Whether you’re on a plant-based diet or not, the holiday season is often associated with massive amounts of delicious but heavy and not so healthy foods — let’s be honest! While indulging is good for the soul, eating nutritious whole plant foods most of the time is the best thing we can do for our bodies. It benefits our digestion, our immune system, our mood, and a host of other things that make us feel better all-around.
If your weight is of concern to you, a plant-based diet can help with that too. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy filling carbohydrates on a daily basis has been directly linked with the maintenance of a healthy body composition and a reduction in risk of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa are mainstays on the health scene but there are tons of lesser known alternatives that are worth including in your diet to help you manage your weight.
Winter Grains 101: What Are They
Winter grains or winter cereals refer to the cereals that are sown during fall and germinate in winter. These whole grains can tolerate the cold and tend to be hardier. They provide a great deal of organic matter to enrich the soil while also protecting it from erosion. Some of the most common winter grains include oats, triticale, barley, and wheat.
How Winter Grains Promote a Healthy Weight
Winter grains are whole grains which means that they contain the whole grain kernel, their bran and germ are left intact. Unlike refined grains that are processed like white bread or white rice, winter grains are full of fiber and retain more vitamins and minerals. This characteristic of winter grains gives them a whole host of benefits in terms of weight management.
Lemon Poppy Seed Quinoa Bars/One Green Planet
Winter grains, as mentioned, are high in dietary fiber. Eating foods rich in fiber is especially beneficial to maintaining our blood glucose levels stable and our insulin production at optimal levels. Keeping these two variables in check is paramount in keeping a healthy weight as insulin resistance (the opposite of insulin sensitivity) and high blood glucose are both related to increased fat storage and hunger levels. This leads to a higher incidence of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Thus, including winter grains such as oats, barley, or millet in your diet promotes a healthy metabolism that will help you manage your weight and protect yourself from diseases.
Indian-Style Quinoa and Peas/One Green Planet
Another important component in weight management is caloric intake and feeling full and satiated. Winter grains with their lower energy density are one of the best foods you can eat to keep hunger at bay. Their high amount of fiber means that they provide more volume without the consequent energy content. Since appetite is influenced more by the mass of food we eat than the actual calories it contains, it means that winter grains are a great option when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
The fiber content in winter grains also means more chewing which promotes satiation as well. We eat more slowly which stimulates more gut hormone responses and leads to the release of chemicals signaling fullness.
4-Ingredient Probiotic Oat Yogurt/One Green Planet
Winter cereals contain inulin and oligofructose which are two prebiotic fibers that ferment in the gut following ingestion. These fibers are able to mediate glucose and lipid oxidation, augment gut hormone responses which suppresses appetite, and slow gastro-intestinal transit. Combined, these actions make us feel fuller faster and contribute to stable blood sugar levels and body fat loss.
Some Winter Grains and Delicious Recipes
Now that you know a bit more about the health benefits of winter grains as a whole, it’s time to discover the tastiest ones to eat featuring recipes from the Food Monster App!
Farro is an ancient grain full of nutrition. It contains a good dose of protein and nutrients such as magnesium, B-vitamins, zinc, iron, and fiber. Farro has a nice chewy textured combined with a unique roasted nutty flavor. This winter grain can be used in a range of dishes including soups, salads, and heartier fare like this Farro Risotto, pictured above.
Want more farro recipes? Check out this Breakfast Farro With Cinnamon-Roasted Apples, this Black Bean Farro Burger, these Farro-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Maple Miso Balsamic Sauce, these Spring Veggie Farro Fritters, and this Farro and Mushroom Stuffed Squash.
If you have trouble digesting grains or have a gluten sensitivity, millet is the winter grain for you. As an ancient grain and also gluten-free, millet is easy to digest and has a pleasant light flavor with nutty tones. It’s packed with essential amino acids and vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc, making it a highly nutritious food. Millet is a versatile grain, you can use it in breakfast dishes, salads, appetizers, and even stuffing. Want to know more? Check out these 8 Incredible Ways to Cook With Millet.
Already familiar with millet and searching for creative new recipes? Give these Sweet Pea Millet Cakes, pictured above, a try! You can also add this Vegetable Millet Casserole, these Roasted Butternut Squash, Millet, and Lentil Burritos, this Macrobiotic Millet Cauliflower Mash With Shiitake Gravy, and these Caribbean Jerk Millet Burgers With Pineapple Guacamole to your repertoire.
Barley isn’t only one of the main ingredients in beer, it’s also a tasty and very nutritious grain! It contains B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, copper, chromium, manganese, and fiber. Barley’s taste can be best described as rich and nutty while its texture is on the chewy side. Some of the ways you can include barley in your diet are in soups and stews to which it gives a nice and comforting heartiness. It’s also great in salads and risotto dishes.
If you’re looking for delicious recipes featuring barley, we recommend this Saffron Barley With Black-Eyed Peas dish, pictured above. This Macrobiotic Pearled Barley Ojiya: Japanese Breakfast Porridge, this Lemony Pearl Barley Salad With Almonds and Herbs, this Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto, and this Spinach Salad With Barley Bacon are also amazing options.
Spelt has been around since prehistorical times but it has known a resurgence in popularity in recent years due to its interesting nutritional content and lower gluten content compared to other grains. This winter grain is higher in manganese, copper, and zinc than wheat and is also a good source of calcium, selenium, B-vitamins, and fiber. It has a pleasant mildly sweet and nutty taste that lands itself well to breads and baked goods.
Curious about what else you can make with spelt? You have to try these Roasted Cauliflower Spelt Za’atar Bowls, pictured above, and these Oat and Spelt Pancakes With Basil Seeds, this Blueberry Lemon Spelt Loaf, and this Simple Tomato and Onion Pizza With Spelt Crust.
Oats are likely part of your winter pantry staples already and if they’re not, you’re missing out! Packed with B-vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, these winter cereals are also mighty delicious and perfect for a comforting and filling breakfast that won’t derail your health goals.
Want to try out some new recipes featuring oats? We suggest giving these Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats, pictured above, a try along with these Quinoa and Oat Breakfast Fruit Rolls, these Scottish Oat Cakes, and these No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Balls. You can also check out these 15 Vegan Oatmeal Dishes that are perfect to start your day with!
If you’re looking for more delicious recipes featuring whole grains and other ingredients that promote a healthy lifestyle, then we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Shutterstock
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