We all know that we should be consuming more whole grains and protein-packed pulses, but the real question is which are best - and most importantly - how should we eat them?
We chatted to qualified nutritionist and health buff Angelique Panagos about everything from rice to butterbeans to get the nutritional lowdown, and also a few delicious ideas for cooking with them at home.
From grain-laden soups to spicy curries, crunchy salads and flavour-packed wraps, check out Angelique’s recommendations below.
Angelique says: “Rice is a staple around the world for many people. It comes in different forms: white rice is the most common, but there’s also brown rice and wild rice readily available if you look."
Brown rice has the biggest nutritional benefits, according to Angelique: “Brown rice represents the grain before it’s stripped of its husk where much of rice’s nutritional benefits are held. As a result, brown rice contains more fibre and B vitamins than white rice, which are good for energy levels.
“It is also a slower release carbohydrate than white rice. By switching from white to brown, you can reduce the blood sugar spike in the body while also increasing your overall energy levels and increasing your fibre intake."
For a tasty and filling rice dish packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates, this Middle East-inspired rice salad with pomegranate chicken and yogurt dressing is sure to be a hit with the whole family. What’s more, the whole supper can be on the table in just 25 minutes.
But not all bodies react in the same way to carbs... Angelique explains, “We are all biochemically individual and all bodies require different things. If you’ve got IBS, you might find that white rice is better for you personally as it may cause less bloating and discomfort."
For a protein-rich meal using white rice, check out our sticky sesame prawns with lime and coriander rice.
Angelique says: “Many people look at cous cous and assume it’s a grain because of the way it looks. In fact, cous cous is made of a mix of flour and water, which technically makes it a pasta.
“Just like rice, there are both wholegrain and refined versions. I recommend going for a wholegrain, as it contains more B vitamins and fibre.
“Cous cous cooks quickly and works in a variety of dishes. However, it does contain gluten, so this isn’t one for Coeliacs."
These moreish chicken fingers with tomato and pesto salad use cous cous as an imaginative, crispy coating for the chicken. Partner with a wholesome and vibrant green salad for a super easy chicken dinner the whole family will tuck into.
Angelique says: “Oats are super versatile; whether you’re having overnight oats, oats cooked into a porridge, blended into a smoothie or baked into a snack, they make a brilliant breakfast option.
“One thing that many people don’t realise is that there are different types of oats with varying health benefits. To maximise the levels of nutrients on offer, reach for whole jumbo oats in the supermarket. These retain germ, endosperm and bran which instant oats often lose as they’re processed."
Start your day right with one of our sweet and tempting breakfast oat recipes. Try this carrot cake porridge recipe for a lightly spiced and warming brekkie, while these blueberry and pecan overnight oats sweetened with maple syrup are perfect for hot days.
Angelique says: "Compared to refined wheats, bulgur wheat is a much better source of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes referred to as ‘cracked wheat’, this ancient grain isn’t quite as popular as many other grains, although it can form part of a healthy diet.
“Bulgur wheat is a type of wheat that hasn’t been stripped of its wheat germ in the way that white flour has been, so it contains higher levels of nutrients and fibre and is also slower to digest as a result, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer without a drastic spike in your blood sugar levels."
Fancy giving bulgur wheat a go one teatime this week? Our ham, avocado and bulgur wheat salad is brimming with wholegrain goodness, with the added protein punch of edamame beans. Wholegrains and pulses all-in-one tasty salad!
Angelique says: “Quinoa looks like couscous, but it cooks more like brown rice as it takes a bit longer. Quinoa is high in fibre, B vitamins and iron. It also contains high levels of magnesium.
“If you’re vegetarian or vegan, quinoa is a brilliant source of plant-based protein, although I’d recommend it to anyone as a brilliant source of vitamins and minerals. It’s also super filling and works brilliantly in salads."
Keen to try quinoa? Our American slaw and quinoa salad is topped with avocado, egg, blue cheese and delicious crispy bacon. Or, if you’re after something a bit heartier, try these juicy beetroot and quinoa burgers for a veggie option that feels like a treat with no guilt!
Soft, chewy with a slightly nutty taste, pearly barley is the unsung hero of the grain world, and has plenty of health benefits to boast about.
“As well as having a high fibre content and plenty of minerals, barley contains high levels of selenium, which is reasonably hard to come by in foods (brazil nuts are another selenium-rich food). Selenium is important for thyroid function, as well as helping to protect the thyroid gland.
“If you’re trying to find ways of incorporating barley into your diet, try replacing Arborio rice in a risotto with barley. Again, this does contain gluten so this isn’t one for Coeliacs."
Pearl barley works brilliantly in this filling vegetable and cardamom-flavoured soup recipe by Palestinian chef Joudie Kalla. Joudie enjoys making this soup because of its slow-burning energy benefits.
Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, butterbeans)
Angelique says: “I’m a firm believer that everyone should eat more pulses. Lentils, chickpeas and butterbeans are all sources of protein and are high in fibre, B vitamins and magnesium.”
“Pulses are incredibly versatile and so are great to experiment with. You could try making a lentil or butterbean houmous-style dip, or try replacing the rice in your evening meal with lentils.”
“Another great snack I really love is roasted chickpeas,” says Angelique. “Pop them in the oven with some seasoning for a great alternative to crisps."
We love chickpeas combined with tangy pickled and fried creamy paneer cheese in these delicious wraps - why not try it out next week for a midweek meal?
Have Angelique’s tips got you itching to try something new for dinner this week? Make sure to stock up on everything you need for your wholegrain and pulse-rich dinnertime online or pop into your local store.