Ancient Grains Get a Fresh Look at Whole Foods
Rare grains like amaranth, kamut and quinoa are showcased in a newly expanded "Buying in Bulk" section, where a specialist dispenses recipes and information.
Jackie Osborn of Middletown says she's lost 50 lbs over the past two years by embracing "greens and grains."
Faced with having to go on medication for high cholesterol and blood pressure, Osborn decided to abandon her Italian-American influenced diet favoring white pasta and bread, cheese and meat. She's replaced it with platters of quinoa, brown rice and wheat berry, slow simmered in low-sodium vegetable stock and tossed with sautéed dark greens.
She took this journey after taking on a new position at Middletown Whole Foods Market, as the Healthy Eating Specialist. "I have to walk the walk if I'm going to talk the talk," said Osborn, who used to be the Food Demonstration Specialist. "I am still overweight, but my health inside is good. I'm living proof that changing the way you eat works."
One of the big trends for 2013 in restaurants and supermarkets is a return towards highly nutritious ancient grains, especially in kids' meals. At the Whole Foods store on Route 35 North and Chapel Hill Road, grains figure prominently in the bulk food boutique, which was recently moved from an aisle so that it could be expanded into a corner of the store. Buyers can bag their own raw grains, beans, legumes, seeds, rice, flour, and nuts.
Buying in bulk is being promoted as a way to buy fresh, because bins are replenished often. Also, there is less wasteful packaging involved, and the product is less expensive. It also encourages people to try samples of new things because you can buy any quantity you want.
Osborn has a desk there. She mixes with customers, answering questions, sharing recipes, and giving nutritional information. She welcomes all inquiries. She has met many people who wanted to give grains a try, as part of their New Year's Resolution to eat healthy, but don't really know how to cook. She tells them it's easy, and that most grains are cooked at a ration of two-parts water or stock to one-part grain. She offers them a free 31-page Whole Foods guide, and explains its all online.
For those who don't want to bother, Whole Foods sells cooked whole grains in the frozen aisle, in breads, and at the salad bar.
The most popular items in the bulk food section is nutty, high-protein quinoa and chewy winter wheat berry, and cholesterol-lowering whole oats, Osborn said.
But a new offering of a sprouted items, added a few months ago, is also becoming popular, she said. Offered are sprounted lentils, mung beans and germinated rice. "You can see how they fly out of here," she said, noting an almost-empty bin. "I don’t see sprouted grains in many stores yet at all."
Sprouted grains germinate for 8 hours in water, and they are removed just before the tail sprouts from the seed. "You digest them easier, so you absorb more of the nutrients in your body," Osborn said.
Many of the grains like millet, amaranth, corn and quinoa are gluten free, but the store cannot guarantee that they have not been co-mingled with other grains because they buy them in bulk, said Osborn.
Going forward into 2013, Osborn will continue her new culinary regime and plans to lose more weight and maintain her healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.
Sometimes her day will begin with a green smoothie, made with kale or spinach, a little chia seed, coconut, water and an apple. Lunch is often a salad with grains thrown in. Dinner might be quinoa tossed with peanut sauce or low-sodium tamari, with vegetables. Animal protein (which includes dairy), salt and oils are totally avoided.
"My family thinks I’m nuts," said Osborn, who still makes a meat-and-potatoes meal for her husband and son at night.
"But when I go to parties and bring my food, that’s what goes first," she said. "I love to cook."