It’s Whole Grain Month-Everything You Need To Know About Whole Grains

 

September is whole grain month, so what better time to start getting more grains into your diet.

Back in the day… way back, the grains people ate came straight from the stalk, getting a carbohydrate package rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, plant enzymes, and hundreds of other phytochemicals. Even after grinding grain became popular, people still got all of the goodness that grains pack.

Whole grains have a fibrous outer layer called bran that protects the inside of the kernel. The interior contains mostly the starchy stuff which provides stored energy for the germ, and its home to the seed’s reproductive kernel. The germ is rich in vitamins, minerals, and unsaturated oils.

Fast forward to the invention of roller mills: Milling strips away the bran and germ, making the grain easier to chew, easier to digest, and easier to keep without refrigeration, and refining wheat creates the fluffy flour that makes light, airy breads and pastries. But there’s a nutritional price to be paid, as the process strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fiber.

There is a buzz around whole grains these days— they have a whole month just for themselves for goodness sakes, as researchers have begun to look more closely at carbohydrates and health. The quality of the carbohydrates (eating whole grains) is connected to better health.

Whole grains don’t contain a magical nutrient that fights disease and improves health, but it’s the entire package, elements intact and working together, that’s important.

Whole grains have been linked to lowering the risk of all sorts of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues.

The bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches so they can be utilized at a slower rate instead of being broken down too quickly. The soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol, whereas the insoluble fiber helps move waste through the digestive tract. Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) found in whole grains may protect against some cancers, as well as the essential minerals, such as magnesium, selenium, copper, and manganese. These minerals may also help reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes. And then there are the hundreds of substances that haven’t yet been identified, some or many of which may play as-yet-undiscovered roles in health. Probably one of the best benefits is that it is a great alternative to any type of white flour, which we all know is public enemy number one.

Not sure how to get some extra grains in your diet. Here is a list of some things to try.

•Whole wheat berries, whole wheat bulgur, whole wheat couscous and other strains of wheat such as kamut and spelt

•Brown rice (including quick-cooking brown rice)

•Oats, steel-cut oats, rolled oats (including quick cooking and instant oatmeal)

•Whole rye

•Hulled barley (pot, scotch, and pearled barley often have much of their bran removed)

•Millet

•Buckwheat, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), wild rice, and amaranth are considered whole grains even though botanically they are not in the grain family of plants

 

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