Search For the Whole-Y Grain

Grains of truth during Whole Grains Month

Talk about a pendulum. Grains have really been put through the mill lately:  First they were believed to make us fat, then they didn’t — because how can they if they contain very little fat?  And now they’re back to making us fat again or so many believe. First, pasta was “good” and so we piled  it onto our plates accordingly. The next mantra was that  pasta’s bad and should be eaten only in very limited quantities.  Then gluten phobia hit.

So what’s the real scoop?

There are many answers to the questions regarding the health benefits of grains. But some of it’s very simple indeed. The advantages they provide for promoting health and fighting disease depend very much on their processing.

Whole grains have it. Refined ones just don’t measure up.

It used to be thought that the only significant difference between refined and whole grains was the fibre content. Maybe there were just a few nutrient shortfalls but since refined grain products are generally enriched with nutrients, that concern was no big deal.  But scientific research over the past while has exploded that myth.

Whole grains provide an entire package including the fibre-rich outer coating of the bran, the central endosperm and the nutrient-packed inner germ. During the milling process, refined grains have their bran and germ removed and only the endosperm, the least nutritious part of the grain remains.   Both, though, provide plenty of carbohydrates.  Because of the   speedy  digestion and the fast rate that they are absorbed into the bloodstream,  refined grains have been linked to easier weight gain. Whole grains generally, on the other hand,   are digested more slowly leading to greater satiety.

Besides the fibre, whole grains contain vitamins including a number of B vitamins, vitamin E and  minerals. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The assortment of   phytochemicals includes compounds such as saponins, lignans, phytosterols and tocotrienols, to name a few. The fibre itself has long been known as a boon to bowel regularity and reduces the incidence of a host of bowel ailments including diverticular disease and hemorrhoids.

Newer research links fibre to protection against a variety of chronic diseases as well.  Even so, most people only consume about half of the recommended 25 to 30 grams a day. The latest study on fibre comes from the British Journal of Nutrition where in a group of more than 2,000  men and women, aged between 40 and 59 years, higher fibre intakes were linked to better blood pressure readings.

But back to bowel regularity, there’s  more to to the issue  and whole grains than just their fibre content. Research is showing that compounds found in whole grains such as lignans promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut which not only affects regularity but also the risk of a host of a host of diseases including to be protective against certain chronic diseases, as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis along with decreasing menopausal symptoms.

Whole Grains Month in September is the perfect time to explore lesser known grain options (or old favorites!) and “Share the Goodness” of delicious whole grains in person – and online. To celebrate Whole Grains Month, Oldways Whole Grains Council  is launching a “Share the Goodness of Whole Grains” Instagram photo contest, running September 1-30, 2015. To enter, follow the Whole Grains Council on Instagram (@Whole_Grains_Council) then upload your photo with a description telling how you shared your whole grain goodies with others using the hashtag #ShareWholeGrains. In addition, every week throughout the month of September, a random #ShareWholeGrains photo will be chosen and the winners will receive whole grain cookbooks, magazines and more! Start posting in September and your photo may even be regrammed by Cooking Light (@CookingLight)!

In my next post, I’ll have more on whole grains including survey results of how we stand on our  whole grain consumption.

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Categories: Food Trends, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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