It is likely that you already know about the importance of grains in your diet. What maybe no one has told you is that if you do not eat them as a whole, you will be eating the part of the grain that will benefit your health less: the endosperm, which contains starchy carbohydrates, a few vitamins and minerals. In order for you to benefit from grains, you must eat them whole.
Grains are a fundamental part in a human being’s food intake, making them essential instead of small. Known also as “cereals”, they can come in different shapes and sizes. What is important is that they are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and at the same time that they have a low caloric content.
The most popular grain products are: rice, bread, cereals, flour and pasta. However, for them to be nutritious, they must be whole grain.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Research Coordination Division (NIH), a product made of whole grain uses the complete grain, which includes three essential parts: bran, germ, and endosperm.
When a grain is refined, the bran and the germ are eliminated, and only the endosperm -loaded with starchy carbohydrates, and few vitamins and minerals- is retained. The opposite happens with a whole or unrefined grain, because it is a good source of fiber, selenium, potassium, and magnesium.
Whole grains lower the risks of contracting heart disease, they help you maintain a healthy weight and can reduce the risk of having chronic diseases like diabetes and different forms of cancer. That is why the National Institutes of Health and the United States Health Department and Human Services recommend that at least half of your grain intake should consist of whole grains.
Identify Whole Grains.
How do you know if what you are eating contains whole grains? Very simple. Check the ingredient list printed on the product label, and must make sure that the first ingredient includes the word “whole” for example, whole-wheat flour. Do not be fooled by the word “multigrain” because this doesn’t mean it’s made with whole grain.
Other ingredients that you should look for on the list are: stone-ground wheat, whole corn, oats, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, whole rice, popcorn, wild rice, quinoa, sorghum, triticale, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain crackers.
The ingredients that do not contain whole grain products are: all purpose flour, enriched flour, semolina, wheat flour, corn germ flour and bran.
Enrich Your Foods.
If you want to know how to incorporate whole grains into your diet, the Mayo Clinic offers the following recommendations:
- For breakfast, eat high-fiber cereals, and try to choose those that contain at least 3 grams of dietetic fiber per serving.
- Substitute whole-wheat bread for white bread, and pastries made with whole- wheat flour.
- Try to add new grains to your diet, such as whole brown rice, wild rice, amaranth, and barley.
- Add barley, whole brown or wild rice to soups, stews, or salads.
- Add whole brown rice, or whole breadcrumbs to ground meats in order to give more body to the preparation.
- You can toast the whole grains you use, to add a nutty flavor to your meals.
- National Institute of Health, Division of Nutrition Research Coordination. A Closer Look at the Foods We Eat: A Closer Look at Grains. (2006) Retrieved July 30th from http://dnrc.nih.gov/highlights/NutritionFlyer-06.pdf
- Mayo Clinic Whole Grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet. (2007) Retrieved July 30th from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204 print
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