I’ll let you in on a little secret. Weight loss, better health, longevity and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle can be found in your neighborhood grocery store. Whole grains, in particular, are an essential part of the secret to living a better, healthier life.
While there are so many fallacies out there regarding carbohydrates, there is no better time than September – Whole Grains Month – to put some of these misconceptions regarding carbohydrates and grains to rest. Yes, it’s true that a diet packed in highly refined carbohydrates, such as those found in processed crackers, cereals, and pastries, may be increasing our risk of diseases; but, it’s also true that intake of whole grains actually leads to health promotion. Whole grains not only provide carbohydrates, they are packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even protein – nutrients and compounds essential for fighting off disease and improving our chances for living well into our 90s.
Even better news is that whole grains taste delicious and are incredibly versatile in a variety of meatless recipes. When you focus on animal foods at every meal, your choices are limited to the basic beef, pork, chicken, or seafood selection. But when you plan your meals around plant foods – such as whole grains, including amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, sorghum, teff, wheat (including Kamut® wheat, farro, and spelt) and wild rice – the sky’s the limit.
A wide variety of ethnic dishes, including those inspired by Mexican, Indian and African flavors, are anything but bland and boring. What’s more, many of these ethnic cuisines use whole grains to form the foundation for a variety of recipes.
Antipasto Couscous with Chickpeas
A staple in North African cuisine, couscous is actually small pieces of semolina pasta made from whole grain flour. My whole grain couscous dish is based on a variety of flavorful preserved vegetables, such as sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and marinated artichoke hearts. You can keep these ingredients in your pantry and make this wholesome one-dish meal at a moment’s notice. And it’s just as good served cold as a salad.
Makes 6 servings
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 medium Red Onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, sliced
- Half 12-ounce jar drained, sliced Fire-Roasted Red or Yellow Peppers (about ½ cup)
- 1/2 cup canned marinated Mushrooms, drained
- Half 12-ounce jar marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained and sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup cooked or canned Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), no salt added, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup pitted Green Olives, drained
- 1 Tbsp Capers
- 1-1/2 cups Water
- 1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Lemon Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 cup uncooked Whole Wheat Couscous
- 1/3 cup chopped Pistachios
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, chickpeas, olives, capers, water, vinegar, lemon pepper, paprika, and oregano. Cook until bubbly, about 3 minutes.
- Pour the couscous over the vegetable mixture (do not stir) then cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Sprinkle with the pistachios and serve immediately.
Notes: Chill this dish to serve it as a salad. If you plan on serving it much later, reserve the pistachios to keep them from getting soggy and sprinkle them on at the last minute.
Per serving (about 1-1/8 cups):
Calories: 240, Carbohydrate: 38 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 8 g, Total fat: 6 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Sodium: 252 mg
Star nutrients: Vitamin C (20% DV), niacin (10% DV), folate (13% DV), iron (11% DV)
Recipe from The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today, copyright © Sharon Palmer, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available June 2012.
Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian ™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Sharon makes her home with her husband and two sons in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles.