Get Into Grains

By Rena Valentino Roark | Health and Fitness Coaching

This last decade has made many people so carb conscious, most are squeamish or downright scared to even be near the “forbidden food.”  However, whole grains have been a central element of the human diet since early civilization – the word “meal” meaning ground grains, which is exactly what people had eaten as their staple meal for centuries without ever giving it a second thought.

Humans began settling down into farming communities and ceased being hunter/gatherers when they were able to cultivate grain crops. On all continents, people began living in these farming communities, and they had lean, strong bodies.  In the Americas, corn was the staple grain. In India and Asia, it was rice. In Africa, people ate sorghum. In the Middle East, they used wheat, making pita bread, tabouli and couscous. In Europe, corn, millet, wheat, rice, pasta, dark breads and even beer were considered health-providing foods. In Scotland, oats were a staple food. In Russia, they ate buckwheat or kasha. Very few people were overweight, and no one blamed it on over-excess of grains.

Wholegrains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and B-complex vitamins.  Some grains, such as quinoa, contain all the amino acids to make it a complete protein, having as much protein as a cup of milk.  Because the body absorbs whole grains slowly, they provide satisfying, high-quality energy and endurance.

Wheat has become such a central grain in America that most peoples’ whole grain source has only come from whole wheat, which contains gluten and doesn’t work for everybody.  The best way to find the best grains for you is to experiment and see how they make you feel after an hour or two after – are you satisfied, still hungry, full of energy, lacking energy…  Check out the list below for new grain ideas and find your great grain!

  1 Cup Grains




Cook Time


Contains Gluten?


  Common Grains:


  Brown rice
2 cups 45-60 minutes No
  Buckwheat (kasha) 2 cups 20-30  minutes No
  Oats (whole oats) 3 cups 75-90 minutes Possibly (due to content, contact, or contamination)
  Oatmeal (rolled oats) 2 cups 8-20 minutes Possibly (due to content, contact, or contamination)
  Alternative Grains
3 cups 30 minutes No
  Barley (pearled) 2-3 cups 60 minutes Yes
  Barley (hulled) 2-3 cups 90 minutes Yes
  Bulgur (cracked wheat) 2 cups 20 minutes Yes
  Cornmeal (aka polenta) 3 cups 20 minutes No
  Couscous* 1 cup 5 minutes Yes
  Kamut 3 cups 90 minutes Yes
  Millet 2 cups 30 minutes No
  Quinoa 2 cups 15-20 minutes No
  Rye berries 3 cups 2 hours Yes
  Spelt 3 cups 2 hours Yes
  Wheat berries 3 cups 60 minutes Yes
  Wild rice 4 cups 60 minutes No

*Not technically a grain, but a small pasta product made from wheat

Cooking times are approximate and depend on how strong the heat is. It’s a good idea to lift the lid and check the water level halfway through cooking and toward the end, making sure there is still enough water not to burn the grains, but don’t stir. Once cooking is done, fluff the grains with a fork.

One cup of dry grain yields enough for 2 to 4 people. Basic directions for cooking grains:

  1. Measure the grain, rinse in cold water using a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Add grains to recommended amount of water and bring to a boil.
  3. A pinch of sea salt may be added to grains to help the cooking process, with the exception of kamut, amaranth and spelt (salt interferes with their cooking time).
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for the suggested amount of time, without stirring during the cooking process.

Note: It is optional to soak the grains for a few hours before to soften. Be sure to drain soaking water before cooking.


Adapted from Institute for Integrative Nutrition materials
©Rena Valentino Roark, CHC, CPFT

Bulu Box | Rena Valentino Roark, Guest Blogger, Personal Trainer

About Our Guest Blogger
Rena Valentino Roark | Health and Fitness Coaching

Rena Valentino Roark, CHC, CPFT, is a Certified Health Coach and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer.  She works with individuals and group clients as a health and fitness coach to offer support and guidance for their health goals through a holistic look at their lives, helping to find balance between exercise, diet, career, and relationships.  Providing accountability and motivation, she can help reduce stress, increase energy and self-confidence, and ultimately help individuals work towards the best version of themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about how Rena can help support you in your health goals, contact Rena at



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