Good Carbs: the 12 Best Whole Grain Foods

If you ban all carbs, all the time, you’re doing yourself a disservice and possibly cutting your life short, according to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study is actually a meta-analysis, published in the journal Circulation, which cross-referenced 12 different studies as well as unpublished research from two different National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Researchers observed the daily habits of 786,076 men and women, total.

The verdict? People who ate 70 grams (about 4 servings) of whole grains per day, compared with those who ate little or no whole grains, had a 22 percent lower risk of premature death, a 23 percent lower risk of death from heart disease, and a 20 percent lower risk of death from cancer.

The researchers believe compounds in whole grains may contribute to the impressive health benefits. What’s more, whole grains’ high fiber content may lower cholesterol production and glucose response, and increase satiety.

Your best bet is to choose wholesome sources of whole grains such as bran, oats, and quinoa that have at least 16g of whole grains per serving. Oh, and nix the Cheetos. Unrefined carbs aren’t doing you any favors. Here, we’ve highlighted the best whole grains you can cook with and snack on.

1. Amaranth

This powerhouse whole grain, loaded with protein, iron, calcium, and fiber, is actually gluten-free (it’s a seed!) and can be eaten as a sort of cereal or pasta.

2. Sorghum

Unlike other whole grains, this ancient cereal is eaten with its waxy outer layers intact, so it retains most of its nutrients—like compounds called policosanols that may prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and antioxidants believed to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and some neurological diseases. The flavor is mild, sometimes sweet, so it’s easy to cook with and filling.

3. Buckwheat

While it’s eaten as a grain, buckwheat technically is a seed related to rhubarb. Also gluten-free, buckwheat is loaded with easily-digested and bioavailable protein (meaning your body can easily break down and soak up all its nutrients). It’s also rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals like potassium, zinc, and copper.

4. Freekeh

Freekeh is wheat that’s been harvested early, then roasted, which gives it a natural smokiness. The cereal grain retains more protein and fiber than more mature wheat (because it’s plucked when it’s young). A quarter-cup of uncooked freekeh has 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, beating out brown rice. It’s also high in antioxidants that support optimal eye health.

5. Barley

Barley, when cooked, has a pasta-like consistency that holds up well to simmering and cooking. Toss it into soups or swap it in for noodles. The versatile grain is also low on the glycemic index (28 compared to white rice, which has 89), so it won’t spike your blood sugar, can help lower cholesterol, and keep you fuller longer.

6. Farro

Farro is a protein- and fiber-rich grain nutty in flavor and chewy in texture. An amazing side dish or post-workout recovery meal, farro is a good source of magnesium, which supports muscle and bone function, and vitamin B3, which helps your body break down carbs, fat, and protein.

7. Quinoa

You’re probably more than familiar with quinoa now. The powerhouse whole gran boasts a bevy of healthy benefits—it can help fend off heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It’s also a “complete protein” that contains all nine essential amino acids.

8. Ezekial bread

Ezekial bread is made from refined wheat or pulverized whole wheat, millet, barley, spelt, soybeans, and lentils, all of which are sprouted. The sprouting process is fairly simple; water is added to grown grains, already high in nutrients, to release their energy and maximize nutrition and flavor; this also makes it easier for your body to absorb the grains’ nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc.

9. Brown rice

Cooked brown rice contains 5g of protein per cup and is unbelievably versatile.  After quinoa, brown rice has the highest level of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), meaning it contains a good amount of leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

10. Oats

Oats are an incredibly satisfying breakfast staple because the grain’s nutrients, like fiber, are fully intact. They’re sodium-free and special in that they take on practically any flavor you season them with. Turn the steel-cut variety into cold overnight oats and try these 6 other non-boring ways to eat your oatmeal.

11. KIND Healthy Grains Popped Bites

Need a new snack that boasts the wholesomeness of whole grains? Well, how about a snack that touts the benefits of six super grains—oats, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, and quinoa—18g of them at that (per serving). KIND’s latest treat makes granola snack-able. The grains are combined with popcorn, making them a low-sodium, gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, and non-GMO bite that’s totally portable and flavorful. Choose from Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. ($33 for six bags,

12. Van’s Simply Delicious Mighty Good BBQ Chips

These flavorful BBQ chips have 17g of whole grains including brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, and amaranth, Take a look at the ingredient list. These are at the top: Brown Rice Flour, Oats, Millet, Quinoa And Amaranth.

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