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will eating whole grains make me fat?

Rachel Venokur-Clark of ReNew (CHC, AADP) offers her two-cents on the carb debate, breaks down great grains, and gives a recipe - all in time for lunch!

I just got off the phone with one of my favorite clients. We were talking about a fear that many people share- the fear of carbohydrates! I can't tell you how many clients come to me riddled with anxiety and confusion about carbohydrates. I love when my clients have their" a-ha!" light bulb moment, realizing after some fun food experiments, that the right kind of carbohydrates actually makes them feel great! They find that they have more energy, feel fuller longer; they have reduced their cravings for sugar and even have better digestion-all without gaining a single pound! Are you ready to get over your carb fears? Start with these ancient superfoods I talk about below, then contact me for some more fun food experiments. Those "a-ha!" moments are so worth it!

Whole grains have been a central element of the human diet since early civilization. Humans ceased being hunter-gatherers and settled down into farming communities when they were able to cultivate their grain crops. People living in these communities-on all continents-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 made 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.

Contrary to the low-carb diet believers out there, complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, will not make you fat. In fact, 1grams of carbohydrate has only 4 calories compared to 1gram of fat, which has 9 calories. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E, and the B-complex vitamins. Because the body absorbs grains slowly, they provide sustained and high quality energy.

If you have already tried brown rice and whole wheat pasta and are ready to delve a little deeper into some more interesting ancient grains, look for these options on your next shopping trip. Last month's issue of O Magazine reminded me that there are so many grains out there worth rediscovering.

Freekeh: Found in the Middle East, these crunchy roasted wheat kernels have a smoky flavor. The kernels are harvested when they are young, which means they provide more vitamins, minerals and nutrients than other grains. Freekeh is super high in fiber, about 4 times more than brown rice and is considered a pre-biotic, aiding in healthy digestion. Try cooking some up and sprinkling it on soups or salads.

Amaranth: This grain from Central America has a nutty flavor and can be found in seed, flour or puffed cereal varieties. Amaranth has over 5 grams of fiber per servings, almost as much calcium as low-fat cottage cheese and more protein than a hard-boiled egg! And it is Gluten Free! Cook up these grains and eat like you would oatmeal. Cooked amaranth is also great for stuffing veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers.

Farro: Found in Egypt, this wheat-like grain is chewy and tastes similar to barley. Farro is high in magnesium and B and E vitamins. Magnesium is sometimes called nature's muscle relaxant, so eating farro may help to relieve cramps and muscle tension! Farro makes a great hot or cold salad. For a yummy side dish, try cooking some up with sautéed shitake mushrooms, shallots, thyme and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Chia: Chia seeds originate in Mexico. These seeds have an unassuming taste, but contain the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids! One small tablespoon of chia seeds gives you 3 grams of fiber! Because the seeds absorb several times their volume in water, they help you to feel fuller faster. Chia seeds can be used to add extra nutrients and moisture to homemade muffins or breads and they make a great addition to your morning bowl of oatmeal or yogurt.

Italian Farro Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 30-40 minutes. Yields 4-8 servings (depending on if used as a side dish or main course). Can be served hot or cold.

2 cups uncooked farro

3 cups water

1 cup pitted green or black olives-chopped

2 cups artichoke hearts-sliced

1 cup  canned kidney beans-rinsed

1 ½ cup roasted red bell pepper-sliced

½ medium Vidalia onion-chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes-halved

1 lb low fat mozzarella or Tofu-cubed **Optional**

½ flat leaf parsley-chopped

4-5 leaves of fresh basil-chopped

1- In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and salt it lightly. Add the farro, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until the grains are soft but still have some firmness at the center. If the farro is ready but has not absorbed all the water, drain the cooked farro in a strainer. Each brand absorbs a little differently.

2- Fold in the remaining ingredients. Serve warm or room temperature.

Written by Rachel Venokur-Clark.  Rachel is available for nutrition consultations at Studio 26. To access her services, please visit