Ask An Expert: Is Couscous Healthy?

Israeli couscous with dried apricots prepared by Host Daphne Brogdon, as seen on Food Network's Daphne Dishes, Season 1.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Ever wondered about couscous…what it is? How it’s prepared? And most of all, is it healthy? A registered dietitian weighs in on this commonly misunderstood food.

What Is Couscous?

Often mistaken for an ancient grain, couscous is actually tiny pieces of wheat pasta – basically a mixture of semolina flour and water. Popular in cuisines around the globe, couscous is quick cooking and can be used like rice to accompany a wide variety of foods.

Traditional or Moroccan couscous are very small grains that can be prepared by simply adding hot water or broth and allowing to steep for 5 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. Larger round pieces of couscous known as Israeli or pearled can be cooked in boiling liquid. This version takes slightly larger to cook and has a more robust and pleasantly chewy texture.

Nutrition

Regular couscous isn’t considered a whole grain but can be part of a healthy diet when properly portioned. One cup of cooked traditional couscous has about 175 calories, 6 grams of protein and 1gram of fiber. Look for whole wheat couscous, which contains slightly more fiber and is widely available in most large chain grocery stores. Israeli couscous comes in with similar numbers at 200 calories, 7 grams protein and 1 gram of fiber in a one cup cooked portion.

Ways To Enjoy

Use your preferred variety of couscous like rice or pasta and prepare by cooking in water or broth. Couscous recipes often include other flavorful ingredients to add texture and flavor such as fresh herbs, chopped nuts and dried fruit. Combine prepared couscous concoctions with lean protein and vegetables to create a complete meal.

Recipes to Try

Crowd Pleasing Couscous (pictured at top)

Food Network's Sweet and Sour Couscous-Stuffed Peppers

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Tara Donne, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Melissa-dArabian-Couscous-With-Dates

Melissa-dArabian-Couscous-With-Dates

Photo by: Tara Donne ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Tara Donne, FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

FNK_CouscousSaladWithTomatoesAndMint_H

FNK_CouscousSaladWithTomatoesAndMint_H

Chef Name: Food Network Kitchen Full Recipe Name: Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Mint Talent Recipe: FNK Recipe: Food Network Kitchen’s Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Mint, as seen on Food Network Project: Foodnetwork.com, CINCO/SUMMER/FATHERSDAY Show Name: How to Boil Water

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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