6 Hearty Whole Grains for Winter Meals

With the onset of chilly winter days in many parts of the country, our thoughts turn to hearty, warming fare, and dishes that often include whole grains. Not only do whole grains add flavor and texture to your meals, but contribute a host of health-enhancing nutrients as well.

Considered “good carbs,” since they are high in fiber, which can help stabilize blood-sugar levels, ward off hunger and cravings, and help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, whole grains are a worthy addition to your diet. Once you’re on Phase 2, you can enjoy a half-cup serving as part of your meals or include grains as an ingredient in main-dish salads or vegetable side dishes, for example.

Here are some often unsung grains you might want to try:

Black rice. Also known as “forbidden rice” in China, black rice is a nutritional dynamo that’s loaded with antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may help protect against heart disease and cancer. Sold in health food stores and larger supermarkets, black rice is a healthy option to basmati or wild rice. Try subbing black rice for the wild rice in our Savory Shrimp over Wild Rice, which features garlicky shrimp sautéed with cherry tomatoes.

Brown basmati rice. Richly flavored, with a longer, thinner grain than regular brown rice, brown basmati rice has a lovely, sweet flavor. A good source of vitamins and minerals, it’s worth seeking out in larger supermarkets and health food stores. You can use brown basmati rice instead of the regular brown rice called for in this cilantro-spiked Curried Brown Rice with Mushrooms and Peas, a particularly good side dish that pairs well with baked chicken breasts.

Brown rice couscous. Unlike traditional couscous, which is made from semolina wheat — brown rice couscous is made from brown rice. It typically takes just 15 minutes to prepare following package directions. Choose the plain rather than flavored varieties on the South Beach Diet. You can use brown rice couscous rather than the whole-wheat couscous in our Tomato-Basil Couscous Salad. It’s a nicely seasoned blend of couscous, chickpeas, romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, and chopped scallion paired with a lemony basil dressing.

Bulgur. When wheat kernels are steamed, dried, and crushed, this nutrient-dense whole grain is the delicious result. Bulgur, which comes in a fine, medium, or coarse grind, differs from cracked wheat in that it’s been precooked. In this light, lemony Bulgur, Cucumber, and Mint Salad, which is a fine addition to a take-along lunch, crunchy cucumber, chopped fresh mint, and cubed tomato provide color and flavor.

Farro. An ancient Roman grain that’s high in fiber, farro is a good choice at any meal. Thanks to a chewy texture and nutty taste that’s reminiscent of oats, versatile farro is an excellent option as a breakfast cereal or a good substitute for whole-wheat pasta in a variety of dishes. The type of farro most commonly sold in supermarkets is semi-pearled, and it doesn’t need soaking. When you’re in the mood for a seafood dinner, serve our Grilled Salmon with Farro Salad. The farro and salmon are tossed with parsley, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and orange zest.

Quinoa. A superfood that originated in South America, quinoa is the highest in protein of all the grains. Considered a complete protein because it has all eight essential amino acids, quinoa has a light texture that makes it a natural for pilafs and salads. Pressed for time? Quinoa takes about half as long to cook as brown rice. When lightly toasted, it’s delicious in this walnut-topped Warm Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Tarragon.

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