consuming phytochemicals from food sources like whole grains. Why is this? When you eat whole grains you not only get fiber and beneficial phytochemicals but also important essential vitamins and minerals (like B-6, vitamin E and selenium). Coupling fiber, phytochemicals, essential vitamins and minerals has a synergistic effect on the prevention disease to further boost your health!

According to the new 2005 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines, we should all strive to eat at least three, one-ounce servings of whole grains a day. Enjoying three Nutballz, Inc. Thumbprint Cookies (small cookies in the 7oz package) provides one serving of whole grains. This is 1/3 of the Dietary Guidelines daily recommendation!

Spring Foods' Sacha Active Meals contain the ancient Incan whole grain quinoa and nutritions brown rice. Each bar provides two servings of whole grains. Grabbing a Sacha Active Meal for breakfast and another to snack on throughout the day would ensure that you would meet your three servings of whole grains daily.

What different whole grains are available, and how should they be prepared?

All of the following grains can be found in a whole form (like how we normally see rice) or can be bought as flour. The flour format of each of these grains is pretty self explanatory - try different combinations of whole grains flours in baking to achieve delicious flavor coupled with nutritious benefits! This sections focuses in the whole form of the following grains:

The following grains are GLUTEN/WHEAT FREE, and should be boiled at a 1:3 (grain:water) ratio unless otherwise stated

  • Amaranth: Cooking Time: 25 minutes
    Nutty, slightly spicy flavor, sticky. Wild Oats says you can pop it like popcorn!
  • Buckwheat: Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
    Don't be fooled! Buckwheat is not wheat - it's a seed! You can buy Buckwheat Roasted (Kashi) or unroasted. Unroasted has a very mild flavor, while roasted is quite nutty. Fun texture!
  • Millet: Cooking Time: 35 minutes
    A very tiny grain, millet tastes great with vegetables or meat. It can be used as a substitute for couscous or rice.
  • Quinoa: Cooking TIme: 20 minutes
    Alert! Wash quinoa thoroughly before cooking, as it has a bitter outer hull that can ruin a meal! NutballzĀ® own Sacha Active Meals are made with quinoa! Actually a seed, quinoa is the only 'grain' that provides all the aminos forming a complete protein. Best if cooked with strong flavored herbs, or cinnamon as a breakfast cereal. Heck, just skip it and buy Sacha bars, we already did the cooking for you! :)
  • Rice: Cooking Time: Depending on the kind of rice, around 45 minutes (ratio 1:2ish)
    Rice is fun because it comes in many different ways! The most nutritious rice is brown rice, which has not been refined or bleached, and comes in short, medium, long, and extra long varities. There is also jasmine brown rice which is very aromatic - give it a try with vegetables stir fried in a garlic lemon white wine sauce.
  • Teff: Cooking Time: 15 minutes (1:4)
    Teff is the smallest grain in the world, and has a very distinct nutty flavor. Works great sweetened with agave as a breakfast cereal!
  • The following grains should be boiled at a 1:3 (grain:water) ratio unless otherwise stated. For those with gluten sensitivity, please note that these grains are NOT gluten free.

  • Spelt: Cooking Time: 1.5 hours
    Spelt is a nutritious ancient derivation of wheat. It has a nutty flavor and is high in riboflavin (vitamin B2), which is thought to aid in the prevention of migraines. It has less gluten than conventional wheat, and is tolerated by many people who suffer from gluten or wheat sensitivity. Spelt has 1/3 more protein than wheat. Wild Oats recommends using spelt in pilafs and salads.
  • Barley: Cooking Time: 1.5 hours (whole)
    Barley comes in a variety of formats, but whole is the most nutritious as the endosperm, germ, and bran are intact. Whole barley has a chewy texture due to its high protein content. If you are not gluten intolerant, try barley instead of millet in the "Millet with Chicken and Spinach" recipe on the Gluten Free Recipes page. Kamut: Cooking Time: 2 hours
    Kamut is an ancient derivation of wheat that is rich in magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. Some people with wheat sensitivities can tolerate kamut because it is so far removed from the grain that is commonly referred to as 'wheat.' Kamut is tasty in combination with other grains such as rice, and tastes good hot or cold!
  • Bulgar Wheat: Cooking time 20-25 minutes (Ratio 1:2)
    Bulgar is the usual base of the middle eastern dish tabouli - if you haven't had it you should give it a try! If you are gluten intolerant but like tabouli, try making it with millet instead (check out the recipe on our gluten free recipes page)!
  • Rye Berries: Cooking time: 1.5 hours (ratio 1:4)
    Rye Berries are higher in protein and lower in gluten than conventional wheat, and make a great addition to almost any dish imaginable, from soup to nuts (well, not nuts, really).
  • What are some neat ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet?

  • Eat spelt or whole wheat bread
  • Cook one of the aforementioned grains with chicken, fish, or tempeh
  • Make sushi at home with brown rice
  • Eat a whole grain hot cereal for breakfast instead of cold cereal
  • Eat brown rice with Chinese or Mexican food
  • Have any Spring Foods product!
  • Make breads and pancakes with whole grain flour instead of refined flour