With the recent popularity of trendy diets such as paleo and keto, the health benefits and importance of including whole grains in the diet has been over looked. Whole grains make up an important part of a healthy diet providing prebiotic fibre which is important for gut health and microbe diversity.
Evidence shows regular consumption of whole grains plays a valuable role in reducing the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
What are whole grains?
All grains such as wheat, rye, oats and rice start life as whole grains. When found in their natural state, whole grains consist of the entire seed of the plant. This seed or “kernel” is made up of three parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm – all of which are edible. This is protected by an inedible husk that protects the kernel from potential damage by sunlight, pests, water, and disease.
The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and ﬁbre.
The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.
The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. When grains are refined or heavily processed, the bran and the germ are removed leaving only the endosperm. In removing the bran and germ about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, plus valuable nutrients. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back to enrich the reﬁned grains.
Whole grains can be milled into ﬂour or used to make breads, cereals and other processed foods. They can be eaten whole, sprouted, cracked and milled. When purchasing food, check that the label on the packaging states that it contains whole grains which means that the “whole grain” part of the food is required to have the same proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the harvested kernel does before it is processed.
Whole grains are a far healthier choice providing more protein, more ﬁbre and many important vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. Whole grains contain valuable antioxidants. Cornell University research reported at a 2002 cancer conference that compared with fruits and vegetables, whole grains contain as much if not more powerful, anti-inflammatory polyphenol antioxidants that routinely make preventive-health headlines
Aim to include 3 serves of whole grains a day.
Wholegrain examples –