Whole grains are complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide the energy, which is essential for the body to function. The many grains available contain varying levels of nutrients, which can help support a variety of conditions. Unlike simple carbohydrates (refined grains), complex carbohydrates help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
This makes them especially useful in managing conditions such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and diabetes.
A whole grain consists of the bran, germ, endosperm and exosperm. Together all parts of the grain provide B vitamins, proteins, fats and minerals. The bran is an excellent source of the fiber required to maintain a healthy digestive system. Whole grains provide complete nourishment when eaten in combination with legumes or vegetables.
Unfortunately, refined grain products cram modern grocery store shelves. White flour and white bread are classic examples. These foods contain elements of the original whole grain. Processing removes nutritious and health-giving aspects of the grain. Food manufacturers feel that this processing will make their products appear more ‘appetizing’. Foods made using refined grains lack vital nutrients.
Consuming these foods regularly can cause illness. An example is the disease beriberi. Rice is a staple food in Asian countries. Milling removes the outer husks from rice (or any grain) taking with it vital sources of vitamin B1. (The outcome of this process is the white rice, which is commonly available today.) Because of this newly introduced system, the Asian population began suffering from vitamin B1 deficiency symptoms. These include psychological disturbances such as depression and physical ailments such as muscle paralysis.
Added B vitamins and iron fortify many refined foods, such as commercial breakfast cereals. This is because they are required to meet government specifications. These prevent nutritional deficiencies occurring because of refined food consumption. If you think about it, the removal of vital nutrients during refining, only to have to replace them by means of artificial processing, is a truly bizarre practice!
However, this is the only way that manufacturers can produce their more ‘appetizing’ product while adhering to government guidelines. The result of this processing has a detrimental health effect on the consumer. The body is incapable of absorbing these altered foods in the same way it would with foods consumed in their natural state. A whole grain, untampered by artificial processing, contains the vital balance of nutrients essential to good health, in the required quantities, as supplied by nature.
Grains and the Western diet
Most people tend to stick to wheat or rice as their main source of carbohydrate. However, there are many other types of grain, which can enhance and enrich your diet. Each grain contains unique qualities in addition to those outlined above. Here are some examples:
Top 10 Useful Whole Grains
- Amaranth – High in protein. Useful in a vegetarian diet.
- Barley – Rich in potassium, Sulphur and phosphorus. Stimulates the liver and lymphatic system.
- Buckwheat – High in vitamin E and Calcium. A good blood builder helps strengthen arteries. Beneficial for people with heart conditions.
- Corn – High in zinc. Helps build immunity.
- Millet – High in protein and iron. Also high in lecithin and choline which helps reduce cholesterol levels and prevents gallstones.
- Oats – High in many minerals. Helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Promotes stamina and bodily warmth. Boosts slow thyroid function.
- Quinoa – The highest protein source of all grains. Helps build strength and endurance.
- Rice – A complete protein when combined with beans or vegetables. Useful in a low fat diet. Helps reduce cholesterol levels.
- Rye – High in lysine (useful for growth and tissue repair). Promotes a healthy glandular system. Aids in weight loss.
- Spelt – Contains all eight essential amino acids. Helps lower cholesterol and prevents blood clots. Generally tolerated by those with a wheat allergy.