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Celebrate the Goodness of Whole Grains

Brittany Thomas Dietetic Intern- Bay Pines VA Bay Pines Health Care System

The month of September is National Whole Grains Month which means it’s time to explore the many different flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits that whole grains have to offer us!

Anatomy of a Whole Grain
Are all grains whole grains? Not necessarily. All grains begin as whole grains however not all grains make it to grocery store shelves in the whole form. A whole grain is one which still has all of its layers intact. Those layers, packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, are called the bran, germ, and endosperm. Nowadays many of the grains used for food are in their refined or enriched forms. This means that the original whole grain has been stripped of its nutritious layers. In the case of “enriched” products manufacturers attempt to re-introduce missing nutrients however the end-product is nowhere near as desirable as the grain was in its original form.

What Counts as a Whole Grain?
Try to think of different types of whole grains. Whole wheat, brown rice, and oats…after this your mind probably begins to go blank. There are so many more varieties of whole grains that you may not often hear about. In fact, the Whole Grain Council provides information on more than 20 of the most common whole grains. A description of each can be found at Whole Grains A-Z. Aim for 3-5 servings each day!

Teff: A Must-Try
Let’s shift our spotlight to a lesser-known grain called teff. In America, this whole grain is largely unknown however it is very popular and commonly eaten in Ethiopia, India, and Australia. These grains are unique because they are tiny compared to the size of wheat kernels and they have a sweeter molasses-like flavor which makes this grain quite versatile. It comes in three colors: white, red, and brown and you can be assured that it will be in its whole grain form because the kernel is simply too small to refine! An added bonus of this gluten-free whole grain is that it contains twice the iron and three times the amount of calcium as its other grain counterparts. But don’t be fooled by its small size as teff packs a nutritious punch.

Cooking Teff
Preparing teff at home is quite simple. For every ½ cup of teff used you will need 2 cups of water or low-sodium stock. This mixture can be boiled on the stove for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Afterwards it is ready to be eaten and enjoyed. Teff can be found in grocery stores sold under brands such as Bob’s Red Mill or Shiloh Farms and it is also readily available for purchase online. Keep this grain on your radar as it is sure to become more popular in the years to come. And while you are at it try this recipes for Teff Stew

For information on cooking whole grains check out Cooking Whole Grains.