14 Healthy Whole Grains, and How to Eat Them – Prevention Magazine

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This nutty ancient grain is—surprise!—actually a seed, like quinoa, and is native to South America. It is nutritionally dense: high in iron, bone-supporting calcium, and fiber, which is key for healthy digestion. Research also shows that it may have anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties. To serve, it can be easily popped in a heavy-bottomed pan, like popcorn, cooked into a porridge, or boiled or steamed like other grains such as rice. It maintains a slight crunch when cooked.



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This ancient grain is another derived from durum wheat, and when cooked like rice, it boasts a nutty and complex earthy flavor. It is, like other whole grains, high in both protein and fiber, but it also includes key minerals, such as manganese, which assists vitamin K in the blood clotting process, and zinc, which is important for maintaining a healthy sense of smell and taste.

RELATED: What Is Freekeh? The Ancient Grain You’ll Love



Sergi Escribano

Barley is an ancient cereal grain and the fourth most popular grain grown globally. While often used in beer production, it is a helpful grain to add to your diet as one cup of hulled barley provides more than 6 mg of iron—important for healthy blood clotting—as well as a dose of vitamin B6. It is a perfect grain to add to salads once boiled as it adds a slight chew. Barley also shines when simmered into soups! Keep an eye out for pearl barley, which cooks faster than the husked variety, although they are both nutritionally beneficial grains.

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Black Rice

black rice
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Brown Rice

cooked brown rice

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There are several varieties of this little round gluten-free grain that you may see in stores, such as fonio, pearl, and finger. One cup of millet also boasts 25% of the daily value of phosphorus for women over 19, which, along with calcium, helps to maintain healthy and strong bones and teeth. Studies have shown that the consumption of millet can help to prevent chronic diseases in those who enjoy it regularly. Dig into a bowl of millet in a delicious breakfast porridge, which will start your day off with 11 grams of protein.



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Bulgur is a type of cracked wheat, often made with durum wheat (so it isn’t gluten-free). One cup provides a whopping 17 grams of plant-based protein, plus over half your daily magnesium, which beyond aiding in muscle and nerve function, also plays a key role in bone health. It’s easy to find various grain sizes of bulgur, including fine, medium, coarse, and extra coarse, and the finest of the grains do not need to be boiled to cook through. Simply add hot water and let sit, then fluff with a fork.



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This chewy whole grain is available in different varieties. Brands sell quick cooking or instant farro which can be ready in 10 minutes, whereas regular farro can take a significantly longer time to prep. Farro is particularly high in niacin—20% of your daily value in 1/4 cup—a B vitamin that gives skin a boost and helps the digestive system. “Try batch cooking quinoa or farro to easily build hearty grain bowls. Simply add fresh or roasted vegetables, hummus or other spreads, tofu, or other proteins you enjoy,” says Moore.

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maksim kulikov

Quinoa is technically a seed, rather than a grain, native to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and it is naturally gluten-free, making it a great base for those avoiding gluten due to allergy or intolerance. It is chock full of important nutrients—one cup provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Steamed, boiled, or cooked into a porridge, it will maintain a pleasant bite. Or fold it into a Frittata With Roasted Red Peppers and Manchego for a winning breakfast!


Whole Oats


This go-to breakfast is a staple for good reason. “Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber shown to help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar management,” says Moore. Oats are also high in fiber, and studies show that their fiber content as well as other nutrients help to boost your gut microbiome, which aids in immune system support as well as digestion.



sorghum grains

Popular in Indian and West African cooking, sorghum is less common to find in your grocery store (but easy to order online!). Sorghum is an impressive whole grain both for its health benefits and its environmental benefits. Scientists have explored this crop as one that can grow extremely well in drought conditions, making it a potentially popular option as climate change continues to warm the planet and cause more widespread drought.

Like other grains, sorghum is high in protein and fiber. Studies also show that sorghum is high in polyphenols, which can aid in preventing cancers as well as oxidative stress, which may speed up aging. To prep, cook as you would quinoa, or pop on the stove like you would popcorn.

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Also known as dinkel or hulled wheat, spelt is often found ground into flour and added to bread doughs. This nutty grain is a decent source of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and phosphorus, as well as thiamin, a vitamin B that is important for cell function and healthy metabolism. Spelt benefits from an overnight soak before cooking to cook it faster, or a low heat from a slow cooker to ensure it is tender.

RELATED: This Spelt Salad with Apples and Pine Nuts Recipe Is So Easy To Make



Marek Uliasz

Find this tiny grain in its whole form or ground into flour—the main ingredient in injera, a staple flatbread in Ethiopian cuisine. It is a plant native of Eritrea and Ethiopia. “Teff is high in protein, higher in iron than most other grains, and a fiber powerhouse packing 12 grams in just 3.5 ounces!” says Moore. This mild, slightly sweet pick is also rich in minerals such as copper, phosphorus, and magnesium, key for regular muscle and nerve function.

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Becca Miller (she/her) has been working in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen since 2018, where she researches and writes about tasty recipes, food trends and top cooking tools. She graduated from NYU with a liberal arts degree focusing on creative writing. She makes killer scrambled eggs, enjoys a glass of un-oaked chardonnay and takes pride in her love of reality television.

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