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May 22, 2012

Living Independently: Purchasing, Cooking and Storing Whole Grains

Adding whole grains to your diet as an older adult has a lot of benefits for your health. Grains, especially whole grains such as barley, bulgur, quinoa and brown and wild rice, are a good source of complex carbohydrates and a few key vitamins and minerals. They are also low in fat and are thought to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

So now that you know whole grains are good for you, let’s talk about integrating them into the meals you prepare. Keep in mind that since grains have neutral flavors, they can be swapped for one another in recipes. Use grains as you would use pasta or white rice; add them to soup, chili and salads. They also make a fantastic hot breakfast cereal.

Purchasing Whole Grains

Many grocery stores carry different types of rice; try wild or brown rice. You can find barley in the soup, bean, or pasta aisle. Some grocery stores may even have a large health section that contains a selection of whole grains; ask a store employee for help.

A health food store, gourmet shop or food co-op will carry the more obscure items, such as kamut or oat groats. If you are unable to find these items at a local shopping outlet, try online. Sites like Amazon.com carry all the whole grains you could want, but prepare to pay shipping costs.

Cooking Whole Grains

Preparing meals with whole grains is simple. There is no need to rinse or presoak, simply follow the directions for heating using your choice of flavored liquid. (You can cook whole grains in plain water, but this may create a tasteless meal.) Using vegetable or chicken flavored stock allows the grains to be used for any meal, including breakfast cereal, main dishes, salads, soups and even dessert. If your choice of flavoring does not contain salt (check the label), add salt to taste in moderation.

The first time you cook a new grain, check it about five minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time to make sure it is not mushy. If after this recommended amount of heating time the grain is not tender enough, cook a little longer.

Storing Whole Grains

You can keep uncooked whole grains for several months if they are stored properly. Choose containers that are made of glass, metal or hard plastic. Store whole grains in the refrigerator or freezer for best results. Leftover cooked whole grains will stay good for about a week if refrigerated.  You can also freeze portion-sized sandwich bags of the cooked grains then microwave for a minute or two before serving. 

Photo: Rooey202


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