Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are You Truly Eating WHOLE Grains? (Part 1 of 2)

You may have heard the term “whole grain”, but do you really know what these words mean? When I ask clients if they eat whole grains, the response I often get is “Sure, I eat whole wheat bread and pasta.” Not exactly. While these foods may be made from whole grains, they are not themselves whole grains. Read on to demystify this some more…

In order for something to be considered a whole grain, it must not have anything added or removed. The entire edible portion must be intact. Let’s look at a common whole grain as an example: brown rice. Just like any whole grain, brown rice has three parts – a germ, bran, and endosperm. If any of these parts are removed, then our brown rice is no longer, and is now considered a “refined” grain (or refined carbohydrate). To sum up, brown rice is turned into white rice when the germ and bran are removed. Same thing with wheat, spelt, rye, etc.

Why do we care about the bran and germ?
These are the parts of the whole grain that contain most of the nutrients and fiber. The endosperm is largely the starchy part of the grain.

When we whole grains on a regular basis, we may experience the following benefits:
• We’ll feel more satisfied with less food. (The fiber in whole grains fills us up!)
• We receive steadier, longer-lasting energy from our food because whole grain takes longer to be digested than a refined grain, which quickly turns into sugar in the body and can produce blood sugar spikes.
• Lower cholesterol.
• Reduced risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease.
• Improved elimination

Sounds good, yes? Next time you go food shopping, buy some whole grains. I recommend buying a few and experimenting a new one each week. A suggested list of whole grains to try:
• Brown rice or wild rice
• barley (hulled)
• buckwheat (kasha)
• quinoa
• millet
• amaranth
• wheat berries
• oat groats or steel-cut oats (these are whole oats that are cut up for easier cooking and digestion

Note that some of the whole grains listed above (such as buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and amaranth) are not technically grains; they are seeds or berries. From a culinary perspective we consider them grains because of how they are cooked and eaten.

So, now you understand that when you eat whole wheat (or whole grain) bread, crackers, pasta, etc., you are in fact NOT eating a whole grain. You are most likely eating a product that was made from flour that was made from whole grains. But once those grains were milled into flour, and then processed or cooked with other things (yeast, sugar, salt, flavorings, etc) they are no longer whole. While this sounds like semantics, or a technicality of sorts, it in fact is not. And you can be assured your body knows the difference!!

Another technicality can be observed in food labeling or packaging. Food manufacturers realize that health-conscious consumers want to eat more whole grains, so they add them into their products. This is a good thing, but not all “whole grain” products are created equal. Remember, a true whole grain won’t have an ingredient list; it contains only one ingredient: itself!! When buying whole grain flour products, you need to be a label detective and read carefully! Even if that bread looks brown, if it doesn’t say 100% whole wheat (or spelt, or rye, etc), it may have refined flour added to it.

Stay tuned for part 2: practical tips for incorporating more whole grains into your diet, tips for preparation, and some easy, tasty recipes. Coming soon…

Ready to make changes to your diet but need more support? Are you on board but dealing with less-than-enthusiastic family members? A transition to a healthier diet doesn’t have to be a struggle. I can help. Call today to set up an appointment: 054 204 4773.

1 comment:

  1. What about bulgur (cracked wheat) - is that considered a whole grain? Also, there are many different brown rice varieties on the market (basmati, short grain, etc.) - are they all considered whole grain?