You may have heard of the term whole grains, but what is it exactly and why is it important? Whole grains are grains that have all 3 layers (bran, germ and endosperm) of the grain intact, increasing its nutritional value and flavour. Keep on reading to learn more about the great benefits of eating more whole grains.
Full of fibre
Whole grains are a wonderful source of fibre. Fibre is a non-digestible type of carbohydrate. So, while they don’t contribute to our nutrient intake directly, it does play a role in nutrient absorption and balance. There are many different types of fibres, with different roles. Having a variety of fibre helps maintain regular bowel movements and makes you feel satiated. Finally, fibre can be a beneficial source of nutrients for the bacteria in your gut.
Increased intake vitamins and minerals
While refined grains aren’t void of nutrients and can be fortified, whole grains are much more nutrient dense. Here are some examples of vitamins and minerals that can be found in whole grains:
Iron makes up a part of hemoglobin which is essential for red blood cells to be able to carry oxygen to the rest of our body. Oxygen is required to carry out metabolism reactions, and without it we begin to feel tired.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a huge role in bone mineralization. It contributes tremendously to the structure of our bones. Magnesium deficiencies can make you vulnerable to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, or “porous bone”, results in weak and easily breakable bones. Additionally, magnesium, plays a role in supporting over 300 enzyme reactions in the body that help with many different processes from bone health to blood pressure to supporting muscle and nerve function and more.
A variety of B vitamins with different functions are found in whole grains or fortified grain products. They mainly function as coenzymes, which are important in the metabolic reactions that provide us with energy. Coenzymes are compounds that aid an enzyme in these reactions.
Whole grains are also higher in phenolic acid. Phenolic acid is a type of polyphenol which is known to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are beneficial to our health because they remove free radicals which are associated with cancer.
Increased consumption of whole grains is also associated with an improved diet pattern. By increasing intake of whole grains, it helps you feel satiated for longer and provides variety to your eating pattern.
Whole grains are more than just vehicles for nutrients. They can also introduce new flavours and textures to dishes that you are used to eating. For example, whole grain bread is a great option that can add that extra nuttiness. One of my favourite things to do is mix black rice (whole grain) with white rice, so I can have the best of both worlds and my rice ends up with a purple hue.
Some examples of whole grains
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole grain tortilla
- Steel cut oats
- Pearl barley
- Black rice, brown rice, wild rice
Are carbohydrates bad for you?
For anyone who has been on any form of social media these past couple years, you’ve probably seen the bad rep that carbohydrates have gotten. Carbohydrates are often demonized and associated with weight gain and enemies of diets.
Carbohydrates are not bad. They are an essential macronutrient and the main source of fuel our bodies need. They keep you satiated and without them, it would difficult for our bodies to obtain the nutrition we need in a day to function well.
Rather than focusing on categorizing foods as ‘bad’ and removing them, it is important to focus on what is sustainable, enjoyable and what we can add and choose more often.
If you’ve been looking to make some changes in your life or introduce something new into your eating pattern, try playing around with whole grains! Use it in one of your favourite recipes and find out if it elevates the dish. Start as slowly as you’d like, even if it’s once a day or even once a week. Remember every little bit counts.