Want to Eat More Whole Grains? Try Wheat Berries! Featured

Authors: Registered Dietitians

Want to Eat More Whole Grains? Try Wheat Berries!

(HealthCastle.com) Want to have long-lasting energy and feel more satisfied?  Include more whole grains in your diet.  A whole grain [and foods made from them] has all three parts of the edible grain seed or kernel: the bran, [the outer layer of the seed], germ and the endosperm. A grain is considered refined when most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in losses of nutrients and phytochemicals. 

One of my new favourite whole grains is less well known. Wheat berries are the entire edible part of the wheat kernel.  Compared to refined grains, whole grains like wheat berries have higher levels of protein, fibre, B-vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, unsaturated fat and phytochemicals. Whole grains supply your body with long-lasting energy.  More energy?  I’m convinced!

According to the Whole Grains Council, anyone with blood vessels can benefit from whole grains!  Most of a whole grain’s health-promoting components are found in the bran and germ – so whole grains, and foods made from them, can contribute to our health.  Research has shown that people who eat whole grains may have better health - less heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive cancers, stroke and may have healthier weights. 

A friend introduced me to wheat berries, which have since become a staple in our house.   Wheat berries have a glorious crunch, a slightly nutty flavor and are delicious in casseroles, soups and salads.

Cooking 1 cup of raw wheat berries is as easy as 1-2-3:

1) Place wheat berries in a glass bowl and cover with water.  Soak in the fridge for a few hours or overnight*.  Drain.
2) Place wheat berries in a saucepan and add 3 cups of water. 
3) Bring to a boil then simmer for ~45-60 minutes.  Cooking time will depend on the freshness of the wheat berries and soaking time.

1 cup of raw wheat berries will yield about 3 cups of cooked wheat berries.  Once cooked, they can be stored in your fridge for between 3 - 5 days.

* There is debate as to whether you need to soak wheat berries to soften them.  I have prepared wheat berries both ways.  Without pre-soaking them, the cooking time is longer.

Because they are a whole grain, wheat berries can go “off” if stored too long.  Wheat berries should be stored in a cool and dry place.  Wheat berries that I have found in Calgary are sold in bulk, so make sure you label your container or bag.

Here is one of my favourite wheat berry salads.  This recipe was inspired by a colleague, mentor and friend, Mary Sue Waisman. 

3 cups cooked wheat berries (1 cup raw)
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup blueberries
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup finely chopped fresh mint or dill (optional)
Mesclun salad mix (optional; for serving)

2 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp lemon juice (fresh is ideal)
2 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp honey
1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1.  To the cooked wheat berries, add celery, blueberries, dried cranberries and mint or dill (if using).  Stir to combine.
2. Prepare dressing: In a small bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, apple juice, honey and garlic together. Pour over salad.
3. To the bottom of your serving bowl, add mesclun salad mix (if using).  Top with the remaining wheat berry salad.

This salad is delicious & nutritious!  Enjoy!

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