Thursday, April 26, 2012
Whole Grains & Brown Rice
I thought it might be fun to spend some time talking about whole grains today. Have you ever wondered why eating whole grains is important? Or what the difference is between whole grains and refined grains? Or how to make brown rice without it tasting bland? Then keep reading!
Whole grains are different from refined grains or enriched grains, both of which are far more common in the United States. Whole grains mean that the grain is still completely in-tact and has not had the bran or germ removed through the milling process. This is important because whole grains still contain the essential enzymes, fiber, and b vitamins. Some of my favorite whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and millet.
Refined grains are grains that have been milled, stripping them of their bran and germ, which results in a loss of nutrients. Refined grains have a softer texture and extended shelf life, which is why they are used in packaged and processed foods. Sometimes manufacturers will add some of the b vitamins lost during processing back into the grain, resulting in enriched grains. Some enriched grains are also fortified with nutrients that are not naturally present in that food, such as folic acid or iron. However, there is no way to replace the fiber that is lost during processing.
Why is all of this important? It's important to choose whole grains as much as possible because of the impact that refined or enriched grains have on the body. Refined grains are quickly digested into simple sugars and absorbed into the bloodstream much faster than whole grains. This causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash, which results in feeling moody and drained of energy. When you eat whole grains, the fiber prevents your blood sugar from spiking which will keep your energy level up. And since fiber is what helps us to feel full, eating whole grains will help you to feel more satisfied and you won't find yourself overeating.
I grew up eating white rice so when I first started eating brown rice it was a noticeable change. It took me years to get used to the difference in taste and texture. I also noticed that eating brown rice sometimes gave me a stomach ache. Then I learned an important trick: soak the rice! Before cooking, I soak my brown rice for a few hours or overnight. When it is cooked, it will yield rice with a softer texture, better taste, and is far easier on the digestive system. To keep brown rice from tasting bland, I like to cook it in vegetable broth and add other spices as it cooks.
What are your favorite tricks for enjoying brown rice or other whole grains?
Basic Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
Water for soaking
2 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
seasonings to taste
Soak rice in water for a few hours or overnight. Drain. Add rice to a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth (or water). Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Check the rice. If the rice is slightly chewy, remove the lid and cook until the rest of the water is evaporated. If the rice is still hard, replace lid and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until rice is chewy.
When rice is ready, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.