Most people know whole grains are supposed to be healthy. It’s better to have whole wheat bread rather than white bread. And oatmeal is better for you than packaged cereals with lots of sugar and salt.
But what exactly are whole grains, and what can they do to keep you healthy?
Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.
The bran layer contains fiber, B vitamins, and 50% to 80% of the grain’s minerals and phytochemicals.
The endosperm portion is full of complex carbohydrates, protein, and some more B vitamins. And the germ is full of vitamin E, trace minerals, more B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Refined grain foods like white bread contain only the endosperm. Typically, refined foods have the germ and bran removed during milling. This causes the loss of 25% to 90% of a grain’s nutrients.
So it really is best to eat whole grains.
It’s not surprising that yet another study has reported the health benefits of eating whole grains. Researchers reviewed seven major studies and found that whole grains were linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Whole grains can help your heart in a number of ways. They can lower your cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. They can also improve blood vessel functioning and reduce inflammation in your circulatory system.
What are some whole grains you can include with your meals?
Pearl barley, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, and spelt are all whole grains.
Beware when looking for whole grain foods at the supermarket. There are many misleading words used to identify whole grain products. Here is a quick list to help make sure you can identify if you are actually buying a food which includes whole grains:
— 100% wheat: This can mean that the only grain in the product is wheat — not that the wheat is, in fact, whole grain
— Multigrain: The food may contain more than one grain, but not necessarily whole grains.
— Stone ground: This term refers to grain that has been coarsely milled, but the grain is not necessarily a whole grain.
— Pumpernickel: Pumpernickel usually contains wheat and rye flours, but again not necessarily whole grain flours.
Try buying whole grains and cooking them yourself. Quinoa has one of the highest protein contents of the grain family. Cook it just as you would rice. The same goes for millet and amaranth. They can be added to any dish where you want to add fiber and carbohydrates.