When it comes to whole grains, brown rice tends to be on most people’s starting line-ups. It is, after all, a classic example of these foods, which studies show can help lower your risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. (They’re also far more nutritious than refined counterparts.) Familiar and versatile, you may find yourself reaching for it several times a week—and that’s ok. But if you’re hungry for a little variety, it’s helpful to remember that there’s a range of other whole grain choices out there for you to enjoy, too.
These whole grains are Canyon Ranch favorites because they’re especially quick to make and often deemed delicious by even the pickiest of palates. With simple tips from Scott Uehlein, former corporate chef at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, you can master preparing any that are unfamiliar to you on the first try and make those that might have tasted lackluster in the past shine.
“Bulgur wheat is one of the easiest and fastest whole grains to prepare,” says Uehlein. Heat water (just under two parts water to one part grain) in a large bowl in the microwave until it’s almost boiling, and then pour it over the bulgur. After about 10 minutes, it will be nice and fluffy and ready to eat. To transform bulgur into a tasty Middle Eastern tabbouleh, add diced cucumber and tomato, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley (all to taste), and then top with a splash of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
Searching for an alternative to pasta? Look no further than farro. When properly prepared, the taste will resemble your favorite angel hair or bowtie. To drastically reduce cooking time, soak it in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours. Then, boil it for 20 minutes in salted water and drain. Transition the farro to a pan and briefly sauté it with a little olive oil. Serve with a shake of salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.
The key to keeping quinoa from tasting, well, like cardboard is toasting it, says Uehlein. Rinse it very well in a fine-mesh strainer and spread it out in a baking sheet. Toast it until it’s golden brown in the oven (even a toaster oven will do). Next, place your quinoa in boiling salted water for 20 minutes. If you prefer a more al dente texture, boil for less time. Finish with lemon zest, fresh chopped herbs, a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Delicious and gluten-free!
Though it’s not technically a grain, this pick is full of fiber, has a delicious nutty flavor and is incredibly easy to make. Just like the process for bulgur wheat, heat water in the microwave until almost boiling and pour it on the couscous (same here: just under two parts water to one part couscous). Let it sit for 5 minutes in this case, and then fluff with a fork. Top with a smidge of salt and a touch of butter, then dig in!
More: The Truth About Carbs