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What are the Health Benefits of Eating Whole Grains?

As part of a whole foods nutrition plan, I recommend choosing whole grains over refined ones.

Whole grains are a “complete package” of health benefits.

A review of studies from 1980 to 2016 found some evidence for dietary whole-grain intake to help prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers.
The potential benefits of these findings suggest that the consumption of 2 to 3 servings per day (~45 g) of whole grains may be a justifiable public health goal. [1]

The diet today mainly comprises refined grains as plain flour, white rice and white bread.

Refined grains are stripped from valuable nutrients during the refining process. [2]

A whole-grain kernel contains the endosperm, germ, and bran.

The refining process usually involves the mechanical removal of bran and germ.
This results in highly processed grains with lower nutritional value (since it removes B vitamins, vitamin E, and fibre). 

After that, the flour is fortified in some of the nutrients but not all of them, for example, the *phytochemicals that cannot be replaced.

*Phytochemicals are components in plants that are highly researched for their health benefits.

The whole grain kernel contains 3 parts: bran, germ, and endosperm. 

  • bran — the outer layer is a rich source of fibre, B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals 
  • germ — the core of the seed is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants
  • endosperm — the interior layer contains carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of B vitamins and minerals

Fibre health benefits:

  • slows the breakdown of starch into glucose, and this helps to balance blood sugar levels
  • keeps the digestive tract flowing
  • helps to lower cholesterol


Whole grains include Wheat, Amaranth, Kamut, Spelt, Barley, Millet, Teff, Brown-Rice, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Rye, Bulgur, Oats, Wild Rice, Corn.


Gluten

A type of protein found in Wheat, Barley, Rye, and Spelt. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.

Gluten and Food Sensitivity 

In certain people, it might cause sensitivity and who suffers from celiac disease cannot eat gluten at all, since they cannot digest it.

There is a food sensitivity test if you wish to learn if a certain food creates a sensitivity in your body.

You can also understand if a certain food causes your sensitivity by excluding the diet’s suspected food and monitoring how the body reacts (writing a daily food diary).

If you are eliminating gluten-containing grains from your diet, remember to replace them with other healthy sources of carbohydrates.


References

  1. van der Kamp, J. W., Poutanen, K., Seal, C. J., & Richardson, D. P. (2014). The HEALTHGRAIN definition of ‘whole grain’. Food & nutrition research, 58, 10.3402/fnr.v58.22100. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v58.22100
  2. Whole Grains | The Nutrition Source | Harvard.  

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