Whole grains should be a staple in everyone’s diet. Diets rich in whole grains are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. Unlike refined (white) grains, which have the bran and germ layers stripped away during processing, whole grains retain their fiber, nutrients (including B vitamins), and other potentially beneficial plant compounds. From barley to wheatberries, expand your whole-grain repertoire with these eight creative recipes.
This recipe calls for pearl barley, which has a delicate nutlike taste and readily absorbs the flavors of its companion ingredients. To save some time, you can use quick-cooking barley instead. The finished salad packs 9 grams of dietary fiber and 15 grams of protein a serving.
In addition to barley, this recipe features cremini mushrooms, also known as brown or Italian brown mushrooms—an intensely flavored type of button mushroom. (Mature, full-grown cremini mushrooms are marketed as portobellos.) They bring a deep richness to this soup, which is hearty enough to serve as its own meal (it makes a great lunch on a chilly day).
This creamy barley dish uses chicken broth but can easily be made vegetarian; just substitute carrot juice for the broth. It works nicely alongside a curried poultry or meat dish as a healthier and more interesting alternative to plain rice.
Bulgur is a processed form of cracked wheat, but with a more pronounced flavor. It also requires less preparation time because it is pre-cooked. The crunch in this dish comes from walnuts, which provide some healthy fat—including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is also found in some other plant foods, notably flaxseeds and canola oil.
Also called groats, wheatberries are wheat kernels that have not been milled, polished, or heat-treated. Brown and nearly round in appearance, they have a robust, nutlike flavor that goes well with hearty foods. Like barley, they stay slightly chewy even when fully cooked.
Kasha refers to roasted, hulled buckwheat kernels that are cracked into coarse, medium, or fine granules. Varnishkes is just a fancy name for farfalle, or bow-tie noodles. Put them together and you’ve got this satisfying Central European dish, brought by Ashkenazi Jews to America. Our version also includes caramelized onions for extra flavor.
Pronounced keen-wah, quinoa is not truly a grain (it’s actually related to leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard). But it looks like one and is served as one. As quinoa cooks, the external germ, which forms a band around each grain, spirals out, forming a tiny crescent-shaped “tail.” Although the grain itself is soft and creamy, the tail is crunchy, providing a unique texture you won’t get with other grains.
Quinoa’s key nutritional distinguishing factor is its high level of lysine, an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of many proteins, making it one of the best sources of plant protein. Quinoa also provides some riboflavin, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, as well as plentiful fiber.