6 Tasty Alternative Carbs

Make it: Forget the air popper and bags of microwave popcorn--popping inexpensive loose corn kernels on the stove top is a cinch. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat and add 1/3 cup popcorn kernels. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape, shaking the pot regularly until popping slows. To liven up popcorn without the fat, season with a mixture of 1 teaspoon curry powder with 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, cumin and sea salt.

What to try: You can find iconic Orville Redenbacher (orville.com) kernels at most supermarkets.

Wehani Rice

Developed by the Lundberg Family Farms in Northern California, domestic wehani is a slightly chewy whole-grain rice with a delightful nutty taste. When cooked, it splits and fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma akin to buttery popcorn. Like other whole-grain varieties, long-grain wehani rice has a wealth of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants. According to a 2009 Harvard School of Public Health study, eating more fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains like wehani may lower your risk of high blood pressure.

Make it: Combine 1 cup wehani rice and 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook about 40 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. For a nutrient-packed side dish,add chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and diced avocado.

What to try: Lundberg Wehani (lundberg.com) is available at many specialty and health food stores.

Plantains

This oversized kissing kin of the banana is hard and starchy when still green. As they ripen, the skin turns yellow, then black, and the flesh becomes increasingly sweet and edible. Compared to a regular banana, plantains have 22 percent more vitamin A, 16 percent more vitamin C and four percent extra blood pressure-lowering potassium. This nutritional goldmine also has plenty of vitamin B6. According to a 2009 Harvard School of Public Health study, women with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had the lowest risk of suffering a heart attack.

Make it: Green plantains are perfect for frying or thickening stews and mole sauces, whereas yellowing plantains with a few black dots are best used for gentle saut?ing, grilling and roasting. Once completely black, they're great for desserts or mixed into smoothies.

What to try: You can find plantains year-round in Latin markets and the produce section of many supermarkets.

Recipe: Black Bean Wehani Burgers with Baked Honey Plantains

Makes 4 servings

Burgers:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup wehani rice, cooked
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • Sunflower seeds (optional)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Plantains:

  • 2 yellow-black plantains
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut plantains into half-inch-thick diagonal slices. Place slices in a medium bowl and toss with butter, honey and cinnamon. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Meanwhile, mash beans in a large bowl with a fork or potato masher. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Form into four equal-sized patties and cook over medium-high heat in a lightly oiled skillet for about three to four minutes per side or until firm and browned. Serve with baked plantain slices.


Matthew Kadey is a Canada-based nutritionist and writer. Visit him online at wellfedman.com.

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