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The whole story on whole grains

Sautéed Farro with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sautéed Farro with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes - Submitted

Foodwise with Kerri Robichaud

In my last column I talked about heart-healthy nuts. As Heart Health Month continues, and especially with Valentine’s Day being celebrated this week, it’s an opportunity to explore another common category of common foods that are good for the heart and much more – whole grains. What is a whole grain? How do I know if my grains are whole? Why should I eat whole grains? As a dietitian, these are questions that I get on a regular basis.

Whole grains are defined as those that contain all three parts of the original grain (bran, germ and endosperm) and therefore hold all the nutrients and fibre of the grain.

Whole grains help nourish the body and have many health benefits. They are nutrient-rich and higher in fibre than their refined grain alternatives. All of this extra goodness can help lower cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels. Even if cholesterol or blood sugar levels are not a concern for you currently, if you make the switch to whole grains now you may help prevent them from becoming an issue in the future.

Eating whole grains can help decrease the risk for a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, improve bowel function and even aid in weight loss efforts. When making the switch to whole grains, be sure to do so gradually, and to drink plenty of water. This will help prevent any uncomfortable bowel issues.

Sometimes it can require a little detective work to find out if a bread, cereal or other grain product contains whole grains. A product package may state right on the front that the product is made with whole grains – this is a great start. However, it’s important to still take a look at the ingredient list to ensure all grains listed are “whole”. This is particularly important for those products that are marketed using terms such as “multigrain”, “12 grain” or “ancient grains.” These phrases only mean that the product contains multiple types of grains, not necessarily that they are made of whole grains as well. To investigate, take a look at the ingredient list and ensure that all the grains listed do not have the words “enriched” or “all-purpose” in front of them – as these words imply refined grains.

Have fun with all grains! Wheat is not the only whole grain out there. Give some others a try such as brown, or wild rice, oats, barley, bulgur, teff, freekeh, quinoa … the list goes on. Food never has to boring! Especially for those requiring a gluten-free diet, inclusion of some of these other whole grains is one way to ensure enough fibre in the diet, something many people lack.

Ramp up the nutrition in recipes by substituting white flour with at least half whole wheat. This works very well for baked goods like muffins, breads and loaves. To boost them even further add a small amount of wheat germ, as whole wheat flour would be missing this component. Try different grain salads to increase fibre, as well as adding some excitement to your weekly routine. This sautéed farro would make a great addition to any meal plan.

Sautéed Farro with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


1 pkg (225 g)              PC Blue Menu Italian Farro Precooked Spelt

2 tbsp (25 mL)            extra virgin olive oil

1 cup (250 mL)           finely diced white onion

1 tbsp (15 mL)            minced garlic

1 tsp (5 mL)                PC Black Label Harissa Spice Blend Moroccan Seasoning

4 cups (1 L)                 stemmed and thinly sliced kale

Grated rind of 1 lemon

2 tbsp (25 mL)            fresh lemon juice

6                                  PC Splendido Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Seasoned Oil, drained and sliced

1/4 cup (50 mL)          sliced almonds, toasted

  1. In large saucepan, bring 8 cups (2 L) water to a boil over high heat. Stir in farro. Return to a boil; reduce heat to medium-high. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Drain; set aside.
  2. In large nonstick frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic, spice blend and kale. Continue to sauté, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until kale is wilted.
  3. Stir in farro, lemon rind, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes and all but 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the almonds; cook for 1 minute, stirring, or until heated through. Transfer to serving bowl; sprinkle with remaining almonds.

Makes 6 servings

Per Serving: Calories 240 Cal, Fat 9 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Sodium 300 mg, Carbohydrate 36 g, Fibre 4 g, Protein 6 g

Recipe source:

Keri Robicaud is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Have a nutrition question? Want to book an appointment or educational store tour for yourself or your community group or business? Contact me by phone at (506) 866-2115 or by email at

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