There is a lot of buzz about what type of grains you should be eating or if you should even be consuming any at all. You’ve probably been told (too many times to count) to eat whole grains. But, more often than not, I find that what people think are whole grains actually are not. There can be a lot of confusion in this area since there are so many labels out there with the word “grain” on them. You likely mistake multi-grain or seven-grain for whole grain, though there is a noteworthy difference.
Whole grains contain 100% of the contents included in the original seed, or kernel, from which they derive. The entire whole grain kernel consists of the bran, endosperm and germ. These three elements must be present in order to qualify as whole grain.
The bran is the hard, outer layer of the cereal grain that contains nutrients, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Over time, the essential fatty acids present in the bran can go rancid and cause the grain to go bad. Removal of the bran, therefore, results in a longer shelf life. The endosperm is the starchy component of the grain. Endosperm contains protein, carbohydrates and oil. Gluten is a protein found in the endosperm that provides elasticity and a chewy texture to most bread products. Germ is the reproductive center of the grain. Germ contains fiber and several nutrients.
Refined grains are those in which the whole grain is refined, or processed to remove parts of the grain. Bran and germ are the parts that are typically removed from refined grains leaving only the endosperm. Refined grains are not considered as nutritious as whole grains because with the removal of the bran and the germ, the grain also loses fiber and several other nutrients.
If your meal choices predominantly include refined grains over whole grains, then you are probably experiencing a whole host of undesirable symptoms that range from moodiness and decreased energy levels to weight gain.
Let’s take a deeper look into the 4 reasons why your grain choices are harming you and how to mitigate these effects by switching to whole grains.
1) Your blood sugar spikes, then you crash: Refined grains are digested more quickly than whole grains. The quick digestive process turns these refined grains into simple sugars that cause your blood sugar to spike, and then quickly crash. Dramatic blood sugar swings suck your energy from you leaving you feeling tired and moody. Switching to whole grains can help you avoid the swings, energy drains and moodiness. The fiber contained in whole grains helps to slow the absorption of sugars, thereby providing prolonged energy.
2) You have major digestive problems: Constipation is most common for those who consume mostly refined grains. This is due to the lack of fiber content in refined grains. To avoid constipation and keep your digestive tract regular, switch to whole grains which retain the fiber component of the kernel. Fiber acts as a natural laxative by increasing stool bulk which promotes the movement of stool more readily through your colon.
3) You are gaining weight: Due to the lack of fiber, refined grains lack the “filling factor”. Filling factor refers to how full you feel during or after meals. Since refined grains lack important factor, you may find yourself consuming more than you should. The fiber in whole grains keeps you feeling fuller longer thereby decreasing the amount you eat which will help you lose weight if you are overweight.
4) Your triglyceride levels are rising: Increased amounts of refined grains in your diet cause a rapid spike in insulin, which can cause triglyceride levels to shoot up. High levels of triglycerides in your blood can contribute to cardiovascular disease, as well as inflammation that can worsen arthritis. Switching to whole grains will keep your triglycerides in check and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and inflammation.
As you can see, whole grains have many health benefits. Need some more convincing? Whole grains also help to reduce blood cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, switching from refined grains to whole grains will promote positive improvements to your health.
So, what are some types of whole grains that you can begin to explore: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wild rice and wheat. Wheat comes in several varieties including, spelt, emmer, faro, einkorn, kamut, durum, bulgur, cracked wheat and wheat berries. Try incorporating these into your meals and you’ll soon reap the positive benefits.
Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters and people with medical conditions like diabetes take back control so they can get the healthy body and life they want. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy mindset, nutrition education and caring support. The result is they lose weight and keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life symptom free.
Bonnie is a registered dietitian, certified dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She offers programs for the chronic dieter to achieve long lasting weight loss, for people with diabetes to attain blood sugar control and prevent diabetes complications, and for those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome to identify their food triggers so they can enjoy a symptom free life. Bonnie also treats a variety of other medical conditions, and offers a nutrition program teaching young children how to make healthy food choices.
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