Whole Grains: Overhyped or Underrated?
Throughout recent history, bread has been on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of shaming and fear in the dieting world. The notion that grain-based foods like bread are just “empty carbs” and should be strictly avoided is so ingrained (pun intended) in us that there is often an accompanying sense of guilt whenever we do eat such foods.
But is this shaming warranted? Let’s talk about grain foods.
What are grains?
Grains are typically the seeds of particular plants and they are made up of three parts:
These three layers all contain nutrients. Examples of grains include wheat, oats, rice, barley, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, and many others.
What are whole grains?
As you may have guessed, whole grain foods contain…the whole grain. All three layers of the grain are retained.
If you look at the Ingredients List on a package of bread and it says “whole grain wheat”, what that means is that the bread is made from wheat that had all three layers intact. As a result, you also get all the nutritional goodness of those three layers.
What are refined grains?
Refined grains are the result of food processing wherein the germ and bran layers of the grain are removed, leaving only the endosperm.
As you can imagine, this means that a lot of the nutritional value of the grain is also stripped. Refined grains include white rice, white bread, white pasta, etc.
The good news is that in Canada, refined grains are enriched with some vitamins and minerals that were removed, such as B-vitamins and iron. Refined flour is also required to be fortified with folic acid in Canada.
BUT refined grains are still less nutrient-dense than whole grains because they have significantly less fibre, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Choose more whole grains
Including grain products that are made with whole grains as opposed to refined is often recommended in order to reap the nutritional benefits highlighted above. A lot of observational research shows that those that eat a diet rich in whole grains have lower risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even some types of cancer!
Here are some examples of whole-grain products to add to your grocery list:
Whole-grain wheat bread
Whole-grain wheat pasta
Whole-grain wheat crackers
Of course, if you prefer the refined counterparts, there is no harm in including those in your diet in moderation as well. Simply use it as a vessel to carry other fibre- and nutrient-rich ingredients to build a nourishing meal or snack!
Stay nourished my friends,