Why whole grains, you ask? Well, let me explain, but first I need to address one big item that always comes up with this topic.
We live in a society that demonizes carbs and labels them as pure evil. I mean we all know that carbs equal unsightly fat and unavoidable death, right?
There is no way you can eat carbs and live through the week, more or less stay lean while doing it. (said with as heavy of a sarcastic tone as possible)
The statement, “carbs are bad” is a dangerous oversimplification that is right on par with the statement, “fats are bad.” Years of solid scientific research tell us that the two statements above are gross generalizations that simply aren’t true.
We need carbs to fuel us and provide the needed energy to maintain life. In essence, they are the staff of life.
We know that there are good fats and that there are less than healthy fats. The same goes with carbs. There are good and healthy sources of carbs and there are less than healthy (unhealthy) sources of carbs.
The top sources of carbs that we should be eating everyday are vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.
We all know the importance of fruits, veggies, and beans. Most of the controversy comes with the concept of grains, so that is where I am going to place most of my efforts in this blog post.
Whole vs. Processed
Whole grains provide many nutrients to our bodies and even help in reducing the risks for many chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our society.
You get into trouble with grains when you purchase and consume processed or refined grains. Processed grains lack key portions of the grain itself that are removed when they go through the milling process and therefore don’t provide the health benefits that a whole grain does.
Not only do they lack portions that provide health benefits to you, but the fact that they are missing those key segments puts an additional strain on your health. Processed grains turn to straight sugar in your system and place a large demand on your pancreas and your insulin-making cells which over time can overload them so much that they eventually stop, and you are hit with the burden of type-II diabetes.
By missing out on the germ you miss out on many important nutrients that will boost your health. By missing the bran you can increase your risks for certain chronic diseases.
The bran isn’t able to be broken down and be digested in your system so it just flushes through you. Why is it important, if you can’t even digest it then?
When they remove the bran from the grain you get into trouble with your blood sugar levels and begin to place a high demand for insulin on your pancreas. Some of the sugars from the endosperm attach themselves to the bran and flush through your system with the bran. This eases the demand for insulin. Instead of spiking your blood sugar levels in your system like the highs and lows of a roller coaster, having the bran to attach to, levels things out and you will have a much more even and controlled demand for insulin.
Also the bran provides a cleansing effect for your colon (sexy, I know). This is very important in the role of reducing your risks of colon cancer.
You should always purchase “whole” grains
Whenever you go to the store and purchase any type of grain be sure that it is “whole.”
Here is how you will be able to know whether or not your grain is whole or not:
– Turn your package over and read the ingredients list. If the first ingredient is “whole” wheat, “whole” oat, “whole” grain, “whole” anything then you know you are getting the whole thing (bran, germ, and endosperm). You need to see the word “whole.”
However, if you read it and see that the first ingredient is “enriched” wheat flour, or “enriched” anything then you will know that it isn’t whole grain. All you will get in that is the endosperm and a sugar spike (no bran or germ for you).
So this applies to bread, cereals, pasta, tortillas, and any other grain you can think of. Start looking at the labels.
Last little note (due to how tricky the food industry is on this topic):
Once you start looking at the labels many of you will notice that the bread you have been purchasing wasn’t really whole grain even though you thought that it was. When I teach this to people I always hear people say things like, “oh, I always buy whole wheat. I get the bread that is brown.” Another common one is, “we always purchase the multi-grain bread with the whole kernels in it to make sure that we are getting whole grain.”
The problem with those statements is that most “brown” breads and “multi-grain” breads aren’t whole grain. All they are is enriched white flour with “brown” or caramel coloring, and in the case of the multi-grain bread a few whole kernels sprinkled in. Basically, white “processed” bread with brown coloring and maybe a few whole kernels if you are lucky.
Don’t believe me? Check most the labels on these breads the next time you are in the store and in the bread isle. Better yet, you might even have one of these whole grain posers right in your very own pantry as you are reading this post. Time to take a look.
Hopefully, you saw “whole” as the first ingredient and not the word “enriched” only to be followed further down the list by caramel coloring.
The last trick the food industry is playing is to put the ingredient “whole grain” as the first ingredient, but then will place parenthesis around it. If there are parenthesis around the first item then it means it isn’t really the main ingredient. When you see this I can almost always guarantee that you will see as the next ingredient “enriched insert grain of choice.” This means that once again you are purchasing a grain that is mainly processed, but has a little bit of whole grains in it.
So make sure the first ingredient is whole and that there are no parenthesis around it and you have got yourself a great source of whole grains.
So now that you know why you should eat whole grains and stay away from processed grains, and know how to tell which grains are whole and which are not, what are you going to do about it?
Hopefully you will decide to become the newest whole grain convert and greatly improve your health and the health of your loved ones because of it.