I don’t know about anyone else, but personally I am sick of eating haphazardly. What I mean by this is that I am tired of eating without intention, because I simply do not KNOW what certain foods do to my body. I am sick of having stereotypically “healthy” foods grouped into one part of my mind, and stereotypically “unhealthy” foods in another, with no understanding of why or how certain foods make their way into one group or the other. (Not to mention the fact that placing value judgments on food at all opens the door to bad feelings.) So, I am putting an end to it right here, right now by learning about the various foods I take in every day, and I’m doing it here on Persephone so you can join me!
I figured the bottom of the food pyramid (grains!) was a great place to start “¦ so I did a little research. We all probably already know that grains are derived from seeds. Most of us probably also knew that we typically split them further into two categories: whole grains and refined grains. But I bet a lot of you (myself included!) didn’t know what those categories mean exactly. So let’s learn “¦
Whole grains are what we tend to consider “health food,” they are the grains that include all parts of the seed (the bran, endosperm, and the germ). These are the parts of the grain that contain many minerals (like iron and zinc), fiber, protein and fat. Refined (processed) grains have the bran and germ layers removed during processing, which causes many of the nutrients to get lost (although sometimes they are artificially put back in through a process called enrichment).
Whole grains are generally more recommended, because they contain more of the many things our bodies need. Refined grains can still be useful in some contexts; for instance, adding fiber-rich foods to refined grains can help to minimize the effect that the meal will have on your blood sugar, thus helping to stabilize it. So when you eat a refined grain, try to add a vegetable or a bean (high in fiber!) to maximize the benefits of your meal.
Fiber, carbohydrates that your body cannot digest, is awesome because it does all of these great things:
- Fiber slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. When you eat foods high in fiber, such as beans and whole grains, the sugar in those foods is absorbed more slowly, which keeps your blood glucose levels from rising too quickly. This is good for you because spikes in glucose fall rapidly, which can make you feel hungry soon after eating and lead to overeating.
- Fiber makes your intestines move faster. When you eat whole grains rich in insoluble fiber, it moves faster through your intestines, which can help signal that you are full.
- Fiber cleans your colon, acting like a scrub brush. The scrub brush effect of fiber helps clean out bacteria and other buildup in your intestines, and reduces your risk for colon cancer.
- Fiber helps keep you regular. A high-fiber diet helps you have soft, regular bowel movements, reducing constipation.
Another Persephone writer already covered one of my favorite grains, quinoa, so I advise you all to take a pause for a moment and read that post. (I’ll wait!)
Okay, so, now that you’re back I’d like to tell you about my favorite thing to make with quinoa (or bulgur wheat, or cous cous, or anything really): Tabbouleh Salad!
Basically all you have to do is cook up your grain to taste. Then, for a traditional tabbouleh, add: lemon juice (to taste), a tablespoon or two of olive oil, chopped parsley, and chopped tomatoes. I make mine a bit differently. I don’t love tomatoes, so usually I throw in celery, cucumbers, onions, black beans, and/or red peppers (roasted or raw) to help balance everything out. This also adds a TON of fiber to the salad which means that you are getting a lot of value on top of your whole grains!
Other ideas that incorporate grains & fiber-rich veggies: Penne a la Vodka with peas and roasted red peppers, stuffed peppers with rice, oatmeal made with raw oats (the canisters come with directions & you can do it in the microwave!) and … what else? You tell me! What are your favorite ways to get your grains in, Persephone??