When it comes to grains in our diet, we now have more proof that whole is a whole lot better. In a study published last October in Gut, a team of Danish researchers assigned 50 adults to follow one of two diets for 2 months—one where all grains consumed were unrefined varieties, like brown rice and oats, and one where most grains were refined options, such as white rice and white pasta.
The outcome? Eating the whole-grain diet produced a greater drop in body weight and less inflammation in the body, potentially lowering the risk for certain ailments, including heart disease. Most likely, whole grains trimmed those extra pounds by increasing feelings of fullness and reducing calorie intake.
But adding more whole grains to your diet shouldn’t just mean slapping turkey and cheese between slices of whole-grain bread. Curious cooks can choose from a bounty of exciting whole grains from around the world. And how better to stamp your passport to flavor than with freekeh? Hailing from the Middle East, freekeh (FREAK-eh) is immature green wheat roasted over fire to impregnate it with nutty, smoky flavor. Think of it as the bacon of the whole-grain world. Nutritionally, it has even more protein and fiber than much-hyped quinoa, which makes this vegetarian main dish even easier to swallow.
2 t grapeseed oil or canola oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 t salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 C low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 C cracked freekeh, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1/2 C canned chickpeas
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/4 C chopped dried apricots
1/4 C chopped pistachios
2 large red bell peppers
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1 t za’atar spice mixture
1/2 t paprika
2 t lemon zest
1/4 C chopped parsley
Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt; heat until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and heat 1 minute. Place broth and freekeh in pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer covered until freekeh is tender and broth has absorbed, about 16 minutes. Set aside covered for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Add chickpeas, carrot, apricots and pistachios to pot, and stir everything together.
Halve each bell pepper lengthwise, from stem to base, removing white veins and seeds. Place peppers in a microwave-safe dish, cut sides up, cover with paper towel and microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir together yogurt, za’atar, paprika and lemon zest.
Stuff peppers with freekeh mixture and serve topped with yogurt and parsley. Serves 2.