Nutritious Whole Grains Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

Did you know that corn is a whole grain? Have you ever tried amaranth?

Whole grains are often recommended for a healthy diet, including the one I posted about in regards to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But in order to eat the recommended three servings a day, we need to know what qualifies as a whole grain food.

Food made from whole grain, whether it is cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, contain the entire grain seed in its original proportions. It contains the bran, germ, and endosperm.

In the United States, if an ingredient label says whole wheat or whole wheat flour, we can be assured that it contains the whole grain. However, in Canada if the words “whole grain” are not included in the label the wheat may be only 95% whole grain.

The most common whole grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wheat, and wild rice. Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat do not belong in the Poaceae botanical family as the others do, but are considered “pseudo-grains” because they have the same nutritional profile.

Amaranth was a staple of the Aztec culture until Cortez threatened to put to death anyone who grew it in an attempt to destroy the entire civilization. The grain has a peppery taste and high level of protein and an amino acid called lysine that is negligible in other grains.

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Its tough hull is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran but lightly pearled barley is still high in fiber.

Buckwheat isn’t really a grain. It’s actually botanically related to rhubarb. Buckwheat grows well on rocky hillsides.

Bulgur is the result of wheat kernels that are boiled, dried, cracked, and sorted by size. It is high in nutrition and cooks in only 10 minutes.

Corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is fed to cattle but also commonly found in foods for human consumption. When corn is combined with beans, the combination of amino acids raises the protein value.

Millet includes several small, related grains commonly consumed in India, China, South America, Russia, and the Himalayas. It’s found in variations of white, gray, yellow, and red and is high in protein and antioxidants. Millet is gluten-free and used in flatbreads, side dishes, deserts and even alcoholic beverages.

Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan that is effective in lowering cholesterol and has a unique antioxidant that helps protect blood vessels. The more oats are steamed and flattened, the quicker it cooks.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is botanically related to Swiss chard and beets. It can be found in a light color as well as red, purple, and black. Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter naturally occurring residue of saponins. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Rice can be found in white, brown, black, purple, and red. It’s one of the most easily digested grains and is gluten-free. Converted rice has added B vitamins making it healthier than white but still lacks the nutrients found in brown and other varieties.

Rye is high in fiber producing a feeling of fullness. To lower glycemic index, look for whole rye or rye berries on the label.

Sorghum, also called milo, thrives where other crops cannot. Although edible and can be eaten like porridge or ground into flour, most of the U.S. crop is fed to animals, made into wallboard, or used for biodegradable packing materials.

Teff has twice the iron and three times the calcium of other grains. It is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Triticale, pronounced trit-i-KAY-lee, is a hybrid of durum wheat and rye. It is easy to grow organically.

Wheat contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein necessary for bread to rise. Bread wheat is considered hard or soft depending on its protein and gluten content. Wheat has many varieties including einkorn, farro/emmer, freekeh, kamut®Khorasan, and spelt.

Wild Rice really is a seed of an aquatic grass rather than a rice. It was originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Because of its high price and strong flavor it’s usually blended with other rices or grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice but less iron and calcium.

(Information from this post was taken from the Go to their site for more details.)


©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Produce at its Peak Thursday, Aug 30 2012 

Bright red tomatoes; hearty sweet, red, and white potatoes; fragrant peaches, apples, pears; juicy grapes; and so much more. In spite of this summer’s drought, produce currently is abundant at farmers’ markets.

Shopping your local market is good for the environment and good for you. If you have one close to you it’s worth checking out.

The one in my town is a French Market, which means there are other vendors besides those selling produce. Soaps, scarves, handbags, jewelry, cheeses, olives, meats, eggs, flowers, handcrafts, and other items also are available. It’s a great place to pick up a gift along with the groceries.

But of course it is the produce that takes center stage. Our French market features three main farms. Two are from Michigan but one, Windy Acres Farm, is actually located only a few miles from my house. The family owned business is so close it is as if the fruits and vegetables truly are (my) home-grown. I often purchase items picked that very morning.

You can’t get fresher than that.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

Crazy for Coconut Monday, Jul 2 2012 

Coffee, green tea, chocolate, almonds, tomatoes. We learn of nutritional benefits of a super food nearly every week. Recent reports place coconut oil at the top of the list. Benefits range from reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and hypothyroidism to weight loss and improved bone and dental health.

The internet currently is rich with people testifying miraculous cures after consuming it, especially in regards to Alzheimer’s. Do a search and you’ll have plenty to read. Even Dr. Oz has something to say.

The theory is that brain function requires fats. Some studies show a lack of cholesterol in the brains of AD and other dementia patients as well as those with Parkinson’s disease. Increasing your HDL, the good cholesterol, can help reverse symptoms of these diseases. Coconut oil is supposed to do this too even though it is a saturated fat.

But according to the Alzheimer’s Association, claims such as these are based on testimonials rather than scientific evidence. As stated on their website,, “The rigorous scientific research required by the U.S./ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of a prescription drug is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements of “medical foods.”

Because effectiveness is unknown and purity is unregulated adverse reactions are not routinely monitored. No clinical testing of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s has been done, so there’s no scientific evidence that it truly helps. The bottom line is, at this point, experiment as you like, and sees if you feel any healthier after trying it.

Coconut oil has a long shelf life. Its melting point is 76 degrees which results in it appearing on the shelf as a solid in most homes until warmer summer days when it liquefies. Use it in baking, frying, or directly spread on toast.

Personally, I’ve been using it for about a year. I’m not certain my husband and I are any healthier, but I love coconut and do like the light coconut taste it adds to oatmeal, vegetables, fish, and chicken. It’s delicious in pancakes and baked goods too.

©Mary K. Doyle

What a Pain Monday, Apr 9 2012 

More than 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. This results in hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs in addition to lost wages. Although there are a number of remedies, more than half the people questioned say they have little to no control over their pain.

I number among the statistics suffering from chronic pain due to fibromyalgia and arthritis. I cannot tolerate any over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, so I seek relief from alternative methods. I also do my best to prevent the pain from getting unmanageable by following a few simple practices.

Here is my personal pain prevention and management plan:

  • Prayer. I begin every day in prayer. The quiet, calming effect of meditative prayer is relaxing and encourages deep breathing. Plus, I always have a list of things to talk about with God. Putting my  worries in God’s hands is so much easier than trying to solve everything myself.
  • Warm bath or shower. I shower in the morning. The warm water helps relieve aches and pains and aids flexibility. After a day of strenuous physical activity I will take another one or soak in the tub.
  • Moderate Exercise. My husband and I walk every day. This is beneficial on many levels. We have time alone together without the distractions from home and home office, we get exercise, when outside we absorb sunshine and fresh air, and we enjoy the scenery and people around us. I also attend yoga classes for stretching.
  • Move Throughout the Day. I get stiff if I sit at my desk too long so I drink a lot of water which has the two-fold benefit of keeping me hydrated and forcing me to get up to go to the restroom.
  • Balanced Diet. I eat a healthy range of fruits, vegetables, and proteins and feel best if I don’t overeat, skip meals, or consume fatty foods.
  • Friends and Family. Time with loving, supportive friends and family encourages optimism, laughter, and feeling loved. It also encourages thinking of others rather than myself.
  • Soft Music. In my office I listen to classical or other instrumental music which I find inspirational and relaxing.
  • Avoid Stress. Stress is believed to aggravate all illnesses but avoiding it is a tremendous challenge in this fast-paced world. I try to limit unnecessary commitments and over-scheduling.
  • Sleep. I fall short here often staying up way too late but know I feel better after a good night sleep. If I am in a lot of pain, I have no choice but to give in and get some rest.
  • Massage. Massage relieves the tender spots that acquire due to fibromyalgia. I cannot work them out on my own and am very thankful for my therapists who do.

Here’s wishing you a pain-free, happy day.

©Mary K. Doyle

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