Whole grains are making a splash at the moment and for good reason. Whole grain foods contain a whole host more health benefits than refined foods, and they taste great in the bargain. So what exactly are whole grains and why are they so good for you?
What Are Whole Grains?
Whole grains are grains that are whole and unrefined. These grains are intact and contain the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Bran is the outer layer of the grain and it contains fibre, B vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The germ is the small inside portion of the grain and it contains B vitamins, vitamin E, trace minerals, healthy fats, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. The endosperm is the large inside portion of the grain and it contains complex carbohydrates, proteins, and some B vitamins.
To be classified as a whole grain food, the food needs to contain all three parts of the grain. In contrast, the more common refined foods that we see only contain the endosperm, and this can reduce the total nutrient content of the food by as much as 90 percent.
Different Types of Whole Grains
There are many different types of whole grains. The best known are:
- brown rice
- pearl barley
- whole wheat
- wild rice
- bulgur (also known as cracked wheat)
- whole rye
- whole grain corn
Benefits of Whole Grain Foods
Whole grain foods are known as being very healthy and for good reason. They are one of the best sources of complex carbohydrates which are necessary for energy. Whole grains are low fat and contain no cholesterol, as well as being high in fibre. They are also high in protein, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, phytates and many other substances that are important for healthy and balanced nutrition.
Whole grain foods are high in antioxidants and may contain up to five times more antioxidants that some fruits or vegetables. Antioxidants are important as they protect the body against cell damage.
Eating whole grain foods may help to protect against the following disorders:
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- irritable bowel syndrome
- some types of cancer