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Whole Grains Grab New Attention

Despite gluten-free and paleo diets, whole grains are stealing the food show. First, their health halo is getting a new shine. Recent research shows whole grain consumption can reduce the risk for death from cancer, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease, infectious disease and diabetes. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans are now making at least half their grains whole, according to the 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey from Boston-based Oldways Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.  

Beyond good nutrition, grains bring flavor and variety to the table. Whole grains once were a hard sell because of how they change the taste and composition of bakery favorites, such as sweet pastries. But now, as chefs and consumers seek more intriguing and obscure ingredients, grains like farro, teff, barley and spelt are coming into their own, both for rustic baking and for their roles in plant-forward cuisines where grain salads and pilafs are the main attraction.

Chicago-based research company Datassential found the term “whole grain” mentions on menus rose 40 percent between 2011 and 2015. Protein-packed quinoa led the way, with sorghum, millet and amaranth also sprouting up more and more.

Next up in grain-forward foods: traditional bakery sweets with non-traditional flours and grains. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that rye was having a moment, with bakers using the earthy grain in brownies, cherry hand-pies and the rye chocolate chip cookies served at Sycamore Kitchen in Hollywood. Other chefs have resurrected buckwheat as a key ingredient in authentic French crepes.

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Featured grain-of-the-month specials for prepared side dishes
  • More chewy, precooked grains at the salad bar
  • Rustic desserts with whole-grain crusts and crumbles
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