The following is an exclusive guest blog from Robin Asbell, Oldways Whole Grains Council culinary advisor, in honor of Whole Grains Month. Thank you Robin for spreading the whole grain love, not just during September, but all month long!
September is Whole Grains Month, and for grain nerds like me, that’s a whole month to roll out new recipes, articles, blogs, and classes that feature my favorite grains. You see, I’ve written two books, The New Whole Grains Cookbook (Chronicle Books) and The Whole Grain Promise (Running Press) that feature whole grains in the title, and six other cookbooks that slide whole grains into as many recipes as possible. The latest is Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More (Countryman Press) which features whole grains in hip, easy one bowl meals.
As part of this month of whole grain revelry, I have posted whole grain focused blogs with recipes every week, as well as appearing on local CBS and ABC aﬃliates to tempt the public to eat delicious grainy dishes. I was also thrilled to interview Cynthia Harriman, Oldways Director of Nutrition Strategy, to get the latest info on grains for my upcoming column in the Star Tribune Taste Section. The column, “Meatless in Minnesota,” celebrates a meatless lifestyle, and as I say in the piece, the whole grain option and the vegetarian option are often the same dish.
Cynthia is a valuable resource for anyone interested in whole grains, and I can’t thank her enough for providing so much well-researched, balanced information over the years. Read on to get some more nuggets of info, freshly prepared for Whole Grains Month.
Robin Asbell, cookbook author, recipe developer, & WGC culinary advisor
Robin Asbell: How long has September been Whole Grains Month?
Cynthia Harriman: We oﬃcially inaugurated Whole Grains Month in September of 2007. It caught on very quickly, and was added to the US government’s oﬃcial National Health Observances calendar that same year.
RA: How will people beneﬁt from eating more whole grains?
CH: There are many proven health beneﬁts from eating more whole grains, including reduction in heart disease and stroke risk, reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and better weight maintenance. Whole grains improve digestion and keep you full longer, too, so you’re less likely to raid the vending machine mid-morning. Beyond all the health beneﬁts, people are increasingly citing the fuller, nuttier taste of whole grains as a key beneﬁt. 40% of the 1,500 adults surveyed in the WGC’s 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey said they choose whole grains because of the taste.
RA: Are restaurants adopting more whole grains on menus?
CH: Absolutely! According to Dataessential’s Menu Trends 2015 Report, the term “whole grain” is mentioned on 40% more menus now, compared to four years ago. Quinoa leads the way, appearing on more than 7% of all menus, and an impressive 20% of fast casual menus, according to Dataessential. You can see more statistics about the growth of whole grains on menus on the Whole Grain Statistics page of our website.
RA: Why do you think that whole grains are an important part of a meatless diet?
CH: Both whole grains and legumes are important to round out the fruits and vegetables in a meatless diet. Whole grains have great staying power (you’d get pretty hungry JUST eating vegetables!), and provide additional texture variety to meals. From restaurants’ point of view, they provide another center-of-the-plate focal point; where white rice has often been just a ﬁller on a restaurant plate, grains like farro and quinoa become part of a dish’s description and selling power.
RA: Which up and coming grain do you think we will see more of in the coming year?
CH: Here at the WGC we’re rooting for sorghum and millet. They’re both aﬀordable, and fairly neutral in ﬂavor so they complement almost any other ingredient. At our upcoming conference, our attendees will be sampling a millet and sweet potato falafel, and a Thai Sorghum Stir-Fry — just to give you a hint of these grains’ versatility.