What are the Health Benefits of Eating Whole Grains?

whole grains

Are you curious about the health benefits of incorporating whole grains into your diet? Look no further! In this comprehensive nutrition guide we will explore the incredible benefits of consuming whole grains and why they should be prioritized over refined grains.

Whole grains, comprising the entire kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm, are packed with essential nutrients that are often lost in the refining process. By opting for whole grains, you can bolster your overall well-being while reducing the risk of various diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Join us on this enlightening journey as we delve into the nutritional breakdown, types, and creative ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Get ready to embrace a healthier lifestyle and experience the numerous benefits that whole grains have to offer!

What are Whole Grains?

Whole grains are grains that contain the entire kernel of grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. They are unrefined and have a high nutritional value.

Today’s diet mainly comprises refined grains such 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

Nutritional Breakdown of Whole Grains

The nutritional breakdown of whole grains varies depending on the grain. Generally, whole grains are a good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

Benefits of Eating Whole Grains

Eating whole grains can have many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and digestive problems. Whole grains may also help with weight management and decrease blood pressure.

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

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 Health Benefits
Whole Grains Health Benefits

Types of Whole Grains

Common types of whole grains include oats, barley, bulgur, millet, quinoa, wheat, rye, amaranth, kamut, spelt, teff, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, wild rice, and brown and black rice.

How to Incorporate Whole Grains into Your Diet

There are many ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet. You can use whole grains instead of refined grains in dishes such as breads, cereals, and pasta. You can add them to salads and soups or as a side dish.

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 

It might cause sensitivity in certain people, and those who suffer from celiac disease cannot eat gluten 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 you 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.

 

How to Choose the Best Whole Grains

When choosing the best whole grains, look for those that are minimally processed and free of additives and preservatives. Choose whole grains that are high in fiber, protein, and minerals.

Recipes for Delicious Whole Grain Dishes

Many delicious recipes use whole grains. Some of these include oatmeal, quinoa bowls, whole wheat bread, whole grain pancakes, and barley risotto.

Oatmeal & Quinoa Bowls:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the oats, quinoa, water, and salt.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in honey, raisins, nuts, and cranberries.
  4. Serve hot or cold.

Whole Wheat Bread:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.
  2. Add the warm water and olive oil and mix together until a soft dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour.
  5. Punch down the dough and shape it into two loaves.
  6. Place the loaves in greased loaf pans and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  8. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Whole Grain Pancakes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plant-based milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour, oats, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together the plant-based milk, egg, and oil in another bowl.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Heat a greased skillet over medium heat.
  5. Drop the batter by 1/4 cupful onto the skillet.
  6. Cook for about 2 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side until the pancakes are golden brown.
  7. Serve warm with your favourite topping.
  8. Enjoy!


Sources

  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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