Ever been told that carbohydrates are bad for you? That if you want to lose weight you should give them up?
There is a lot of information out there about what you should and shouldn't eat so it is difficult to know who to listen to. David Gauvin, long time chef at Addison Gilbert Hospital and board member of the Epicurean Club of Boston, promotes carbohydrates as part of healthy, balanced diet. He shows us how to make a whole grain pilaf, which is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals; "very important in your diet" he says.
But don't carbohydrates promote weight gain and lead to problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes?
Companies selling fad diets would have you believe so. And it is true, in part. There is plenty of scientific research that indicates that refined carbohydrates have these effects. Refined carbohydrates are processed starches or sugars which have been stripped of their more complex (and nutritional) elements — that includes white rice, white flour, cornstarch, table sugar and syrups and the many foods you find them in.
The distinction that companies promoting fad diets often fail to mention is that there is such a thing as good carbs, and these are the ones that Gauvin uses. Unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grains and those found in fruit and vegetables, are not only good for you — they are essential. The Harvard School of Public Health explain that they are an important part of a healthy diet since "they provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function and they promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber and a host of important phytonutrients." (Phytonutrients are the organic matter in plants, such as color.)
The Whole Grains Council explains why whole grains are so much better for you than processed ones. "Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25 percent of a grain's protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients." Gauvin's pilaf contains four whole grains — white and black quinoa, wheat berries and bulghur wheat, coarse and fine.
The dish is very simple to prepare.
"Just like when we are making a rice pilaf, we just have to toast those grains a little bit," says Gauvin. "We let them get incorporated with the olive oil so that the grains don't stick together and also to give it that nice toasty, nutty flavor."
When the grains are toasted, Gauvin adds chicken stock - "it's always a two to one ratio." He simmers for 10 to 15 minutes; "if the grains aren't tender yet, you simply just add a little bit more chicken stock and continue to simmer it until all the stock has been incorporated" he explains. That's it, simple.
The pilaf is a great alternative to white rice as a side dish. Gauvin suggests a portion of four ounces alongside eight ounces of vegetables and four ounces of protein. "This pilaf here with all the different grains and colors is a great dish overall," he says. It's tasty, nutritious and very easy to make.
Whole Grain Pilaf
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup carrots, julienned
1/4 cup quinoa, dark
1/4 cup quinoa, white
1/4 cup wheat berry
1/4 cup bulghur wheat, coarse grind
1/4 cup bulghur wheat, fine grind
21/2 cups chicken stock
1. In a heated and oiled pan, sauté© the garlic, onions and carrots for about a minute.
2. Add grains and sauté© some more, coating them with the oil.
3. Add chicken stock and bring to a high simmer. (Always use double the stock to the grains.)
4. Let grains simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they have absorbed all of the liquid.
Serve with your favorite vegetable and protein.
Recipe courtesy of Chefs Pete McGahey and David Gauvin, Unidine, Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital, 2012.