Grains! These are always in question today – are you keto? Do you eat grains? Are they whole grains? What are refined grains? What is the deal with grains? What about carbs?
Actual whole grains, that are not processed have amazing benefits for your body, however, many of the things we deem as grains today are very refined and processed, even those labelled as whole grains.
What is the difference between whole grain and refined grain?
In the production of flour as we know it today – there are layers of the grain that are removed for processing. This is positive and negative in itself. Removing the bran and germ from the grain creates a loss of the key nutrients it offers us.*
This is removed to increase shelf life, and then creates what we call refined grain. So what happens then is the flour is then “enriched” with nutrients to try to put them back in. However, our body doesn’t handle them the same way anymore. We lose iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin (B vitamins) in this production method.* When it is enriched it ends up being slightly higher than a whole wheat, but many of these are heavily processed and chemical laden as well today.
Rice is another grain that is stripped and replenished in similar ways when it comes to white rice. Having a brown rice increases it’s natural nutrients, and a wild rice as well.
Why are whole grains important to our health?
Whole grains provide complex carbohydrates (which we use in immunity and other body functions), fiber (needed for great digestion and elimination), minerals (needed for body function and cellular actions), and B vitamins (needed for many body functions). Protein levels and quality in whole grains is better than refined.*
Whole grains have a more positive effect on blood sugar levels by way of better insulin use, versus refined grains that do not have these effects and when overeaten can actually contribute to type 2 diabetes and more chronic disorders.*
How can we enjoy whole grains in our diet, if so many things are processed?
Whole grains should be boiled or steamed in their original form. You can use a double boiler or a grain steamer. But stove top boiling can work too.
What are some examples of whole grains we can use for this?
Some great examples of whole grains include amaranth seeds, barley, millet, sprouted oats in bran, groats, rolled, steel cut, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, rye, spelt, bulgar wheat, couscous (wheat), cracked wheat. These should all be organic.
I want to highlight a few common things I see with clients and that are out there today in terms of these grains and what we come across in our stores or markets.
There are a lot of cheap processed oats out there that don’t fit the bill as a whole grain. It is important to look at the quality and refinement (or lack thereof) of the oats you are intending to add to your diet. Oats are the fourth leading grain produced in our country.*
Oats are hulled, but generally aren’t stripped of all value. They have a lot of fiber and nutrients. Oat groats are an option, as well as old fashioned oats, oat bran, oat flour and steel cut oats. Oats can have beneficial effects on blood sugar balance.* Oats actually have a higher fat percentage than other grains, and can go back quicker than other grains so buy smaller quantities when purchasing. Oats can be used in baking, as well as for other meals throughout the day.
Oats are part of the gluten grain and if you have wheat sensitivities this wouldn’t be an option for you. If you have a history of kidney stones as well, you may want to avoid oats as they are part of the oxalate family and can add to calcium types of stones.
There are many different types of rice available. Long, medium and short grain rice are some options. Each type has different qualities. White rice has been stripped of the layers and is more refined than other types of rice.
Brown rice is the most nutritional of rice. White rice tends to be at a loss for most nutritional value because of the processing. There are great B vitamins in brown rice, along with iron, manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous and trace minerals.* There is also a great supply of protein and gammaoryzanol which is fantastic for issues with digestion and your digestive tract in general.*
Brown rice should be stored in your refrigerator, white rice is ok in a pantry. You want both to be in airtight containers for storage.
Brown rice is also part of the oxalate family, so again if there are issues with kidney stones – this might not be the best option for you.
This is one of the most common grains that is utilized in diets today.* Many flours, baked goods and beyond are from a wheat base. It has a high gluten content. In our country this is a highly refined grain unfortunately – it starts out highly nutritious but ends up being stripped of its nutrients before being put out to our public.*
Sixty percent of wheat grain (which is where the nutrition lies) is stripped out of most pastas and breads. Unfortunately enrichment of these products doesn’t enhance our ability to get the nutrients back. However if you can get an unextracted wheat you get the fiber and other vitamins and minerals that are important to our bodies.*
You want to get whole wheat products that are in air tight bins, vacuum sealed. These would include wheat bran, germ, whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, cracked wheat. These should also be stored in the refrigerator.
This is a wheat product, so anyone with gluten sensitivity or Celiac should not consume wheat. This is a common food allergen, especially in children. This is also another oxalate so keep that in mind for kidney stones. Some people with many different chronic diseases and illnesses need to avoid wheat in their diet.
Are there negative effects of whole grains on our body or diet?
Some people with certain types of chronic disease, or digestive issues may not tolerate grains well. Generally this is related to refined, or processed grains we buy in products today, but it can apply to all grains across the board. This is something you would need to determine with your NTP (I can help you look into that with a free consult here), or your physician.
Overall you can see the importance of real whole grains in our diet from B vitamins, to magnesium and other minerals, however, finding the RIGHT grain for your family based on your health, allergies, dietary needs and availability of unprocessed whole grains might be challenging. Tell me what whole grains you find, and why you love them!
Source: *Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.