Man originally evolved as hunters and gatherers, they hunted for their meat, cooked it over fire wood and ate it with the grain they gathered. Simple living.
Today we hear of refined foods replacing whole foods, the cause of many diseases.
How did this happen?
When did science and technology fool us?
The word ‘refined’ actually means ‘cheap’. It is a process where the original food has been stripped to such a level, that it has lost all its nutrition. These foods are then sold at low prices, a lot that comfortably fit into our food budget.
I was a sucker for this for many years.
Why did I let this happen?
But as they say the past is the past it cannot be brought back, so let’s look to a brighter future making choices of foods that bring health and the unseen benefit of saving your wealth by maintaining constant good health.
The word ‘Whole’ is such a meaningful word, it means: complete, full, not broken.
Anything that is complete or full in itself and all that there is of this something equates to greatness.
So when we talk about whole food, whole grain, whole pulses remember it was never the intention of nature to refine these whole foods for consumption.
Pluck, harvest, cook and eat was the intention.
What are whole grains?
Basically, whole grain kernels have three parts, as long as these three parts are present in their original proportion; they are considered whole grains.
Bran — is the hard, outer shell that contains fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.
Endosperm — is the middle layer of the grain and is made up of carbohydrates.
Germ— is the inner layer loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein, and plant compounds.
Grains are the seeds of grass like plants called cereals — rice, corn, wheat, oats, rye, and barley.
Some seeds of non-grass plants also known as pseudocereals, are considered whole grains — buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, millets, bulgur.
These whole grains can be rolled, crushed, or cracked and made into products for consumption — types of bread, pasta, breakfast cereals
What are refined grains?
Refined grains are where the germ and bran are removed, leaving only the endosperm in the grain. Though enriched refined grains have vitamins and minerals added back, they are still not as healthy or nutritious as the unprocessed whole grain.
So before you buy any processed grain at the supermarket, it is very important to look at the ingredient label. Key words to look out for are — whole grain, bran, and fiber content.
Why so much emphasis on eating whole grain?
What are the health benefits we reap from making the switch to whole grain?
Whole grains are the biggest supporters of heart health, which we all know is the leading cause of deaths worldwide.
Whole grains continuously improve heart health by —
- Lowering your risk of heart disease — three servings (28gms) daily reduce heart disease by 22%
- Lowering your risk of a stroke — certain compounds in whole grains, such as fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidants, can reduce your risk of stroke by 14%
- Lowering your risk of type-2 diabetes — replacing refined grains with whole varieties and eating at least two servings of whole grains daily could lower your risk of diabetes. It’s the fiber and magnesium in whole grain that help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes. Studies also have linked whole grain intake to lower fasting blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity.
- Lowering your risk of obesity — Eating fiber-rich foods can help fill you up and prevent overeating. Three servings of whole grains daily is linked to lower body mass index (BMI), helping weight loss.
- Lowering your risk of premature death — by lowering the risk of all of the above diseases that contribute to heart health, you are directly protecting yourself from premature death. Other habits like smoking, alcohol or excess body weight, factors which influence premature death get adjusted and reduced to healthy levels with the daily intake of whole grain.
Apart from heart health, whole grain also lower your risk of —
– Cancer, especially Colorectal. The components of whole grains, including Phytic Acid, Phenolic Acids, and Saponins, may slow the development of cancer.
– Inflammation-related chronic diseases and conditions.
– Digestion problems, whole grain support healthy digestion by giving stools the necessary fiber. They also act as a probiotic, promoting gut health.
Whole grains are high in nutrients and fiber —
Vitamins — Vitamin B, Niacin, Thiamine, Folate.
Minerals — Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese.
Antioxidants — Phytic acid, Lignans, Ferulic Acid and Sulfur Compounds.
Plant compounds — Polyphenols, Stanols, Sterols.
Fiber — the bran in the whole grain provides the fiber, the most important ingredient for gut health.
Whole grains have been a part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years providing fiber and nutrition, the amount depends on the type of grain. Though some people do show intolerance to some grain such as gluten sensitivity, celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. It is important to know your body and pay close attention to the triggers. Wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten, a type of protein that some people are intolerant or allergic to and the intolerance can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, indigestion, and joint pain. Buckwheat, rice, oats, and amaranth, are whole grains that are usually fine for most people with these conditions.
Here are some ideas for adding whole grains to your diet:
- Oatmeal porridge, use steel cut oats, a great breakfast or midday snack.
- Toasted buckwheat can be added to yogurt, pack it up for work for an anytime snack.
- Popcorn, air-popped without butter is a great TV snack option.
- Make polenta out of whole-grain cornmeal, — a personal favourite.
- Swap out white polished rice with husked or parboiled rice or brown rice. You can drain out the starch if you are diabetic; it’s a safe gluten-free option.
- Add barley to your vegetable soup or chicken broth, a wholesome supper.
- Rotis and parathas can be made with whole grain atta, look for the whole grain label.
- Try using whole-grain flours, such as whole-wheat pastry flour,
- Use stone-ground corn tortillas rather than white tortillas in tacos.
- Quinoa, bulgur, and couscous are delicious in salads.
- Buckwheat pancakes or crepes are scrumptious.
NOTE: Keep an eye on the sugar content, especially in the case of breakfast cereals.
For continued improved health and longevity, add whole grains to your diet EVERYDAY.