Why Whole Grains Should Be a Staple in YOUR Diet

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Whole grains have been a central element of human diet since the beginning of civilization; from the time humans stopped being hunter-gatherers and settled into agrarian communities. 

In the Americas, corn was the staple grain.  In India and Asia, it was rice.  In Africa, people had Sorghum.  In the Middle East they had pita bread, tabouli and couscous.  In Europe, it was corn, millet, wheat, rice, pasta, dark breads and even beer that were considered health providing foods.  In Scotland, it was oats.  In Russia, they had buckwheat and kasha.  You get the picture…

Until recently, all the people living in these communities had strong, lean bodies and very few people were overweight.  But this has all changed, and people in modern times have stopped integrating unprocessed whole grains into their diets, as much of the grains we do consume are refined into negligibly nutritious fare.

We

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have to get back to our roots and remember that: Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support, containing high levels of dietary fiber and B vitamins.  And, because the body absorbs them slowly, whole grains provide long-lasting energy! 

Whole Grains, ByDefinition

Whole Grains are the seeds of plants that belong to the grass family. This seed, also known as the kernel, is made up of three key parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. 

A whole grain can be a single food, such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley, or popcorn, or an ingredient in another food such as bread or cereal. Whole grains include:

whole wheat
whole oats/oatmeal
whole-grain corn,
popcorn
brown rice
whole rye
whole-grain barley
wild rice
buckwheat
bulgur (cracked wheat)
millet
quinoa
sorghum

Other less common whole grains include amaranth, emmer, farro, grano (lightly pearled wheat), spelt, and wheat berries.  For a complete list of whole grains, and their benefits, check out the Whole Grains Council website for more detailed descriptions.

Scientific Evidence

Recent research reported in the May 2007 issue of the online Journal of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, shows that Americans should eat more whole grains like quinoa, barley and brown rice to help lower their risk of clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes, according to researchers. The study’s lead author, Dr. Philip B Mellen, of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina commented: “Many consumers and health professionals are not aware of the health benefits of whole grains”.

In a review of seven major studies, the researchers found that higher whole grain intake was consistently linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. On average, adults who ate 2.5 servings of whole grains per day were nearly one-quarter less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers who rarely consumed whole grains.  

Whole grains are believed to benefit the heart in a number of ways. The fiber and other nutrients in whole grains may help lower cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as improve blood vessel functioning and reduce inflammation in the circulatory system.  

Yet, surveys show that few Americans get the recommended three servings of whole grains per day, according to the authors of the new study. More than 40 percent of U.S. adults say they eat no whole grains at all.

The Myth Concerning the Grains Available to Us

Don’t take my word for it, the following excerpt is directly from the Harvard School for Public Health’s website:

Food companies make it more difficult than it should be to spot a whole-grain food. Aware that consumers are interested in whole-grain products, and that whole grains can improve health in a myriad of ways, companies often make foods sound like they’re whole grain and healthy when they aren’t.

That means you must read food labels carefully. True whole-grain products list as the main ingredient whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, or some other whole grain cereal. If the label says “made with wheat flour” it may be an intact grain product or it may just be an advertising gimmick, since even highly processed cake flour is made with wheat flour.

whole_grain_stamp.jpgThe new whole grain stamp can simplify your search. It features a sheaf of grain on a golden background. Each stamp displays the number of grams of whole grain in a serving of the food. All foods bearing the whole grain stamp offer at least a half-serving (eight grams) or more of whole grain. Foods in which all the grains are whole grains—no refined grain is added—list 100% on the stamp.

Some more important tips about grains:

  • Do NOT buy a lot of foods made with white flour, as found in most breads, cereals, and baked goods. White flour has been stripped of its fiber and nutrients.  Dr. Andrew Weil explains that white flour “converts too quickly to sugar, which can lead to a number of health problems, including weight gain”.  If you buy flour, make sure it’s organic, Weil says, because wheat is heavily sprayed with pesticides. 
  • You can still enjoy pasta healthfully, but choose organic durum wheat (semolina) varieties or Asian noodles like udon, soba, and cellophane (which don’t contain white flour). And don’t smother noodles with heavy cream sauces.

How To Implement Whole Grains Into YOUR Diet

The quickest way to create great grains is to experiment until you find what works for you.  Here are some basic steps I recommend:

1. Measure the grain and check for bugs or unwanted material and rinse in cold water
2. At this point, you have the option to soak your grains for 1-8 hours, which will soften them and make them more digestible as well as eliminate phytic acid 
3. Add grains to recommended amount of water and bring to a boil
4. A pinch of sea salt may be added to grains to help in the cooking process, with the exception of kamut, amaranth and spelt
5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for recommended time

In conclusion, whole grains are ideal foods for human consumption and contribute greatly to long-term health.  But you have to learn how to find real whole grains, and understand how to prepare them to really benefit.  I hope this article was helpful and please feel free to share your insights in the comment field below.  I know many WTC readers know a LOT about nutrition, so share the wealth :)

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9 Responses to “Why Whole Grains Should Be a Staple in YOUR Diet”

  1. Greg Schnese says:

    Whole grains are extremely important for a proper diet. I’m lucky to live in NYC, here we have plenty of options for healthy food.

    Here is a video from Healing Quest that talks about whole grains:

    http://www.beyou.tv/videos/Healing-Quest-Cognitive-Health-Emotional-Fitness-and-Whole-Grains

    Enjoy,

    Greg

  2. Brad Baggett says:

    Another very informative article. Whole foods are so much better for us than most of the processed foods that are so abundant in today’s grocery stores. You have to really work at it to purchase healthy foods. One thing that my wife and I have turned to is organic foods and whole foods in general. I have written a couple articles myself on the benefits of eating organics and whole foods.

    http://juiceofchampions.com/home/eliminate-chemicals-eat-organic

    http://juiceofchampions.com/home/antioxidants-natures-fountain-of-youth

    Keep up the great informative articles; I really enjoy reading your new post each day!

    http://www.JuiceofChampions.com

  3. We are all responsible for our own health. Choosing more whole grain products is one of the easiest ways to incorporate healthy living into our lives. These are great tips for spotting the real whole grain foods from those who are merely disguising themselves.

  4. Todd says:

    Greg, Brad and Jay– THANKS for the great comments!

  5. Todd says:

    My friend Tristan Loo sent me the following email in response to this article, and I figured I would post it, because it contains some excellent information pertaining to grains, enjoy!

    Interesting post. I was hoping you could mention the added benefits of sprouted grains, which was actually how our ancestors ate them back in the day.

    Also, not sure if certain grains such as bulgur and wheat should be a staple in the diets of people who are gluten intolerant, which is roughly about 75% of Caucasian Americans….it causes among things, leaky gut syndrome which, besides affecting the immune system, also impacts the functioning of the TVA and is why some people no matter how hard they exercise, still have a weak abdominal walls.

    Whole and sprouted grains should be used lightly for those people who are protein and hybrid metabolic types as well. I’m a protein metabolic type, so I consume almost very little grains at all in my diet. I’d love to hear your thoughts. It sounds like you too have taken your share of holistic health courses.

    Tristan
    http://www.TristanLoo.com

  6. Thanks for sharing this information. I have begun to do my own sprouting of grains, beans,etc. I am leaning toward but haven’t made the transition yet to raw foods.

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