DURHAM, North Carolina -

If you want to slash your chances of developing disease and keep your waistline in check, Duke Nutrition Director Elisabetta Politi says whole grains are your answer.

“I think switching to whole grains may be a great way to help control your calorie intake and your food intake, without having to restrict any particular food group,” Politi said.

Just three servings of whole grains a day is all you need to cut your diabetes risk. One serving equals a half-cup.

“Two studies showed about a 20 percent risk reduction,” Politi said.

Here are three whole grains you should consider:

First up is Amaranth.

“Amaranth is an ancient African grain,” Politi explained. “It’s gluten-free and really small, which makes it really quick to cook.”

The complete protein provides all the essential amino acids you need and has 26 grams of protein in a cup. Compare that with a cup of white rice with four grams.

Next up is spelt, also known as farro.

Politi said it’s a good substitute for pasta and has double the protein of whole wheat pasta.

“Besides providing more nutritional value, [it’s] also not going to raise your blood sugar quite as quickly,” she explained.

Finally, barley is one of Politi’s favorites; both whole grain and quick cook versions.

“I actually have to confess that I use this when I have to fix dinner in about 20 or 25 minutes and I still think that it provides the benefit of a whole grain,” Politi said.

Quinoa is also another one of Politi’s top picks. She recommends toasting it for a nice nutty flavor.

One of Elisabetta Politi's favorite farro recipes:

Farro and Green Beans:

Ingredients:

1 cup of farro, raw
8 oz. of green beans, steamed and chopped
.25 c. of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbs. olive oil

Add farro and 2 c of water to a pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about twenty to thirty minutes until tender, but firm. Drain the farro in a colander.  Transfer to a serving plate.  Mix with green beans, Parmesan cheese and the olive oil. Yields four servings.

Per serving: 190 calories, 6 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, and only 80 mg. of sodium.  Farro has a protective husk that makes the use of harmful pesticides not needed.  Also, it is an excellent source of protein and fiber.  (Source: Elisabetta Politi, MPH, RD)