Posts Tagged ‘whole grains’

The International Year of Millets 2023. Rich in heritage, full of potential. #IYM2023

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 the International Year of Millets as an opportunity to raise awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of millets and their ability to grow in harsh, arid and changing climates.

So, what are millets?

Millets encompass a diverse group of small-grained dryland cereals including pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and Guinea millets, as well as fonio, sorghum and teff. They were among the first plants to be domesticated and serve as a traditional staple crop for millions of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. They are deeply rooted in Indigenous Peoples’ culture and traditions and help guarantee food security in areas where they are culturally relevant. Millets are the leading staple grains in India, and are commonly eaten in China, South America, Russia, and the Himalayas. Millets are used in everything from flatbreads to porridges, side dishes and desserts, and they can even be fermented and consumed as an alcoholic beverage. In addition, millets can be ground and used as flour or prepared as polenta in lieu of corn meal. 

Millets can be found in white, gray, yellow or red. Their flavor is enhanced by toasting the dry grains before cooking. When cooked, millets fluff up like rice and they are described as having a warm, buttery or nutty flavor. They pair well with mushrooms, herbs, warm spices, scallions and squash. To prepare millet, bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of grain. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. For a creamier texture, add more water.

In the United States, millets are more often found in birdseeds than on our tables, but they are making a comeback as demand for ancient grains and gluten free options continue to grow. Millets are sometimes referred to as “nutri-cereals” because of the nutrients they contain: dietary fiber, antioxidants, protein and minerals, including iron. They are naturally gluten free and have a low glycemic index.

To learn more about the International Year of Millets, watch this 1-minute promotional video:

If you have a favorite recipe for millets, please share in the comments below!

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Katie Schlagheck, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ottawa & Sandusky Counties


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. International Year of Millets 2023. https://www.fao.org/millets-2023/en

Oldways Whole Grains Council. Millet and Teff. https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/millet-and-teff-%E2%80%93-november-grains-month

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Picture of different noodle types

When asked what my favorite food is, my answer is always the same – Pasta! I love the variety of noodle types and ways it can be prepared. From pasta salad as a cold dish in the summer to warm chicken noodle soup in the fall and winter, pasta can be enjoyed at any time of the year!

Looking throughout history, it seems I am not alone in this love. Depictions of individuals making and eating pasta have been found all over the world, and in many different cultures. Artwork in a 4th century B.C. Etruscan tomb shows a group making a pasta-like food. Across the continent, people in ancient China were also making noodles around the same time as the Etruscans. Early colonists brought noodle-making to America, where they would cover their cooked noodles with cheese or a cream sauce.

Today, there are many alternatives to try in place of the commonly used noodle made of durum wheat. One popular method is making noodles from vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, or spaghetti squash. These veggie noodles are created using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler and can have a similar shape and texture to traditional noodles, but are lower in carbohydrates and calories. They are also a great way to include more vegetables in your diet!

Another alternative pasta includes chickpea noodles. Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are a type of legume called pulses – great sources of protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, pulses are considered to be in both the “vegetable group” as well as the “protein group.” Pasta made from chickpeas generally does not contain wheat flour and is often compatible with special diets such as gluten-free, low carb, and vegetarian.

Pasta dishes can be a way to bring more whole grains into your diet as well. Many common pasta shapes are also available in whole wheat options. When looking at pasta packages in your local grocery store, look out for the whole grain stamp. This yellow stamp on the box will tell you if the noodles inside contain at least half a serving of whole grains.  

Whole Grain Food Stamps

When making pasta for your next dinner, be sure to pair your noodles with healthier sauces, herbs, and vegetables. Visit the Celebrate Your Plate website for some great recipes and ideas.

What pasta dishes are your family’s favorites?

Written by:  Jessica Lowe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County, lowe.495@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County


Celebrate Your Plate (2022). Recipes. https://celebrateyourplate.org/recipes?query=pasta

Garden-Robinson, J. (2017). Pulses: The Perfect Food. Northern Pulse Growers Association. https://www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/sites/default/files/2022-07/fn1508.pdf

Meehan, A. (2017). Oodles of Zoodles. Live Smart Ohio. https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/food/meehan-89osu-edu/oodles-of-zoodles/

National Pasta Association (n.d.). History of Pasta. https://sharethepasta.org/pasta-101/pasta-iq/history-of-pasta/

Oldways Whole Grains Council (n.d.). Identifying Whole Grains. https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/identifying-whole-grain-products

Wheat Foods Council (n.d.). Classes of Wheat. http://wheatfoods.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/6classes.pdf

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colorful plate of international foods

The world of nutrition spans different cultures. Have you ever considered celebrating and learning about different cuisines? Have you ever wondered what your plate would look like with Asian cuisine? Filipino cuisine? Latin American cuisine? The possibilities are endless. You can use MyPlate as a guide and  enjoy  various cuisines from all over the world.

The dietary guidelines recommend  consuming at least half your grains as whole grains, increasing your overall fiber intake. Sources include fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is  recommended to eat lean protein, which can be fish, chicken, beef, and other animal products. Healthy fats are important for heart health and can be found in nuts, seeds, and oils.

 Ginisang Gulay is a sautéed vegetable dish that has okra, squash, okra, eggplant, string beans, and shrimp. Shrimp is a protein that provides vitamin B12, selenium, and choline.  Pinakbet is also a great choice, since it contains vegetables with beans, a plant-based protein, and can be served with whole grain noodles. This dish is a 4-food group powerhouse!

Who doesn’t like yogurt? It contains protein, probiotics, and taste great! In the middle eastern dish Keshek, there is sundried powder yogurt and stir-fried lean ground beef. Double protein, double the yum! You can incorporate grains and fruit by adding a piece of whole grain pita bread and side of fruit. Now for an important question, who likes pancakes? I know I do! Besan cheela are savory pancakes made from chickpea flour and vegetables. In this dish you are getting grains, vegetables, and protein. All from pancakes, sounds too good to be true right?

One of my personal favorite dishes is the Salvadorean pupusa. The pupusa is made of masa or a corn cake texture and can be filled with different meats, cheese, topped with salsa, and curtido, a type of fermented cabbage. The curtido is fermented in vinegar and contains probiotics, which can help with gut health. From this dish there is protein when meat is added, dairy from the cheese, vegetables from the curtido, and grains from the masa.

All the dishes listed both demonstrate how you can still get your fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains from trying different international cuisine. Do these foods sound delicious?  

Interested in learning and trying more international foods? This month try cooking a new international food so you can learn how to cook with different ingredients. If you normally pan or deep fry, try baking, air frying, or grilling, which can reduce fat by 50-80%. On top of experimenting with new food you can also learn about the countries culture and symbolism of using certain spices and food pairings. Happy eating!

Written by: Ashley Denise Ascenio, Intern with Wood County Extension, Bowling Green State University Graduate Student in Food and Nutrition, asencia@bgsu.edu

Reviewed by: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension Wood County.

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You’ve probably heard a lot about Gluten. Labels in grocery stores highlight many products as gluten free… Many of these seem like healthy products. But does being “gluten free” make something healthy? Is gluten bad for you? And… what is gluten?

What is Gluten? Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley. This protein provides bread, grain, and pasta products with elasticity and the ability to hold shape. Without gluten, we wouldn’t have many of the grain products we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years!bread-725873_1920

Is Gluten Unhealthy? The simple answer is “no.” However, there are 3 groups of individuals who are unable to eat gluten products due to specific dietary restrictions:

  1. Those with Celiac Disease: When those with Celiac Disease consume gluten, their bodies send immune responses that attack their small intestines. Over prolonged periods of time, this immune response destroys the intestine’s ability to obtain nutrients from food. Celiac Disease is a serious condition that can cause digestive issues,  fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, and malnutrition.
  2. Those with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS):  Those with NCGS will not experience damage to their small intestine due to gluten consumption. But they will experience a list of unpleasant symptoms including brain fatigue, lost energy, and digestive issues.
  3. Those with wheat allergies: Those who are allergic to wheat experience allergic reactions to  wheat itself– not to gluten in wheat. These individuals must avoid gluten simply because it is naturally present in wheat products.

spike-8739_1920For the rest of us, gluten is just a protein in wheat, barley, & rye. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans consume grains daily, making half our grains whole. Whole grains are essential to digestive health and provide valuable nutrients. Whole grains include wheat, barley, and rye, as well as other non-gluten products like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.

If you don’t have Celiac Disease, an allergy, or sensitivity to gluten; eating wheat, barley, and rye is not unhealthy. Instead, these whole grains can supply important nutrients.

Why are gluten-free products everywhere? Formally, the U.S. lacked any rules regarding what food companies could market as being “gluten free.” In 2013, The FDA created a law which required all food products to meet specific criteria before they could be marketed as “gluten free.” This rule ensured all individuals with Celiac Disease could be certain the food they purchased was safe.

Since this time, the use of “gluten free” on labels has grown in popularity as a way to market products to those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. However, these labels do not indicate greater nutritional value. Some products which say “gluten free” would never normally contain gluten. For example, packages of potatoes, rice, candy,  or meat which market that they’re”gluten free,” do not normally include gluten. But this label indicates to those with Celiac or gluten sensitivity that no gluten has been present on the equipment used to process these foods– aka that the risk of cross-contact with gluten on equipment is limited to the trace amount allowable by the FDA. Nothing has been done to make these non-grain products healthier.This label is simply there to highlight a safe products for those with Celiac or gluten sensitivity.

So what does this mean for me? If you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, be sure to consume gluten-free whole grains which are easy to find in most stores.  bread-399286_1920

If you don’t have Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity, enjoy wheat, barley, and rye products: Just be sure to make half these choices whole grain. This will help you choose grain products high in nutrients and help you to live healthy live well!



UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases. Celiac vs. gluten sensitivity vs. wheat allergies. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved from: http://gastro.ucla.edu/site.cfm?id=281

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

U.S. Food and Drug Aministration (2014). ‘Gluten free’ now means what it says. FDA Consumer Health Information. Retrieved from:  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM363276.pdf

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Recipes that offer variety and flexibility are very appropriate for today’s society.  Making MyPlate choices as you make grocery selections helps this week’s meals come together more easily.

Brown rice is a nutrition powerhouse that provides whole grains and B vitamins and great energy.  Versatility is fun when it comes to rice bowls.  Breakfast lunch and dinner all have options that can begin with this inexpensive and nutritious grain.  On average a half cup serving of brown rice costs just 10 cents.

A good suggestion is to cook a large quantity of brown rice at one time and have it on hand for the week.  It freezes well and retains moisture.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

MyPlate on a Budget is a helpful resource that offers many great tips and recipes that keep food expenses low and nutrient intake high.  One of the sections in this online resource is devoted to whole grains.  Take a look at the Brown Rice Bowl assortments below and choose some favorites.  You can also add your own preferred flavors and come up with unique concoctions.

brown rice

As you incorporate brown rice into your healthy eating pattern, please share some of your creations and most loved ideas with all of us.  Your go-to meal or snack may be someone else’s new pick.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and MyPlate encourage making half of our grains whole.  Adding brown rice to your rotation is one step towards meeting that goal.  Once a large batch is cooked, time is saved and by planning ahead you can have a plethora of options at your fingertips.  Enjoy!


Reviewer:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, EFNEP/FCS, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County, even.2@osu.edu


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Recently I had to replace my beloved stove. It had served me well over the years with family dinners, parties and countless cooking experiments.  I researched the various models, features and recommendations and was prepared to make an educated, informed decision.

When I finally started making the rounds at the appliance stores to check out the new ranges, I wasn’t prepared for a specific feature I found on a majority of the ranges. Chicken Nugget and Pizza pre-set buttons. What’s this? Does our nation eat chicken nuggets and pizza to such an extent that we need to have those two specific foods singled out for pre-set buttons so we can heat them up in a moment’s notice?  Are we perceived by appliance manufacturers as consumers of convenience foods in massive quantities?

Other countries already see Americans as huge drive-thru/convenience food eaters; is it any wonder the appliance industry followed suit? What will be next? Refrigerators with high sugar beverage or energy drink dispensers? It’s no wonder the current dietary guidelines have started to shorten their estimates of life expectancy—we know our children won’t live as long as their grandparents.  Their diets are not health-supporting.

The 2015 dietary guidelines recommend that Americans start to shift their food choices from convenience foods to more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to improve overall health. In the next couple of years there will also be more health messages touting the danger of excessive sugar in beverages and energy drinks.

At a recent meeting with colleagues, I observed several co-workers pull yogurt, fresh fruit, vegetables with hummus, and various vegetables out of their lunch bags to consume during our working lunch. It struck me how easy these simple, healthy foods are to eat, yet so powerful. I am grateful to be part of a group of health-focused individuals that are not just “talking the talk,” but also “walking the walk.” Let’s all do our part to improve the American diet and get healthy along the way!

P.S. I ended up purchasing a range that has no pre-set nugget/pizza buttons, and look forward to future cooking adventures!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

References: Am J Clin Nutr January 2015 vol.109 no.1 6-16

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Fall Challenge 2014

Join Ohio State University Extension for a six-week personal wellness challenge. This fall the Live Healthy Live Well challenge for better health will run from September 8-October 19. This is an online challenge designed to help adults get fit by encouraging regular physical activity, healthy eating and wellness tips. This is a free event. Participants will receive e-communications twice weekly sent directly to you from your local OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Professional. This challenge focuses on:

• Organic/natural foods
• Calcium and fiber in your diet
• Superfoods
• Gluten-free and whole grains
• Incorporating fitness into your day
Sign up by following this link to enroll: http://go.osu.edu/Mahoningfall14
Once you register, you will be enrolled and begin receiving e-communications starting the week of September 8, 2014.
We look forward to taking this fall challenge journey together!

Written by: Beth Stefura M Ed, RD,LD, Ohio State University Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Mahoning County, Crossroads EERA, stefura.2@osu.edu
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, MA, LD, Ohio State University Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu


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Quinoa has been part of the healthy lunch options at several catered events I have attended lately. The foods tasted very good and made me to want to find out more about it – what are the benefits of eating it, how to cook it, how long it takes to prepare?MP900049638[1]

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is considered a whole grain because of its nutrient benefits, and how it is cooked and prepared. However, it is actually a seed and a relative to the leafy vegetables beets, spinach, and Swiss chard. It was originally grown in the Andes Mountains of South America by the Incas over 5,000 years ago.  Quinoa is a good source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, iron, phosphorus, Vitamin E.  In addition it is known as a complete protein. Research has shown that the high fiber content of quinoa will make you feel full longer, which may aid in weight loss. High fiber foods are also shown to aid in digestion, may lower blood cholesterol, and reduce the risks of certain cancers. One of the best things about quinoa is that it is gluten free, which makes it a great food for those with celiac disease.

Quinoa is covered in a naturally occurring pesticide called saponin. Saponin gives it a bitter taste which discourages bugs from eating it. By rinsing the quinoa, you will remove this bitter taste. Start by placing the seeds in a fine mesh strainer, because it is small it will go through something with larger holes. Put the strainer in a bowl of water and gently rub the seeds for a few seconds, rinse and drain. Check the label, as some varieties of quinoa come pre-rinsed; however, not all. After rinsing, cook 1 cup of seeds with 2 cups of water. One cup of seeds will yield 3 to 3 ½ cups of cooked quinoa. Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking rice.  It will be done in 15 to 20 minutes. The cooked seeds can be used in everything from salads, main dish casseroles, soups or chowders, dessert foods like puddings, or hot breakfast cereals. Use the flour from quinoa to make gluten free cookies. Here is a link to a few quinoa recipes for you to try http://go.osu.edu/quinoa.

Author: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County/Ohio Valley ERRA, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewers: Cindy Shuster, Kathryn Green, Linnette Goard, and Jennifer Lindimore, Ohio State University Extension.


Whole Grains Council, http://wholegrainscouncil.org/.

Chow Line, Ohio State University Extension, http://extension.osu.edu/news-releases/resources/chow-line/.

Utah State University, Food $ENSE, Quinoa, https://extension.usu.edu/fsne/files/uploads/2012%20Food%20Basics%20Lessons/Grains/F$GrainsQuinoaHandout.pdf.

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and the new MyPlate both encourage us to make at least half our grains whole – but what does that mean? You may be asking “What is a whole grain?” The term whole grain means that the entire grain seed or kernel is left intact during processing. While refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and germ from the grain and as a result are missing nutrients and health benefits that whole grains include.

Why is eating whole grains so important? Whole grains are sources of dietary fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, and iron. Research studies support that they reduce our risk of heart disease, assist with weight control, reduce stroke and type 2 diabetes risk, and protect against certain types of cancer. There are also limited studies that support the whole grain benefits of reduced risk of asthma and less gum disease.

How can you make sure the grains you are eating are whole grain? Certainly food companies have picked up the benefits of whole grain foods and have played up promoting them in the press and marketing. You do need to do a little checking on package labels to make sure that you are getting what you think you are. Terms like multigrain, cracked wheat, organic, stone ground, and 100% wheat do not mean whole grain. Study the ingredient list on the product label and make sure it says “whole or whole grain” before the word corn, wheat, barley, etc. The Whole Grain Council has developed a stamp that is used on some whole grain products to promote that they are either 100% whole grain or at least ½ a serving of whole grain. Examples of whole grain ingredients are: brown rice, whole wheat, oatmeal, whole grain barley, whole rye or corn, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, popcorn, and wild rice.

Tips to get more whole grains in your diet:

  • Select a whole grain pasta. You may have tried one a couple of years ago and didn’t like it – but they have improved – so try them again.
  • Eat popcorn for your snack.
  • Choose a whole grain bread, bagel, cracker, wrap, or English muffin. My family enjoys the English muffins for breakfast or
    with pizza sauce and cheese for a quick meal or snack.
  • Start the morning with a whole grain cereal. This might be oatmeal or a processed cereal – just check the label for sodium
    and added sugars.
  • Try adding whole wheat flour to your baked products. You can substitute up to half of the flour in most recipes with whole
    wheat for white flour. Start with 1/3 whole wheat and move toward half. I do this with the home-made pancake mix I make for my family – and everyone loves it!
  • Try some of unique grains like quinoa, barley, sorghum, or millet.
  • Make a breakfast muffin for a quick breakfast with oatmeal, half whole wheat flour, and fruits like bananas, pumpkin, blueberries, or cranberries in them. Bake a batch on the weekend and freeze what you won’t eat in a couple days.


WebMD – www.webmd.com

Whole Grains Council – www.wholegrainscouncil.org

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 – www.dietaryguidelines.gov

Written by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

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