If you're bored with the same old rice dishes, it might be time to venture a little deeper down the grain aisle. Bulgur and farro are two nutritious grains that add very different textures to your recipes. Loaded with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, these natural whole grains liven up any side dish or casserole.
About Whole Grains
Substituting bulgur or farro for white rice doesn't just add variety, it boosts the nutrients in your dish. Bulgur and farro are whole grains that provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Harvard University found that women who ate two to three servings of whole grains a day had a 30-percent lower chance of developing heart disease compared to women who did not. A similar study concluded that substituting whole grains for white rice may reduce diabetes risk by 36 percent. Strive for 3-ounce equivalents of whole grains a day, or half of your total grain servings. One-half cup of cooked bulgur or farro counts as a 1-ounce equivalent.
Bulgur is the first wheat that humans used as a food grain. If you don't like the hearty texture of many whole grains, bulgur is an excellent option. Bulgur cooks quickly and has a light taste similar to rice or couscous. One-half cup of cooked bulgur contains 76 calories, 3 grams of protein and virtually no fat. Bulgur is a good source of fiber, providing 4 grams per serving. Eating 25 grams of fiber a day promotes digestive health and healthy cholesterol levels. Like many whole grains, bulgur is a rich source of B vitamins, which are necessary nutrients for metabolism. This tasty grain also provides the essential minerals iron and zinc. Iron carries oxygen through your blood and zinc is needed to produce more than 300 enzymes in your body.
Known as the pharaoh's wheat, farro originated in Egypt. Farro is emmer wheat, a close relative of modern wheat. Unlike bulgur, farro has a dense and chewy texture similar to barley or wheatgrass. One-half cup of farro provides 100 calories, 1 gram of fat and 4 grams of protein. This chewy grain -- with 3.5 grams of fiber per serving -- gives a boost of this important nutrient to recipes. Like bulgur, farro is a source of B vitamins, zinc and iron.
Bulgur and farro are healthy whole-grain options. Bulgur is the main ingredient in tabbouleh, a tasty Middle-Eastern salad made with tomatoes, mint, parsley, garlic and onions. Make a vegetarian shepherd's pie with potatoes, beans, frozen veggies and bulgur. If you prefer a heartier grain, choose farro. Add farro to your risotto recipe for a different texture or make a cold farro salad with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, a little feta cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar dressing.
- USDA Nutrient Database: Bulgur, Cooked
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Boost Your Health With Fiber
- Clemson University: Ingredient of the Month: Farro
- Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains
- USDA: How Many Grain Foods Are Needed Daily?
- USDA: What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent of Grains?
- Mayo Clinic: Zinc
- University of California: Emmer Wheat
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.