- Why You Should Eat Whole Grains? Understanding Their Health Benefits
Some have blamed gluten for severe health concerns, and new grain-free diets are introduced every year. Therefore, it is natural to question why whole grains are recommended by health authorities worldwide.
Nevertheless, according to Dr. Frank Hu, a nutrition professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and author of two long-term studies, consuming 70g of whole grains each day might cut your risk of death by 5 percent. Each additional 28g serving reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 9 percent. The study also indicated that substituting refined grains and red meats with comparable amounts of healthy grains might potentially enhance your longevity by 8 to 20%.
I have separated this topic into two sections; so much to say about whole grains. The first section explains why you should consume whole grains, while the second section discusses how to consume more whole grains.
What constitutes whole grains?
Grains, often known as cereals, are the seeds of some grasses farmed for human use. Not all of the grains listed below are available as whole seeds (other names are provided in parentheses):
Durum wheat (or kasha)
Corn (hominy, popcorn, maize)
Wheat (triticale, semolina, seitan, farro, kamut)
Whole grains as opposed to processed grains
Whole grains include the entire kernel, including the bran, rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The endosperm is the principal grain component that may be processed into flour. Initially intended to nourish the embryo, or germ, of a new plant as it grows. Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are present.
The germ is the smallest component of the kernel that, when planted, is expected to germinate. It contains lipids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
One hundred percent of whole grains will have all three kernel components (the bran, the endosperm, and the germ). Whole grains are processed to get refined grains by removing the bran and germ. The final product has a finer texture and lasts longer. However, the procedure loses several nutrients, including fiber.
Still, whole grains can be processed, rolled, crushed, and cracked. As long as the entire kernel remains in the final product, they are still considered “whole grains.”
Note That when we consume refined grains, our systems require resources to break down these nutrient-deficient meals, leaving us with fewer nutrients than before!
You may encounter the phrases “enriched grains” and “fortified grains.” Some minerals lost during milling are replenished, such as vitamins, in enriched grains. Some nutrients that were not previously present in the kernel have been added to “fortified grains.”
Complex carbohydrates and fiber
Fiber is one of the key nutrients eliminated during the refining process, as seen by the nutritional data presented previously. It is the portion of plant foods that the body cannot digest. As it travels through our digestive system, fiber absorbs water and expedites the body’s waste elimination.
A higher intake is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease since it helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Additionally, it provides satiety and is an essential tool for weight reduction and weight control.
Two types of fiber exist: insoluble and soluble. Whole wheat, popcorn (without additional butter or sugar), teff, spelled, and millet are all grains that are rich in insoluble fiber. Amaranth, barley, and oats all contain soluble fiber. For optimal health, the body requires both in equal amounts.
Current recommendations for fiber consumption range between 21 and 25 grams for women and 30 and 38 grams for males. However, most of us only consume around half of that amount due to our highly processed diet of refined grains and our poor consumption of high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Check read my next piece, How to Eat More Whole Grains, to learn how to easily improve your fiber consumption.
Why then consume entire grains?
The increased fiber content of whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, but this is not the only reason why consuming whole grains is advantageous for our health. The bran and germ of grains also contain a wide variety of important phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Here are some of the primary benefits:
They delay digestion, regulating blood glucose and insulin levels. Refined grains instantly decompose into glucose, just like pure sugar when consumed. This causes your blood sugar to skyrocket, then plunge, resulting in sugar crashes and cravings.
Whole grains are digested more slowly, keeping you fuller for longer.
It has been shown that they aid in weight control by preventing you from reaching for sugary or starchy foods; three portions per day are related to reduced belly fat.
Whole grains aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes by promoting good weight management and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
After only two meals a day, these improvements are already visible (read my post on How to eat more whole grains to figure out what a serving is). This may be because of their high fiber and magnesium content, which are associated with improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Whole grains can aid in lowering blood cholesterol, with oats being a particular standout in this category. Their greater soluble fiber content aids in cholesterol elimination by binding cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and facilitating their rapid elimination. The antioxidants present in oats also contribute.
Particularly whole grains with a high level of soluble fiber, such as barley and oats, can help reduce blood pressure. Their antioxidants aid in cardiovascular health improvement and inflammation reduction.
Numerous research on more than 20 forms of cancer has linked the consumption of three servings of whole grains per day with a decreased risk of cancer. This is especially true for malignancies of the digestive tract and oral cavities, such as the pharynx, esophagus, and larynx.
Whole grains include preventive elements, such as fiber, antioxidants (particularly vitamin E and selenium), and phytochemicals, which can help reduce the development of cancer cells, prevent DNA damage, and prevent the production of carcinogens.
And suppose the advantages of whole grains begin with just two servings per day. In that case, research indicates that the health benefits rise with each additional serving, up to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans-recommended 3 to 4 servings of whole grains per day.
The essential message: whole grains are essential for healthy health
How do I accomplish this? There are several straightforward techniques to detect whole grains in meals and enhance your consumption. Learn more about them in my next post, How to Consume More Whole Grains.
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