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Replace Refined Carbs with These Grains for a Healthier Diet

by Nicci Micco

Our bodies and our brains need carbohydrates to work effectively. But not all carbohydrates are equal. Some, like white breads and starchy sweets, offer little to no nutrition; others, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are packed with goodness. Here are 6 healthy carbs you should consider incorporating into your diet:

nutrition-pasta1. Whole-wheat pasta. Because sometimes you just need pasta, and whole-wheat varieties offer two to three times more fiber than refined white brands, but they’re just as versatile and delicious. (Similarly, whole-wheat bread and brown rice are healthier choices than their “white” counterparts.)
To cook: Follow the package directions.

 

nutrition-grains2. Quinoa: A delicately flavored whole grain, quinoa provides some fiber (about 2 grams per half cup) and a good amount of protein (4 grams). Rinsing quinoa removes any residue of saponin, its bitter natural protective coating.
To cook: Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

 

nutrition-barley

 

3. Barley is available “pearled” (the bran has been removed) or “quick-cooking” (parboiled). While both contain soluble fiber that may help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, pearl barley has a little more. (Note: Barley is not technically classified as a whole grain but it’s often considered one nutritionally because of its healthy nutrient profile.)
To cook: Pearled barley – Bring 1 cup barley and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Quick-cooking barley – Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

 

nutrition-bulgur4. Bulgur is cracked wheat that’s been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses – a perfect low-maintenance grain. It’s also a good source of feel-full fiber: just 1/2 cup delivers about 5 grams.

To cook: Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand, covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed, let the bulgur stand longer or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid.

 

nutrition-wheat-berries5. Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. They’re terrific sources of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and fiber.

To cook: Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones, and rinse with water. Bring 4 cups water or broth and 1 cup wheat berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still a little chewy, about 1 hour. Drain.

 

nutrition-popcorn

6. Popcorn. Reach for popcorn when you’re craving pretzels or potato chips; it may satisfy a snack craving and it’s a whole grain. Three cups of popped popcorn (what you get by popping 1 heaping tablespoon of kernels) equals one of your three recommended daily servings of whole grains and contains 3 grams of fiber.

To cook: Toss a heaping tablespoon into an air popper.

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