Whole Grains for NAP Challengers
Each week during the NAP Challenge, we’ll focus on a different whole grain. Why?
AICR recommends eating a diet rich in whole grains for cancer prevention and overall good health. Whole grains have 3 to 5 times more vitamins and minerals than refined grains. Whole grains and whole-grain products have 1 to 5 grams of fiber per serving along with a plethora of beneficial natural substances called phytonutrients.
- Aim to eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain foods daily. One ounce refers to
- 1-ounce slice bread
- ¼ to 1 ¼ cups ready-to-eat cereal (check labels for 1-ounce equivalent)
- ½ cup cooked pasta, rice and cereal
- Find whole grains at your grocery store or Bob’s Red Mill, Arrowhead Mills and other online retailers.
- Read package ingredient list looking for “whole [name of grain]” listed first.
- Look for a Whole Grain Stamp on packaged grain-based products.
Information provided is from AICR’s Foods That Fight Cancer: Whole Grains
and Whole Grains Council.
Week 1: Sorghum
We start with sorghum because it’s featured in this week’s Mediterranean White Bean and Sorghum Bowl.
Sorghum’s mild, sweet flavor is delicious as a hot cereal, in dishes and baked goods, and popped. Sorghum is high in antioxidants that help lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Week 2: Corn
Fresh corn is a vegetable, dried it’s a whole grain. Whole grain corn products include corn flour, cornmeal, corn grits, polenta and popcorn.
- Corn has the highest level of antioxidants and 10 times more vitamin A than other grains.
- High in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, corn helps support eye health .
- Make sure corn grain products are labeled “whole corn” or “whole grain corn”.
Week 3: Rice and Wild Rice
Brown, black, red and wild rice have more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than white rice. Make a big batch and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze; or buy frozen brown rice for quick meals.
- Brown rice is a whole grain because its germ and bran are intact.
- Wild rice is a grass seed eaten like rice.
Week 4: Barley
Pearl barley and quick pearl barley, typically eaten in the US, has some or most of its bran removed and is not considered a whole; yet, both are more nutritious than refined grains because of barley’s interior fiber.
- Hulled barley is considered a whole grain. Barley’s soluble fiber reduces cholesterol, helps control blood sugar, and improves immune function.
- Barley flatbread, a traditional food in North Africa, is quickly gaining popularity in the US.
- Enjoy quick cooking barley in Golden Quick Barley with Sweet Peas and Corn.
- Learn more about barley.
Week 5: Quinoa and Kaniwa
- Quinoa (keen-wah), botanically a seed, is a pseudo-cereal – a food eaten like a grain. Yellow, ivory, red, purple and black quinoa have a subtle nutty taste and a pleasing fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Rinse before cooking.
- Kaniwa (kah-nyee-wah) is known as “baby quinoa” because its seeds are smaller yet with a more crunchy texture.
- Both contain all essential amino acids making them “complete protein” foods, and both are rich in fiber.
Week 6: Wheat Grains: Bulgur, Einkorn, Farro, Freekeh, Kamut, Spelt, Wheat Berries
This is Whole Grain challenge week, so we feature the most common whole grain – wheat. Whole wheat has its bran, germ and endosperm intact that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Varieties and forms of wheat contain gluten that is favorable to making bread and pasta. Expand your whole wheat repertoire:
- Bulgur is a precooked wheat so it only needs 10 minutes to boil. Having a mild flavor, it is a first choice for those new to whole grain cooking.
- Einkorn is believed to be the oldest wheat.
- Farro (far-oh) aka emmer is hearty and chewy with a rich, nutty flavor and high in antioxidants. Look for a whole-grain farro, not pearled. Use in farrottos, like risottos, pilafs, soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
- Freekeh (free-kuh) is harvested when young and green, then roasted and rubbed drawing out its earthy nutty flavor. It is perfect for pilafs.
- Kamut (kah-moot), an ancient Egyptian word for wheat, is available as kernels also called berries and has a chewy texture and buttery flavor perfect for stews and salads and as hot cereal and flour.
- Spelt is considered an ancient grain and may be used in soups, salads and pilaf.
- Wheat berries, half the size of kamut berries, are kernels that must be boiled after soaking and then cooked into grain dishes, casseroles and cereal. Cracked wheat berries cook faster.
Enjoy bulgur in this recipe Bulgur with apples, currants and toasted pecans.
Enjoy freekeh in this recipe Freekeh Sunny Side Up Eggs
Enjoy kamut in this recipe Kamut Kushari
Enjoy spelt in this recipe Spelt Minestrone
Enjoy wheat berries in this recipe Wheat Berry and White Bean Salad
Learn more about freekeh, farro and other whole wheat grains.
Week 7: Oats
Oats are typically steamed and ﬂattened to produce old-fashioned or rolled oats (firm texture), quick oats (smooth texture), and instant oats (soft texture). Steel-cut oats, aka Irish or Scottish oats, are kernels chopped into smaller pieces (chewier, nuttier texture). Oats contain beta-glucan soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Oats have antioxidant avenanthramides that help protect blood vessels from damaging eﬀects of LDL cholesterol.
Week 8: Millet and Teff
- Millet, common as birdseed yet gaining culinary popularity for its mild sweet flavor and antioxidant benefit, refers to a group of similar whole grain seeds. Millet is delicious as cereal and in pilafs, soups, stews and bread. Before rice, millet was the staple grain in Asia.
- Teff is the whole grain in Ethiopian spongy bread injera and cereal. Its resistant starch fiber helps control blood sugar. Teff has a subtle cocoa flavor, perfect for hot cereal.
Week 9: Buckwheat and Kasha
- Buckwheat seeds, aka groats, have a mild, grassy flavor and antioxidant bioflavonoid rutin that is heart and cancer protective. Buckwheat is high in soluble and resistant starch fibers. Buckwheat is not related to wheat.
- Kasha is roasted buckwheat. Buckwheat and kasha, in varying amounts, are used to make soba noodles.
Learn more about buckwheat and kasha.
Week 10: Amaranth
- Amaranth seeds have a nutty, peppery flavor with a popcorn-like crunchy texture.
- Amaranth contains calcium – great, as we are pumping UP calcium this week. Like quinoa and kaniwa, amaranth is a complete protein because it contains all essential amino acids.
- Amaranth is in the popular Latin sweet treat alegria.
Learn more about
Week 11: Rye and Triticale
- Rye grain contains gluten and has arabinoxylan fiber known for its high antioxidant activity. Rye bread and crackers have a lower glycemic index, making them beneficial for persons with diabetes. Ground rye berries make dark, flavor-intense pumpernickel bread. Look for rye and pumpernickel breads that have “whole grain rye” in the ingredient list.
- Rye berries are delicious in pilafs, soups and salads.
- Triticale (trih-tih-kay-lee) is a hybrid of rye and wheat and is mainly available as flour and flakes.
Learn more about Rye and Triticale
Week 12: Whole Grains Quiz
Assess your whole grains knowledge with this fun Guess the Grains Quiz
- How many servings of whole grains are you eating daily? Aim for 3 or more!
- What whole grains are you stocking in your pantry?