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Beyond Whole Wheat – Five Healthy Grains

We all know that whole grains are good for us and an important part of a healthy diet; the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the majority of nutritionists recommend that we eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grains per day. If you're like many people, your go-to grain is whole wheat, but after a while, it can become tedious eating the same grain day-in and day-out.

To help you add some more healthy variety to your diet, I did some research and put together this list of five alternative healthy grains.

1. Bulgur - This form of cracked wheat is very popular throughout Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. One serving of bulgur wheat provides more than 50 percent of your daily supply of manganese and is also packed with fiber.

How to Eat It: One of the most popular bulgur dishes is tabbouleh, a salad that combines the grain with fresh chopped parsley, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and is dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Buckwheat - This hardy grain is grown throughout Russia and Asia and has an earthy taste that some describe as being similar to a mushroom. One serving of buckwheat gives you more than 20 percent of your daily requirements for magnesium, copper and manganese.

How to Eat It: Buckwheat pancake mix is readily available in many stores and makes for a delicious breakfast. Another easy to way to enjoy buckwheat is to purchase Japanese buckwheat soba noodles and prepare them with a stir-fry or a soup.

3. Quinoa - Quinoa is technically a seed, but the Whole Grains Council and nutritionists include it with whole grains because of its nutritional properties. The seeds have a slightly nutty taste and contain a complete supply of amino acids. In addition, quinoa offers more than 10 percent of your daily supply for protein and is a good source of phosphorous, magnesium and manganese.

How to Eat It: Quinoa is delicious when added to muffins and cookies and can be eaten as a breakfast cereal instead of oatmeal. You can also use quinoa in any dish that calls for rice.

4. Amaranth - This grain was first cultivated by Native Americans throughout Central and South America. Like bulgur, amaranth supplies you with more than 50 percent of your required manganese for the day and also contains more than 20 percent of the recommended magnesium and phosphorous for a standard 2,000-calorie diet.

How to Eat It: Amaranth can be popped in the microwave like popcorn and eaten as a snack. The popped kernels are also delicious topped with soymilk, low fat almond milk or low fat cow's milk and fruit.

5. Teff - The world's smallest grain, teff is a staple of Ethiopian cooking. Although you may need to order it online, teff is definitely a must try grain. One serving gives you an entire day's supply of manganese and more than 20 percent of your daily copper requirements. The grain is also rich in protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, thiamin and pyridoxine. The grain is also gluten-free.

How to Eat It: Teff flour can be used in place of wheat in almost any recipe. White teff grain is an excellent substitute for rice, and brown teff grain can be used in desserts, as it has an almost chocolate-like taste.

Getting 6 to 11 servings of whole grains will be much easier if you try to mix up the types that you're eating. Also, be sure to spread out the servings throughout the day and check labels to ensure that you truly understand what a portion size is--it's probably smaller than you think!

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