Monday, March 31, 2014

I Dare You to Eat More Whole Grains

As athletes our nutritional needs are higher. We need overall more calories than the sedentary person, so we need more carbs, protein, fluid, and vitamins. Sometimes we lose sight of this and slip into the old adage that because our metabolic ovens burn hot, we can eat whatever we want and more of it. In reality, we should be hyper-focused on what goes into our bodies to efficiently fuel our sport.  In a two part-series, I’m going to challenge you to take a closer look at your food. First, we’ll aim to eat more whole grain sources of carbohydrates. Next week I’ll help you trim out added sugars. So without further ado….

  • Lower the risk of chronic disease
  • Prevents leaky gut and food intolerances
  • Provides us with more antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins
  • Protects cognitive function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Control weight

Benefits of whole grains to your performance:

  • Longer lasting energy. Whole grains have more fiber and take longer to break down (aka complex carbs). Therefore, they provide you with more sustainable energy.
  • More vitamins. Whole grains are less processed than their “white” counterparts. The refining process strips grains of their endosperm (aka fiber) and vitamins. These vitamins (vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus) help keep our immune systems fighting and help convert our food into energy.
  • More protein. Although not our best source (and not a complete source) of protein, grains do provide us with some. As athletes our needs are higher for recovery and repair, so the added bonus is great. We also know the protein/carb combo helps us recover and keeps us full. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g protein versus 4 grams from a cup of white rice. 


The bread and cereal aisles are even confusing to me, so I thought I’d give you a few tips. First off, you need to pick up the food, turn it over, and look at it before placing it in the grocery cart. Look for the first ingredient to be 100% or look for the whole grain stamp on the box.
Here is a review and list of best bets for bread. Some of the options may have been updated (the list is from a few years back), it will still be a great starting place.

Here is a similar review and list for cereal. I’ve also posted on the cereal aisle before, so make sure to check out that.

An even better bet is to skip the bag or the box and go for the real thing. Instead of bread at lunch, go for brown rice or quinoa (and if you’re really feeling edgy, millet or buckwheat) with some lean meat and veggies. Or have a hot or cold version of the hot cereals at breakfast. If you soak grains overnight in milk, yogurt or other non-dairy beverage, you can eat them cold. I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is really into the Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Wheat-less cereal. I don’t like a lot of variety at breakfast and find myself reaching for the cereal bag (I buy those giant, compostable bags of Nature’s Path GF cereals) or some buckwheat frozen waffles so I too need a good nutritional kick in the butt. I am writing it for everyone to witness and hold me accountable: my goal this week is to eat the 8 Grain cereal three times. And I’m going to try overnight oats at least once. Who’s with me? Come on - I dare you! And if you’re already doing oatmeal, explore other hot cereals or mix it up with a combo.

If you are gluten free, it can be more challenging to find whole grains but it’s definitely possible if you put your mind to it. By incorporating grains like amaranth, quinoa (my favorite, as you know!), millet, buckwheat, teff, stone ground corn (polenta, grits), sorghum, and oats*, you can incorporate some hearty starches and not miss out on fiber or vitamins. *Oats are inherently gluten free but are usually processed or farmed with wheat. Gluten free oats are available; Bob’s Red Mill, my favorite whole grain and gluten free product line, offers a variety. You can also substitute some wholesome flours by using a bean or nut flour. We made falafel last night and used garbanzo bean flour instead of AP flour. I had a GF pizza in NY City that was made out of garbanzo bean flour. I think about that pizza all the time and wish I could remember where I got it. I would drive up there this weekend if I could figure it out….Before I diverge any more, you can check out more on whole grain and gluten free by visiting the Whole Grains Council web page. 

Check back later this week to see how my cereal challenge is going. If my 19-month old can do it, so can I!


Nutrition Action Healthletter by the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Whole Grains Council


  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I am huge fan of Bob's Red Mill cooked cereal, especially the 10 grain variety, which, I believe, contains whole wheat. For less than $5, you get several nutrient-packed meals from a single bag. I also recommend Whole Foods' organic oat groats, which are available in the dried good bins. These oats take longer to cook, but I've gotten into the habit of cooking a pot for a week and storing it in individual containers.

  2. The bulk bins at Whole Foods are a great way to try new grains. You don't have to commit to a large amount but you can still try some of the more adventurous grains such as millet or buckwheat. Their website ( is also a great resource for finding recipes and cooking instructions for some of these new grains. Thanks for the reminder Dusty!

  3. Part of my conversion over the last couple months has been a 100% switch to whole wheat pasta. Sometimes I like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but now only on whole wheat bread. Cereal is my next task!

  4. Hey Andy, Don't forget about some of the other grains besides wheat. I dare you to try quinoa with the same pasta toppings you would normally use. Let us know how it goes. Julie tried to post a recipe for Chai Overnight Oats but didn't have luck so here it is:

  5. Buying some after work! Thanks and will update!

  6. Teffcom is the main Teff Company on the planet situated in Tel Aviv, Israel. Teff grain is a conventional organization serving throughout the previous 50 years and the business is traveling through era to generation.We are additionally sending out other exceptional items everywhere throughout the world.