Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Grains are only moderate in calories, yet filling and satisfying. And like all plant foods, grains—particularly unrefined whole grains—are a good source of health-promoting dietary fiber. Grain foods are also highly nutritious. Wheat, for example, contains 22 different vitamins and minerals including vitamin E and B1, niacin, folate, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium and magnesium. Unrefined grain foods are also a good source of antioxidants and phytochemicals which help promote good health and prevent disease.

Studies have even found that whole grains can protect against heart disease and cancer. In one study, researchers from the University of Minnesota studied nearly 34,000 people and found that those who ate the highest amount of whole grains had a 23 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease, and a 21 percent reduced risk of death from cancer compared with people who ate little or no whole grains.

Grains and Protein

To many people's surprise, grains are also a good source of protein. Most varieties of grain contain between 10-15 percent protein. However, unlike fish, shellfish, poultry and meat, this protein isn't "complete" because it's low in lysine (one of the amino acids or building blocks of protein). But this problem is easily overcome by mixing a grain food with a complementary protein which contains lysine like legumes (beans, peas and lentils), fish or poultry. Actually, this is what Mediterranean and Asian peoples have instinctively been doing for centuries.

Grains and carbohydrates

Grain foods are also one of the richest sources of carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are digested, they're broken down in your body and converted into glucose—or what's commonly known as blood sugar. This glucose is then released into your bloodstream and it supplies your muscles with their favorite source of fuel.

The glucose supplied by carbohydrates isn't only your muscles' favorite source of fuel, your brain runs almost exclusively on glucose. That's why, if your blood sugar levels get low, you not only feel low in energy but often moody, fuzzy-headed, and it becomes difficult to concentrate. And carbohydrates have another important effect on the brain—they naturally increase the production of serotonin, a special chemical in the brain that has a calming effect.

Regulating blood sugar

Grain foods are great for supplying your muscles and brain with glucose. However, to ensure this glucose is delivered most effectively, it makes sense to mix grain foods with foods that contain protein and fat. This is because protein and fat help to slow down the release of glucose into your bloodstream which, in turn, helps regulate your blood sugars (soluble fiber, found in legumes, vegetables and fruits also slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream).

This slow and steady release of glucose ensures you'll have a constant supply of fuel for your muscles and brain, which ultimately means more energy for longer periods of time, better concentration and less mood swings.

The great thing is, grain-based foods like pasta and rice taste much better with the addition of protein and fat anyway. In fact, Mediterranean and Asian peoples have traditionally been mixing grain foods with protein sources (such as fish, beans and poultry) and fat (such as olive oil and peanut oil) for thousands of years.


Rice can be used in a myriad of Asian dishes such as stir-fries, curries, fried rice and sushi. Many popular Mediterranean dishes also feature rice as an important component, such as risottos, paellas and pilafs.
Try different types of pasta with different sauces. In fact there are over 400 different pasta shapes to choose from including spaghetti, lasagna, fusilli (corkscrew shape), fettuccine (flat, ribbon-like), penne (tubular with ends cut on diagonal), farfalle (bow-tie shaped), cappellini (angel hair) and conchiglie (shells). For a detailed look at different pasta shapes check out the Pasta Guide.
Asian noodles (which are commonly made from wheat or rice flour, but other varieties are available made from buckwheat or bean starch) are incredibly versatile and can be boiled and served with sauces and toppings, simmered in soups and braises, or stir-fried with thinly sliced vegetables, seafoods, poultry and meats.
Choose mostly whole grain breads and mix and match your choices for variety. Some good examples include crusty whole grain peasant bread, Italian ciabatta and foccacia bread, baguettes, pita bread, sliced whole grain bread, Turkish pide bread, Middle Eastern lavash bread and Indian naan bread.
Couscous is made from durum wheat (a hard type of wheat that is also used to make pasta) which is moistened with water, then rolled in small balls and steamed. It's a staple food in the north African countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Morocco and Tunisia, and is traditionally served in a big bowl and topped with various kinds of vegetable, fish, and bean stews. Couscous can also be added to salads, used to thicken soups and it can be mixed with fruit and other ingredients to make wonderful sweet desserts.
Bulgur is made from whole wheat that has been parboiled, dried, then sifted into particles. Bulgur is a popular food in Greece and the countries of the Middle East, and like couscous it can be topped with various kinds of stews and sauces or used to thicken soups. It's also delicious used in pilafs and is an important ingredient in tabbouleh salad.

Oatmeal (porridge), Bran Flakes, Wheaties, All-Bran, Shredded Wheat, untoasted muesli and wheat biscuits (such as Weet-bix and Weetabix) are ideal whole grain breakfast cereals.

 


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