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Don’t Give Up Carbs—Get Down with Grains

Adding grains to your diet can help with a variety of health concerns, and there are more delicious options—and ways to eat them—than you may realize.

 Learn how to eat healthy with grains, picture of the grain wheat fields

By now you’ve likely heard of at least one of the so-called super grains. Like other super foods, these grains are rich in nutrients and beneficial to your health. You’re probably already thinking of quinoa, which has surged in popularity over the last several years. While it isn’t technically a grain (it’s the seed of a leafy plant whose distant cousin is spinach), it’s prepared like a grain and is a complete protein, making it popular for vegetarians and those on gluten-free diets.

But there are more super grains that have been around for centuries and are being rediscovered for their health benefits. Many of these grains were overlooked as modern farming and processed foods became the norm. However, when grains are refined, they lose a lot of the nutrients that make them so special in the first place, according to Chrissy Freer in Supergrains.

Related: A Nutritionist's View On 6 Common Weight Loss Myths

So instead of giving up carbs altogether, make less-refined grains part of a balanced diet: Super grains can be a tasty way to incorporate protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals into your meals. Not sure where to start? Try one of these three power-packed grains:

 Learn how to eat healthy with grains, picture of the grain Amaranth


A staple crop of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans, these tiny, edible seeds are considered low-glycemic-index and are linked to reducing cholesterol. And like quinoa, amaranth isn’t a true grain, but it’s packed with grain-like nutrients such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. 

Try amaranth as a breakfast cereal, in a salad, added to soups and stews, or even baked into a treat, these cute rollout cookies.

Nutritional Value (per 1 cup, cooked): 251 calories, 9.3 g protein, 3.9 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 46 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 5.2 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol *gluten-free*

Learn how to eat healthy with grains, picture of the grain Millet


A food staple cultivated in East Asia for more than 10,000 years, this grain predates wheat and rice. It’s a major food source in India and Africa and is featured in traditional dishes in Russia, Japan, and Germany. Now Americans are giving millet the recognition it deserves as a gluten-free grain that provides plenty of fiber and minerals (phosphorus, zinc, and copper, to name a few).

Use millet in place of some of the wheat flour in baked goods (think cakes or cookies), toss cooked millet into a salad, or cook it like polenta.

Nutritional Value (per 1 cup, cooked): 207 calories, 6.1 g protein, 1.7 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 41.2 g carbohydrates, 0.2 g sugar, 2.3 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol *gluten-free*

 Learn how to eat healthy with grains, picture of the grain Farro


This grain—pronounced like tomorrow—sustained the Roman army and fed people of the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Like the other super grains, it’s rich in fiber and protein, but it’s also a good source of phytonutrients, which can help prevent disease, and antioxidants, which may help prevent serious medical conditions.

The hearty texture of farro makes it a wonderful addition to soup or salad. Impress your guests with a totally doable-but-elegant risotto or warm up with a bowl of hearty stew

Nutritional Value (per ½ cup, uncooked): 332 calories, 12.9 g protein, 1.9 g fat, <1 g saturated fat, 52.2 g carbohydrates, <1 g sugar, 4.6 g dietary fiber

Related: Gluten-Free Recipes That Anyone Will Enjoy

SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.  

References Freer, Chrissy. Supergrains: Cook Your Way to Great Health. Random House, 2013. 

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Jordan Gaddis

Jordan is an accomplished copywriter and editor with ten years' experience in marketing and communications. She loves reading and writing, she is a self-proclaimed word and grammar nerd, and she loves to bake, cook, hike, and practice yoga.