Just Ask for Whole Grains
 Issue: 64
February 2015
whole grain breads


February grain of the month-Barley   ................................................. 




A slightly sweet glaze from the marmalade balances nicely with the curried chicken on a bed of barley with colored pepper "confetti."

Courtesy of National Barley Foods Council




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Dear Friends of Whole Grains,

Steamed rice is a staple at dinner tables across the country, but this month, I'm challenging you to branch out to barley!
While it's most recognizable in soups or as the starting point in beer brewing, February's Whole Grain of the Month is actually incredibly versatile. Similar in size to short grain rice, this delightfully chewy grain is an excellent supporting actor in curries and stir fries, but can also hold its own in a hearty side salad or pilaf. Barley can even be used to make creamy, whole grain risotto. For those new to this pleasantly nutty ingredient, our featured recipe, Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley, is a great place to start!
In addition to it's delightful taste and culinary versatility, barley is also a fiber superstar, with more fiber than any other whole grain! In fact, much of the fiber in barley is soluble beta-glucan fiber, known for its protective effect against heart disease.

To be sure that your barley is a whole grain, look for hulled barley, whole barley, or whole grain barley, which have had the inedible hull removed, but still contain all components of the original grain. However, be careful of pearled barley, which has had some of the bran removed, and is not technically a whole grain. For a splash of color, heirloom varieties like black barley or purple barley are also great options.


Whole Grains Still a Priority to Dietary Advisory Committee          
This week a committee of the nation's top nutrition scientists made public their recommendations for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines, which are expected to be finalized by the USDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) later this year, shape the foods that are encouraged in a number of government nutrition programs, from school lunch to military meals to food-related laws and regulations. While the USDA and HHS aren't required to abide by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendations, historically, the Dietary Guidelines have closely adhered to the DGAC report.

As in years past, the 2015 committee agreed that whole grains are a vital component of a healthy diet. Specifically, they found that whole grains "were identified in every conclusion with moderate to strong evidence" for decreased risk of disease. Thus, "the overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains." We'll have to stay tuned to see how this plays out in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines, but until then, keep making at least half your grains whole!

Health: Diet with Whole Grains Protects Against COPD
Lung disease is commonly associated with smoking, even though up to one third of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients have never smoked. In order to determine how other lifestyle factors may influence the risk of COPD, researchers analyzed over a decade of eating habits and new COPD cases from over 73,000 adult nurses in the US. The scientists concluded that diets high in whole grains, nuts, heart-healthy fats (polyunsaturated and omega-3), and low in red meat and sugar-sweetened drinks were associated with a significantly lower risk of COPD. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that whole grains are a vital component of an overall healthy diet.

Myth of the Month: Grains Make You Fat (Not!)

While eating too much of anything can make you fat, grains play no special role in putting on the pounds. Experts agree that whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet, along with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This is consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as recommendations from the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Heart Association.

Why does this seemingly simple information seem so confusing? Moderation, lots of plant foods, healthy fats and less processed foods are the hallmarks of healthy diets, and the old ways of eating.  They are time-tested, research-tested, but not new, and therefore, not sexy and usually not newsworthy. Sensationalist pop-science books may attempt to pin obesity on grains, but peer-reviewed scientific journals have rebutted these misconceptions (see this article by Julie Jones, and this article by Fred Brouns).

Weight problems are almost never the fault of one food; it's total diet and lifestyle that matter. If you eat a healthy diet comprised of whole, minimally-processed foods in reasonable portion sizes, you do not need to fear succombing to "wheat belly!"

Whole Grains for Heart Health + Cancer Prevention

February is home to Heart Month AND Cancer Prevention Month, which means it's time to celebrate the foods that promote longer, healthier lives! By now, the health benefits of whole grains are well established. But when it comes to heart disease, the number one killer in America, do you know just how important whole grains are?

Repeated studies show that regular whole grain consumption can reduce risk of heart disease 25-28% and reduce risk of stroke 30-36%. Whole grain consumption can also improve other risk factors for heart disease, by promoting better weight maintenance, healthier carotid arteries, and healthier blood pressure levels. In fact, just last month a study found that every one-ounce serving of whole grains is associated with a 9% lower risk of death from heart disease! 

Whole grains are also emerging players in cancer prevention, specifically in colorectal cancer. After all, these little nutrient powerhouses contain numerous antioxidants. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 1/3 of cases of common cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes such as healthy eating. How will you improve your well-being this month?

REMINDER: Plan Your April Whole Grain Sampling Day Activity!

Whole Grain Sampling Day is an annual event held the first Wednesday in April (this year, April 1, 2015) that has just one goal... to get as many people as possible to try more whole grains.

To learn more about Whole Grain Sampling Day (WGSD) and how you can participate, get in touch with Kelly Toups (Kelly@oldwayspt.org, or 617-896-4884). Kelly will help you brainstorm ideas and ways that the Whole Grains Council can support your whole grain promotion efforts. Also, be sure to check out all of the resources we offer for WGSD 2015, from downloadable brochures and handouts about whole grains, to a Whole Grain Grocery Store Tour Kit, to a Whole Grain Trivia Contest Kit, to a database of sample Tweets for WGSD.


Best regards from all of us at Oldways and the Whole Grains Council,  

Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN                                   
Program Manager                                                        
Oldways  /  Whole Grains Council       

Cynthia Harriman
Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies
Oldways  /  Whole Grains Council  
Harley Songin                                   
Stamp Program Assistant  Manager                                                        
Oldways  /  Whole Grains Council          


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