June 17, 2024

Whole Grains 101 by Gretchen Scalpi

More Carb Options for People with Diabetes: Whole Grains!

Many people with diabetes or pre-diabetes believe that they will need to make drastic changes in the way that they eat. One of the most common beliefs is that those with diabetes have to completely cut out carbohydrates. Nothing is further from the truth! The good news:  you still can have carbohydrates and, in fact,  your eating plan should include grain products. The key is to pay attention to the portions you consume and to choose grain products wisely. A good rule of thumb is to choose grain products with plenty of fiber: 4 grams or more.

Selection of high fiber grain products goes way beyond switching from white to wheat bread.  Today there are many whole grain foods available right in your grocery store. Take a stroll down the “health food” aisle in your grocery store and you will see what I mean. What will you find?  Quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, kasha, barley, bulgur, and possibly even wheat berries (sometimes referred to as farro.) If you are unfamiliar with any of these products, you are not alone. It’s only been over the last few years that the “real whole grains” have made their appearance in places other than specialty food markets. I call them the “real whole grains” because when purchased, they are simply the grain itself…nothing added, just 100% grain.

Even if you have never tried cooking whole grains I would encourage you to experiment with some of these. Most are cooked much in the same way that you prepare rice:  add water and simmer for the designated period of time. Some grains such as kasha take as little as 15 minutes to cook, while wheat berries can take an hour or more. Keep in mind that each will have it’s own distinct flavor and texture. It’s up to you to decide how to season or combine grains with other foods.  Not sure how to you might do that? Think about how you season pasta or rice when you prepare it, then substitute the new grain instead. How about adding grains with vegetables, meat or poultry, in soups, or prepare as a breakfast cereal instead of oatmeal? A quick Google search of the grain you want to try will give you lots of ideas.

If you have diabetes, you still need to be mindful of how much grain you eat, even when it’s a whole grain. Carbohydrate content will vary, but typically 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the cooked grain will provide about 15 grams of carbohydrate (1 carb exchange.) Because whole grains are high in fiber, you will find them much more filling and less likely to spike your blood sugar in the way a refined carbohydrate food would.

Want to try out one of the whole grains? Here are a few guidelines for cooking them. 1 cup dry grain usually yields 3-4 cups cooked:

1 cup Wheat Berries or Barley (Pearl) to 3 cups Water: Cook covered on medium-high until wheat berries are plump & chewy (about 60 minutes)

1 cup Quinoa to 2 cups Water: Bring to boil then cover & simmer 10-15 minutes.

1 cup Buckwheat Groats or Kasha  to 2 cups Water: Bring to boil then cover & simmer 15 minutes.

Gretchen Scalpi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Certified Wellcoach®. Gretchen is the author of “The Quick Start Guide To Healthy Eating”, “The Everything Guide to Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes”, “The Everything Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd ed.”, “Pre-Diabetes Your Second Chance At Health” and the “Virtual Grocery Store Tour”.  You can find her products at http://www.nutritionxpert.com/products.