Get With the (Whole) Grains

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Grains often get an undeserved bad rap when people are thinking about making changes to their eating patterns. Plenty of fad diets recommend cutting out grains entirely because of the high carbohydrate content. Is it wise to get rid of an entire food group? We need to keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal.

wheat stalks in a field with blue skies overhead

Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash.

Whole grains have their full, original form: the bran, endosperm, and germ. In addition to carbohydrates, we get a lot of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein from whole grains. When you remove one or more of these parts, usually the bran and germ, you get a refined grain that is mostly carbohydrate. Enriched grains, like you might see on a label for bread or pasta, are refined grains with some nutrients added back in (think folate!) For the best nutrient value, whole grains are the way to go.

Need ideas for whole-grain recipes? Or ways to get more whole grains into your eating pattern? If you’ve been in one of my classes, you’ve probably heard me talk about how my favorite whole grain is popcorn. I’ve included a simple stovetop recipe below that you can try – making popcorn at home is easy, cheap, and ​​tasty. Another great resource for all things whole grains is the Whole Grains Council. They have recipes, cooking tips, and helpful resources to learn more about the health benefits of eating whole grains. In fact, a recent blog post does some myth busting about the “wheat belly” concept and how whole grain consumption is actually related to weight loss. Check out that post: The Myth of the Wheat Belly: Research on Whole Grains and Waist Size

Simple Stovetop Popcorn

From the Med Instead of Meds curriculum

Bowl of popcorn

Serves 4
Serving Size: about 1 cup
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels – about enough to cover the bottom of your sauce pot with one layer of kernels. (Note – Popping kernels grow a lot during cooking, more than you’d expect, so if you’re in doubt of whether you’ll have enough room in your pot or pan for all the popped corn, start with fewer kernels.)
  • Herbs and spices to taste


  1. Put a medium saucepot on high heat. Coat the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil. Add three popcorn kernels and put a lid on the pot.
  2. Once one or more of the kernels has popped, cover the bottom of the pot with a single layer of the remaining popcorn kernels and replace the lid.
  3. Gently shake the pot over the heat source to prevent the kernels from burning. Continue shaking until most kernels have popped.
  4. Turn off the heat and continue to shake for a few seconds to pop any final kernels.
  5. To season popcorn, choose your preferred flavor combination (see suggestions below). To help herbs and spices stick, drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over the popcorn, toss, season, and then toss again. (Med Tip: Season your popcorn while it’s still warm so it will better absorb oil and spices.)

Seasoning suggestions:

  • paprika, black pepper, and salt
  • oregano, thyme, parsley, black pepper, and salt
  • shredded parmesan and black pepper
  • cinnamon and nutmeg

Nutrition Information per Serving (using 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and black pepper) :

  • Serving Size: about 1 cup of popcorn
  • Vegetables: 0 cups
  • Fruits: 0 cups
  • Calories: 131 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber:  1 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Sodium: 156 mg