Whole this, whole that. Before you get too tired of that "w" word, it helps to pay attention to the whole story. Our mantra has always been “whole everything” so you get 100% of the goodness nature has to offer. But did you know that most of the foods people eat contain refined grains - which are NOT whole by the way!
There is no mimicking nature when it comes to your health. And the same rings true for the grains we consume almost everyday – from our sandwich breads and rice bowls, to our cereal and pasta dishes. Whole eating should be on the top of your list when it comes to healthy eating.
What’s a grain?
A whole grain is a grain that consists of all the original components that were present when it was growing in the field. Refined grains, on the other hand, have had some of the components removed to give them a better texture and a longer shelf life.
These refined grains are more commonly used and find their way into our diets more often. However, recent studies indicate that it may be best to skip refined grains altogether, in favor of the whole grain alternatives.
3 Parts of a Grain
Grain begins its life as the seed of a plant. It consists of an edible kernel surrounded by an inedible husk that protects it from the dangers of nature. The kernel itself is made up of three parts:
- The bran is the outer skin of the kernel. It contains lots of dietary fiber and B vitamins, as well as protein and starch.
- The germ is the part of the kernel that is the embryo of the seed. It is high in both vitamin B and vitamin E, as well as fat and protein.
- The remaining part, the endosperm, is the part of the seed that provides energy to the germ. It increases safe storage times but has little else to offer as far as nutrition goes.
When it comes to refined grains, the bran and germ have been removed mechanically. The main reason for this is so they last longer before spoiling. Neither component is especially hardy, so removing them creates a product that will stay on the shelves for much longer. Refined grains also have a finer texture, which some people find to be preferable.
Many of the health benefits of cereal grain are removed during the refining process. Without germ and bran, grains do little more for us than provide energy. Studies show that sticking with whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Another type of grain available on the market is enriched grain. These grains have had several nutrients added to them, such as iron and riboflavin, to restore some of the nutritional value lost during the refining process. While enriched grain is healthier than other refined grains, they are nowhere near as beneficial as their whole grain alternatives.
Looking for ways to add more whole grain to your diet?
The next time you go shopping, consider choosing whole wheat/whole grains bread, brown/wild rice or quinoa, and there's even legume pasta (lentil) instead of the enriched or refined alternative. Keep your eyes and ears open to the different options available pretty much everywhere. Some of these options can be pricier than the inadequate versions, but more options are popping in most grocery stores. And if you have to pinch pennies, try saving elsewhere. Or if you're brave enough, make your own.
When shopping for whole grain products, it's also important to check the nutritional facts panel and go over the ingredients. Even if the label says multi-grain or something similar, it may not be made with whole grains.
Always make sure that "whole wheat" or "whole grain" is among the first items to appear on the ingredients list. That way, you will be completely certain that these products will provide you with the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy diet. There's really no better time to add the versatility of grains to your menu!
We’ll try and post some recipes soon for you to try – plant-based of course!
Be well and Be safe,