Grains have been getting a bad rap recently. So should you be eating them? Let’s talk about it. Before we go into the health benefits of whole grains, it’s important to know the structure of a grain. There are three distinct parts; the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran is the outermost skin of the seed and protects the germ and endosperm from the sun, water, pests, and disease. It contains fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants. The germ is the portion of the plant that sprouts and gives birth to the plant if fertilized. It contains B vitamins, protein, minerals, and healthy fats.The endosperm is the germ’s food source and is the largest portion of the grain. It contains the carbohydrate, protein, and minute amounts of vitamins and minerals. During the refining process, the endosperm is the only portion of the grain used to make white breads, white pastas, etc. When the bran and germ are removed, one quarter of the protein content is lost, along with several key nutrients.
What are the health benefits of whole grains?
Whole grains offer numerous health benefits. Here are just a few examples of what studies have linked to whole grain consumption:
• Aiding in blood glucose control thereby reducing risk for diabetes.
• Reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke from increased antioxidant intake.
• Reducing colon cancer by up to 20%.
• Lowering fasting insulin levels and increasing folate levels.
• Reducing hypertension (high blood pressure).
• Less abdominal fat.
Good Whole Grains:
- Wheat – Products containing wheat should have it listed towards the top of the ingredient list. Look for 2-3g fiber/serving.
- Oats – rich in heart protecting antioxidant called avenanthramide. (best to have whole raw, solo).
- Bulgur – great source of iron and magnesium. Fiber and protein powerhouse. In one cup it has 75% fiber and 17g protein.
- Barley – cholesterol fighting. Make sure it’s whole and not “pearled” (which mean the bran and germ have been removed).
- Rye – has more nutrients per 100cal than any other grain. Needs to be listed as “whole” and at the top of the ingredient list.
- Quinoa – actually technically a seed. Has more protein than any other grain. Has a ton of Omega 3 fatty acids. Use instead of rice.
How Much to Have?
Well this really all depends on your macro levels (fats consumed), caloric intake, etc. It’s very hard to tell without letting me do an analysis of your personal food journal.