It’s Whole Grains Month. Paleo people, give in.
A new study says that eating cooked, whole grains back in the Pleistocene era helped give us bigger brains. More research shows that whole grains still boost brain power, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, and they may lower the likelihood of cancer and diabetes and improve our guts and moods.
Even better, the Whole Grains Council reports that two-thirds of us are actually eating whole grains — those with the bran and germ intact. As for the rest of you, get with the program.
Morning is when most of us get our whole grains, so join the breakfast club with an old classic. Post Shredded Wheat Spoon Size Wheat’n Bran (18 ounces, $3.39) offers a crunchy, hard-to-beat whole grain bowlful. A hefty 1 1/4 cup serving contains 200 calories, 1 fat gram, no salt or sugar, 9 fiber grams and 6 protein grams.
At lunch, swap your usual sandwich for a whole-wheat wrap from La Tortilla Factory (17.5 ounces, $4.39). Soft, mellow-flavored and not cardboardy like many precursors, one large tortilla contains 80 calories, 3 fat grams, 300 milligrams sodium, no sugar and — yahoo —12 fiber grams and 8 protein grams.
Beware snacks touting whole grains on the packaging but with meager whole grain delivery.
One notable exception: Badass Power Cookie (85 grams $3.50), available at Choices Cafe, with multiple locations in South Florida. Made with rolled oats and spelt, plus power foods galore including spirulina and pumpkin seeds, this vegan big boy contains 360 calories, 16 fat grams, 210 milligrams sodium, 13 sugar grams, 5 fiber grams and 10 protein grams. Oatmeal Raisin has a cinnamon blast plus a lot — and we do mean a lot — of chew. Think whole grains aren’t filling? Eat a Badass.
For dinner, taste whole wheat in its whole glory. We mean really whole wheat: ancient grains including farro, aka emmer, believed to be wheat’s granddaddy, and Kamut khoresan wheat, the only whole grain with its own trademark.
Large-grained, toasty-flavored and chewy, they’re whole grains many gluten-sensitive people can handle. Available at Whole Foods, sometimes in bulk and always packaged through Bob’s Red Mill. One serving of farro (24 ounces, $6.99) contains 200 calories 1.5 fat grams and 7 grams each of fiber and protein. Kamut (24 ounces, $3.99) contains 160 calories, 1 fat gram, 4 fiber grams and 7 protein grams.
Enjoy the whole of it.
Ellen Kanner: firstname.lastname@example.org, @edgyveggie1.
Mediterranean Farro Bowl with Green Tahini Dressing
For a new spin on an ancient whole grain, swap what’s in your rice bowl for farro or Kamut. This recipe reaches back to these ancient grains’ ancient roots — Egypt, circa 8000 BC. Versions of this tahini dressing were probably floating around even then. It’s sumptuous, velvety and gets a modern makeover with the addition of parsley, which adds an extra dose of detox power and gives the dressing a designery pale green tint. Soaking the whole grains in cold water overnight makes then fluffier and cuts down on cooking time. No time to soak? Just keep cooking it on the stovetop another 10 to 15 minutes. Makes four servings.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, tightly packed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup farro, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
3 cups water or vegetable broth
Sea salt to taste
4 cups kale, tightly packed, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 scallion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (optional)
2 cups chickpeas cooked, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 handful kalamata olives
For dressing: Whiz together all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor until thick, creamy and smooth. Cover and refrigerate. Dressing will thicken as it chills. Thin with another 3-4 tablespoons of water, if desired.
For farro: In a large pot set on high heat, bring farro and water to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Grains will swell and become tender but retaining some chew. Drain off any remaining cooking liquid. Stir in 1 tablespoon of dressing, preferably while farro is still warm, so the lusciousness infuses the grains. Add sea salt to taste. Set aside.
For toppers: In a large bowl, combine kale and lemon juice. Work lemon juice into the leaves gently with your hands until kale starts to soften. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add diced tomato, cucumber and thinly sliced scallion. Toss with the olive oil. Add fresh mint, if using, and season lightly with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. In a small bowl, toss together chickpeas and cumin.
To assemble: Divide the cooked and dressed farro into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with equal amounts of the kale, the tomato-cucumber salad and the cumin-scented chickpeas. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, plop on a few kalamatas and, if desired, drizzle on a little extra green tahini dressing.
Source: Ellen Kanner for Edgy Veggie; tahini dressing recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi.